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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Barney Adams on the Future of Golf - Part Three

Barney Adams
Barney Adams
Barney Adams, the founder and past CEO of Adams Golf, is a man whose open-minded approach to the game improved the way it's played for thousands and thousands of golfers. He recently applied his genius to the biggest question in the game: how do we make it accessible, popular, and attractive to more players? This is the third of a series of guest posts containing his unfiltered thoughts.

From the Desk of Barney Adams...

A Typical “ Tour Test" Layout 
Notice the word typical and other vague references. Further I use “Tour Test” here as simply a name for setting up courses. Golf is not a fixed experience. A 350 yard hole is not always the same 350 yard hole. Prevailing winds, fairway design, firmness, forced carries, green sizes, surrounding bunkering (I could go on)…all are factors. Tee It Forward was a start but it needs an upgrade. The front tees may work in some cases, on some holes, and not at all on others. Since I’ve played this way, I realize that in some instances current course design will force compromises. Maybe someday there will be new tees but for now, I suggest we work with existing layouts.

“The Tour Test” Par Four Holes
Given historical data on tee shots, a median length of 360 yards is a good rule of thumb for a par four hole. If I'm laying out a course I look for a design where I have at least one short par four hole (290-310 yards) on each side. Basically there are two types of design that accomplish this: relief off the tee with a very small green surrounded by trouble, or a more forgiving green area and a narrow, tough tee shot.

In my layout there will also be a couple of long par four holes (in the 400 yard range) with openings into the green, down slope, or down prevailing winds.

That leaves 6 par 4 holes (depending on their shape) between 340 and 370 yards each.

“The Tour Test” Par Three Holes
A par 3 hole with forced carry and trouble can be a short 120-140 yards. With a wider opening into the green the hole can be longer (180 yards). Terrain and conditions always affect design plans.

“The Tour Test” Par Five Holes. 
Unlike the Tee It Forward approach, “The Tour Test” play can support longer holes. A 220 yard drive, 190 yard second shot, and 140 yard approach is a 550 yard hole!  While the number 550 works perfectly in the field, the same players who disparage moving up to Tee it Forward are equally unhappy with longer par 5 holes. Conditions dictate! The point is 550 yards can work perfectly. Hitting the green on a par 5 in two shots is common on tour. It is great fun to watch, but it’s not happening for the vast majority of golfers – just for the .08%.  I’ve heard suggestions for 425 yard “reachable” par 5 holes and the idea just doesn’t work.

“The Tour Test” Course
“The Tour Test” course could measure 6000 yards (or 6400 yards or even more) depending on the conditions mentioned.   What it is not is 6100 yards with 7 par four holes of 400 yards, and 4 par 5 holes at 460 yards. That course layout is one of the weaknesses of the “Tee It Forward” movement. Moving up does not always give you “The Tour Test” experience. The question to ask as we create “The Tour Test” holes is: How do we lay this out so the amateur is realistically given the chance to compete against the best players in the world?

So there is my story. I am a great fan of the game; it bothers me to realize that it might not continue at its current level for my grandchildren and their children. I’ve given you the history, the analysis, and a proposed solution.  I do not know what will come next. I hope "they" rally to the cause.

from Dave: Read some reactions to Barney's ideas in the next post.

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

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