Date: January 02, 2013

Grant Report – Ultra long courses boring: Ogilvy

As golf course architects try to combat the ever-increasing problem of "distance creep" – players driving the ball longer and longer – the possibility of super-long courses is being discussed.

Is the future an 8000 metre or even a 10000 metre layout, with 500 metre par fours and 250 metres par threes and 750-metre par fives even realistic?

Victoria’s Geoff Ogilvy likes long holes but says there should be a limit and while the prospect of  ultra-long courses could be viable, he is not a fan of the idea.

"That’s feasible, I suppose," Ogilvy told the Wall Street Journal. "But it would be horrifically boring."

Ogilvy is fascinated by course architecture and hole structure and, while he enjoys long holes, he says they should be built for a purpose, not simply constructed ad hoc simply to try to stop the big-hitters.

"The eighth hole at Oakmont, a 300-yard downhill par three, is brilliant," he said. "It needs to be that long, or at least 260 yards, to be any good.

"A 500-yard par-four can be fantastic. But you wouldn’t want a course full of them.

"Tacking 60 yards onto a par-five can easily turn a good risk-reward situation – do I go for it in two? Do I lay up? – into a much worse hole.

"Everybody is forced to lay up to the same spot and hit wedge into the green. That essentially turns the hole into a par-three," Ogilvy said.

"A hole is too long when the strategy doesn’t make sense any more, and that’s too often the case when people go around adding length to courses unnecessarily."

Mindful of the ever-increasing length of young players in the modern game, US Golf Association set up the Erin Hills course in Wisconsin at 7,760 yards, making it the longest in USGA championship history.

But the result has not essentially altered the fundamentals of good scoring.

Erin Hills is long while, at 6,964 yards Plainfield Country Club in New Jersey, for example, is more conventional.

But a glance at the statistics reveals that low scoring at both layouts still requires sharp approach shots, a well-tuned short game and accurate putting.

Erin Hills’ fairways and firm and fast but the course ensures that accuracy from the tee is vital because the well-protected greens need to be targeted from the best possible angle.

Co-designer Michael Hurdzan describes Erin Hills as "a second-shot" layout.

"Off the tee, you’re only trying to position yourself strategically for the approach shot. That’s what’s it all about—the approach shot and making the putt. If it were just about length, we’d never be able to separate the best players," he said.

It wil be interesting to see how the course is set up by the USGA for the 2017 US Open.

By: Robert Grant