Why? Why not leave the great courses alone? Why turn them into bumper-car rides with crashes at every turn?
It's done to protect par in the face of the onslaught of the world's best golfers, armed with equipment technology and an evolution of their own abilities.
But in defending par, a dangerous precedent is being set. Daunting course setups with undulating greens rolling at breakneck speeds, ankle-deep rough and narrowing fairways are beginning to change the game at the recreational level.
It's a contradiction for organizations like the United States Golf Association, the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, and course operators world-wide who are fighting the battle of flat participation numbers. That makes retention a key factor and it's hard to keep golfers when the game is less fun, more expensive and takes more time.
What the severe setup of courses on the major championship rotation -- Shinnecock, Winged Foot, Oakmont, Carnoustie and even Augusta National, where the opening rounds this year resembled a U.S. Open, not the Masters -- have resulted in is a skewed view of what a golf course needs to be.
Too many recreational golfers don't bother to discern between the lethal major championship set-ups and what they play. What they see on television is what they want. It's no different than seeing the pristine emerald at Augusta National on television and transferring those images to the home courses. It's impractical, of course, but it happens every year.
It's a common refrain among course operators that their golfers too often don't play the proper tee, that they choose markers too intense for their ability. By today's standards, golf courses that don't stretch to 7,400 yards are viewed as deficient. It's an unwarranted view but increasingly prevalent in course design.
American architecture allows practically no option as to where the drive shall go…now, let me ask what manner of golfer will be developed by courses of this nature? The answer is—a mechanical shot producer with little initiative and less judgement, and ability only to play the shot as prescribed. BOBBY JONES