In light of the recent brouhaha over player comments at TPC Boston's forced layup that caused driver-hugging players to go down another fairway, Jaime Diaz concludes for Golf World that recent distance gains are going to keep leading to more setup and design dramas. He says the big picture of recent course setup issues suggests "a day of reckoning is coming."
Much of that conclusion is based on this disheartening news out of Southampton.
Next year the U.S. Open is going to a Golden Age classic, Shinnecock Hills, artful in the extreme, but also shortish. It’s the kind of venue that is most at risk of being overrun by the modern game.
In the last few years, Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw restored the course. The fairways were widened (up to 60 yards), the greens expanded, and trees were removed. Visually, the result was spectacular, and the club’s members have loved the changes.
The USGA, too, initially sang the restoration’s praises, but recently officials have reconsidered their original setup plans at Shinnecock. The fairway width—done to create more strategic angles and options—was deemed too wide (perhaps in the wake of Erin Hills). Native fescue rough is now being planted on the edges of the fairway to narrow them back down. The course won’t be as narrow as it was when it held the championship in 1986, 1995 and 2004, but it will be narrower than what was originally planned on for 2018.
Why? Diaz concludes...
So that the art of Shinnecock can be brought out rather than overrun, the decision was made that long and crooked has to be punished.
In an odd way I wonder if such a high profile change to such a high profile course this late in the game is being implemented with the full knowledge that this reinforces the need for a variable distance ball?