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  • Alistair Tait

8,000-yard golf courses? Bring them on

Just as one swallow does not a summer make, perhaps one demolition of Winged Foot doesn’t mean we need to take drastic measures to reign back the golf ball and put restrictions on distance.

Maybe we should just celebrate Bryson DeChambeau’s six-shot U.S. Open victory and move on. Is it possible those of us who sounded the warning cries of excessive distance ruining classic golf courses like Winged Foot are wrong? Do we just have to suck it up and accept we are where we are?

Graeme McDowell seems to think so. And Ernie Els.

McDowell is quite happy with the status quo. The 2010 U.S. Open champion said so ahead of his defence of this week’s Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship on the PGA Tour. Like fellow Ryder Cup player Rory McIlroy, McDowell has nothing but praise for the way America’s new national champion has taken advantage of his physical attributes and modern equipment to become a major champion. The Ulsterman also said:

"I don't think we have an equipment problem. I don't think we have a golf ball problem.
“I hope there's not an overreaction to this."

McDowell’s thoughts match those of two time U.S. Open champion Els. In July he tweeted:

“Our game is in a good place. Equipment improvements and distance are here to stay. Full stop. We need a serious premium on accuracy. Golf course don’t need to be longer. Make tour rough knee, fairways fast and firm which is fair for all players.”

McDowell and Els will have many supporters among golf fans. Many ordinary golfers probably couldn’t care less how far DeChambeau hits the ball. Many enjoy watching DeChambeau, Matthew Wolff, Dustin Johnson, Cameron Champ and many others hitting 380-yard bombs. You can bet the Babba Booey and Mashed Potato gang don’t want to see distance curtailed: it would give them less chance to shout their inanities.

McDowell gave contrasting views on what should happen to golf courses. On the one hand he said:

"I hope we don't see Bryson proofing. I saw something on social media the other day which kind of just sort of plotted out his potential round around Augusta. If it was flat calm and conditions were right, what he would hit to every hole looked kind of ridiculous.”

Yet the 10-time European Tour winner then said:

"If Bryson got flat calm at St Andrews right now, it would be silly what he could do to the golf course. It would be kind of embarrassing, unfortunately.
“Thankfully, there's more to golf than just that because St Andrews has more defence than just its length. It has weather, it has firmness, it has rough, it has pin position. At the end of the day, it's not just Bryson DeChambeau hitting it a long way.”

The Old Course measured 7,219 yards for the 2015 Open Championship. The R&A has already moved tees off the golf course to lengthen the layout. The governing body can possibly extend the course for the 2021 championship but maybe not by much. Besides, how far do you go before you have to say enough is enough? Many of us think we reached that point long before the Old Course was stretched.

As for Els’ suggestion of knee high rough, Winged Foot’s rough wasn’t exactly wispy and Bryson had no problem bullying balls out of it. That aspect of DeChambeau’s game left its mark on McDowell.

"He has such an upright action, so he was able to kind of bomb it way up there in the rough and be able to control the ball out of the rough.
“I was more impressed about the way he controlled the ball out of the rough rather than the way he drove the ball.”

Maybe we should just say to hell with curbing distance. Perhaps it’s time for us to say bring on 8,000-yard golf courses, 350-yard par-3s, 600-yard par-4s and 700-yard par 5s. Why not make Carnoustie’s setup for the 1999 Open Championship the model for all golf courses, including Augusta National?

Now I’m off to the gym to bench press 250 pounds before heading to the driving range to try out my new driver with the 48-inch shaft and kryptonite head.

#JustSaying: "Drivers are meant to be swung hard…. I start my pupils hitting the ball hard. I believe if you are taught early to baby the ball, you may never learn to drive for distance.” Harvey Penick

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