Making Sense Out of 7600 Yards...I think
You readers know that I'm not bashful about expressing my belief that the relentless quest for distance is not helping golf, or golfers. I offer as proof a few things:
  1. All of us are hitting drives 20-30 yards further, at least, than we did 25-30 years ago, yet handicaps have not come down at all.

  2. Watching the younger golfers - they all try to hit it so hard that most never learn how to hit it solid, straight and with distance control. As a result, most never become serious about the game because it's just not that much fun to be looking for your ball all the time while shooting 90+.

  3. How can the average golfer relate to the tour pro, whom the announcers just said hit his drive 335 and has a 7-iron in his hands for the remaining 195 yards to the flag?
And that brings me to my point of today's post. How do we "reconcile" the game we play with what we watch on television each week. This week's PGA Championship is listing The Ocean Course at something over 7,600 yards, but I read that it can be stretched to 7,900!! Wow, how can that be anything like the courses we all play on a daily basis? Follow me here with my attempt to try to reconcile the tour game to our games and chime in with your thoughts and comments, questions and observations.

Let's start with that notion of a 7,600 yard course the tour player is on this week, and compare what his round might look like, compared to the rounds we all will play this weekend on courses more in the 6,600-6,800 yard range . . . about where most regular tees will be on typical courses.

So, the tour player is averaging about 290 off the tee, with most of us more like 240-250 or less. So that gives him an advantage of about 45 yards per driving hole. Let's assume there are 13 of those, so that's 650 yards, right? Now "his" 7,600 yard course is playing like one just under 7,000 for us.

Now, if you believe what you hear on TV, the typical tour pro is hitting his 6-iron about 190, whereas most of us are hitting ours more in the 150 range. So, there's another 40 yards per approach shot that he is "shortening" the course. And that applies to all 18 holes, effectively "shortening" the tour players' courses by another 720 yards.

And we know that there are only a few par 5 holes on tour courses that these guys cannot reach in two shots, whereas the average golfer of reasonable skill probably won't see any of those. So, they effectively turn the four par fives each week into the equivalent of those handful of long par fours we have to approach with a fairway metal or hybrid, possibly a long iron. That's got to be worth at least 3-4 shots, right?

So, if my math has any validity, the tour level course at 7,600 yards is roughly equivalent to our courses at something around 6,200-6,300, with the tour pro having a 3-4 stroke advantage because of the reachable par-fives.

What do you all think of that comparison?
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[ comments ]
mjaber says:
Let's not forget that their clubs are built for them, tuned and adjusted by the best of the best. They have the exact right shaft for their swing & swing speed on each and every club, the right loft on every club to get the right distance for that club.

Also consider that the 7600 or 7900 that is measured is not the straight line that most pro's will take, but it is the distance if you follow the fairway tee to green. A dogleg hole may be 600+ yards on the scorecard, but if you are able to cut the corner, you can effectively shave 50-100 yards off the hole.
8/10/12
 
dartboss04 says:
I don't like trying to reconcile that as it only depresses me.
8/10/12
 
bkuehn1952 says:
I'm with dartboss04. And if we are honest, most of us are not hitting "only" 240-250 yards drives in the fairway, as Terry conjectured.
8/10/12
 
SteveMM says:
Agreed, bkuehn. Also, I've never played a course from tees that measure 6,600-6,800 yards ... nor would I want to try. I get the point of this article, but I think it needs to be brought down to a more "average golfer" level.
8/10/12
 
Agustin says:
To be a good golfer you must have a good combination of distance and control. What good is it to drive the ball 340 yds into the woods or oob every time. That's not fun. Also, hitting the ball straight down the fairway but a short distance every time is not fun either. For golf (and any other sport for that matter) it has to be challenging to have fun.
8/10/12
 
Agustin says:
For me, playing a 6200 course is just not that challenging and therefore not much fun to me. I may enjoy it once in a while but definitively not on a regular basis. My point is, play the tees that will provide a challenge aligned to your ability. Don't play to front tees just to post a great score and don't play the tips if you ability is not up for it. Just because you can hit it far means you belong in the back tees.
8/10/12
 
onedollarwed says:
Let's just say... I knew exact yardages from everywhere on the course, knew exactly how far I hit each club, dedicated 90% of my waking hours to golf practice, had a swing coach, a nutritionist, a masseuse, sponsors, a shrink, gear of my choosing, comfortable travel, an expert caddie, practice rounds before counted rounds, belonged to a club, a workout facility, winters out of NE, etc., etc.

Now if I could take away the pressure of competition, the long hours day after day, the yardage/strokes wouldn't be such a big deal!
8/10/12
 
aaronm04 says:
Let's not even mention the difficult conditions that courses for PGA tour events are setup with. The long rough and the fast greens specifically. I will say that along these lines they have a distinct advantage in the sand. Most get a nice fluffy lie the likes of which are impossible at your average muni.
8/10/12
 
srogers13 says:
How do we "reconcile" a pitching throwing 100 mph, heck, even 90 or 85 mph? How do we "reconcile" a batter hitting said pitches 400 or 500 feet? How do we "reconcile" Usain Bolt running a sub 9.6 second 100 meters? How do we "reconcile" an NFL quarterback throwing a football 60+ yards in the air? It is easy, they are highly trained professionals, and they are better athletes than a normal person. Is it not enough to just marvel at what they do, and understand that while that may be what you strive for, you more than likely are not going to get there? I know I will not be able to achieve the levels of a pro golfer, but it does not mean that I do not or can not appreciate what a pro golfer can do.
8/10/12
 
Pburke522 says:
Fast (hard ground) tour set ups allow for unrealistic distances off the tee. The tour player gets significant fairway roll that skews his true driving distance. In addition, equipment design has aided the professional more than the amatuer. Golf balls perform even greater at the higher swing and ball speeds acheived by tour players. Standard 7 iron loft is 36 degrees but most tour players play 33-34 degrees which equates to one additional club. When they say Mickelson hits his 7 iron 185 yards he is really hitting a 6 iron becuase his 7 iron has been delofted so he can add distance. We need to get gold course designers, superintendents and equipment manufacturers to stop the insanity of adding length to the courses and return to realistic and accurate distances.
8/10/12
 
GBogey says:
I think Terry's calc is off. I regularly play 6200 quite comfortably. The average tour pro hits each club about 50 yards further than me except for driver which is more like 70 yards. I think that I am pretty average. If you consider 10 drives per round and 26 other shots on a par 36, the differential is about 2000 yards, so 7600 is more like 5600.
8/10/12
 
GBogey says:
on a similar note, I long hitting buddy talked me into playing his tees this morning - 6550 - in wet conditions so it played about a club longer on fairway shots. Must say didn't enjoy the extra distance at all. Better than a day in the office, but will insist on my distances next time. Will be much more fun.
8/10/12
 
gpickin says:
Funny, I hate playing white tees when its Driver PW most holes.
I like using my 7 and 8 iron on approach shots.
I actually score better back a set of tees... mainly because I overhit the fairways.

Just for fun, I'm going to play the longest course in our area, and see how it holds up.
I think if you have a chance of reaching 1-2 of the par 5s in 2... its fine for you.
8/10/12
 
bsta93 says:
Why not embrace greatness for what it is? Just like srogers' post says above, we cannot do most of the things that professional athletes do. That is what makes professional athletics great.
8/11/12
 
onedollarwed says:
I also get bored with Drive-PW courses - though I am a long and accurate driver compared to most - 280ish and can work it. I also think that Terry may be talking about a time in golf - when the pros' games were closer to average people, just like baseball salaries once were. Professionalism in sports goes back a long way, but we been in a sort of "Sports/Celebrity" or super-stardom period for decades now, no? This may have most to do with TV networks, agents, free-agency models, and a public willing to adore people way out of proportion to their merit.

Anyway, like Terry said, I really enjoy a round where I've used all of my clubs, and a wide variety off the tee. Some shorter courses can accomplish this with narrow or blocked/angled par fours which require irons from the tee. We may be on the verge of new course design paradigms that don't include lengthening.
8/11/12
 
shorne says:
I like to think about it this way. On a regular par 72 we usually take 36 putts, so that leaves 36 full length shots to reach the green.

On a 7600 yard course that means you would roughly have to hit each shot on average 210 yards. (7600 / 36 = 210 yards).

On a regular length course it will be somewhat lower (6600 / 36 = 180 yards) or (5600 / 36 = 155 yards). If you dont feel comfortable with hitting an average shot of 210 or 180 yards you should tee-it-forward.
8/13/12
 
birdieXris says:
the length gets in peoples heads i think. The driver-pw does get old, but i think that's how average golfers "reconcile" with the pros. Is that what it feels like to be a pro golfer? not to me. I think the feeling of being a pro is when you are on a course that will rip you apart, but you can make the ball do what you want it to do. By putting it in the fairway and managing your misses, tha'ts what it feels like to be a pro. Remember, these longer courses are also harder. It's reflected in the rating. I played a 74.9/138 7026 yard course saturday morning. I didn't break 80, but it was STILL one of my best scores for my index. I felt satisfied at that score, but still thought it could have been better. I never felt so close to being a really good golfer though because i thought through the distance and made the shots happen. Driver wedge 2 putt is the same as driver, 7 iron, pitch and putt. It's not how, it's how many. With practice comes accuracy AND distance.
8/13/12
 
Anti-Mulligan says:
I think what gets lost in the yardage is some important points. 1. They never play the full tipped out yardage the course touts. 2. They always play in hot conditions when balls, clubs and bodies move the best. 3. They get 50 yards of roll almost all the time. 4.Their clubs are jacked up where a seven iron is really a six iron like someone posted above 5. Their are golf freaks, tall, limber, coordinated, specimens who can turn and rotate better than us. 6. They don't play courses like us where the fairways are wet and shaggy and most of their holes tee off from elevation and go downwards.
8/13/12
 
birdieXris says:
Good call there, Anti-Mulligan. All counts.
8/14/12
 
sticksboy says:
Also realize that if you spent as much time at your current job, playing golf, wouldnt you expect to play that much better? Thats like asking a professional golfer to build a house, do taxes, build a computer program or whatever it is you do. We are all professionals, just not professional golfers!
8/14/12
 
rja says:
In a Golf Digest article Tom Watson said that if you need a fairway metal to reach a par 4 green you are playing the wrong tees. Comparing yourself to PGA tour players is difficult to do because of the many variables as mentioned above. i.e. the greens are smooth as glass. The TPC course in our area where the tour plays every year focuses solely on that one week before and after. Our conditions are on a scale 1 to 10 a 5 compared to the tour 9.5 plus.
8/26/12
 
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