A couple of my readers today have said I’m wrong and that distance is not the biggest factor impacting the PGA Tour. I find that hard to fathom, considering the average driving distance has increased from 260 yards in 1993 to 288 in 2003, a 10% gain in 10 years.
My main point is the impact this is having on classic golf courses — just look at The Old Course, where the R&A have had to move some tees back dramatically just to bring bunkers back into play. Bobby Jones may have hit some big drives, as did past legends like Ben Hogan, but both players had to contend with the placement of bunkers on classic courses — and not simply bomb their drives over them like Tiger Woods did the last time he was at St. Andrews. The distance the golf ball travels is the No.1 issue facing professional golf, in my estimation. It is limiting the great courses that are available to the game, like Merion or even Riviera, and replacing it with the typical dull, uninspired work the Tour tees it up on week after week. Why do people tune into the AT&T or the Nissan? Part of it is certainly due to the courses, two of the best on the circuit, and if they can’t handle the crazy distances players are driving the ball, then the tour might have to skip them. That might be more than pro golf — not always the most exciting game these days — can handle.