While the U.S. Golf Association and the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, Scotland, each have largely avoided dealing with golf ball distance in regards to implementing new equipment rules the past several years, the issue isn’t going away any time soon. For example, at this week’s Open Championship at on the Old Course at St. Andrews, the R&A has moved the tee box of the famed 17th ‘Road Hole’’ beyond the boundaries of the Old Course and onto the practice range.
In an open letter to Telegraph Sport this week, a group of golf course architects, including David McLay Kidd, who designed the nearby Castle Course for the Links Trust, said that “while this may solve the problem for this Open, the problems for the game of golf of excessive golf ball distance remain.’’
In addition to Kidd, other architects who put their names on the letter include Peter Nordwall , President of the Federation of Scandinavian Golf Course Architects; Graham Papworth, President of the Society of Australian Golf Course Architects; Ken and TK Sato, board members of the Japanese Society of Golf Course Architects; and Donald Steel, Past President of British Association of Golf Course Architects.
The increased distance the modern golf ball travels, the letter said, “has created major issues for golf in relation to the environment, safety and cost (including the opportunity cost of time spent on the golf course).
Excessive golf ball distance, the letter also said, “has also had significant adverse affects as regards golf’s architectural and cultural heritage.
Here are some other highlights from the letter.
– The greater length that the ball travels has created a demand for longer golf courses. The increased acreage required for new golf courses has amplified the environmental impact of golf course construction and maintenance, with greater inputs of fuel, fertilizers, pesticides and water required.
– Increased golf ball distance has increased the danger golfers, greenkeepers and the public face. On the same angles of dispersion, golf balls travel a greater distance, creating safety problems on and around old golf courses and the need for greater safety margins on new golf courses.
– Land is one of the most important factors for the creation of new golf courses. As the next wave of golf course construction will be in the developing and highly populated world, excessive golf ball distance is a barrier to actual and responsible golf course development. The extra need for environmentally sensitive materials along with greater quantities of capital and labour for golf course development and maintenance greatly increases the cost of golf.
– The extra distance walked on long courses forces up the average time per round. Four and five hour rounds are driving many potential golfers away from the game.
– In total, the excessive length the golf ball now travels directly challenges the future development and sustainability of golf.
– This says nothing of the architectural values of our classic courses, denuded by golf ball length just as the famous Road Hole has demonstrated.
The letter also said that the “negative length factors’’ were highlighted during the recently held World Forum of Golf Architects in St. Andrews. A vast majority of the 180 delegates, according to the letter, “were in favor’’ of further rectifying steps to be taken, beyond the ‘V’ groove changes” put in place earlier this year by the R&A and USGA.