Abingdon, Oxfordshire, England: An overwhelming majority of members of the European Institute of Golf Course Architects (EICGA) have agreed that action needs to be taken to reduce the distances that golfers – and not necessarily just elite players – are able to hit the ball.
A EICGA survey to establish the views of Europe’s leading golf course architects saw 95% of members saying that action needed to be taken in order to prevent some of the world’s finest golf courses from becoming obsolete for elite level competition.
“We surveyed the EIGCA membership for their thoughts on a range of factors relating to increased hitting distances, forged through their experience of designing golf courses around the world,” said Christoph Städler, President of the European Institute of Golf Course Architects.
He added: “The most eye-catching result is that 95% of respondents agreed that action needs to be taken to reduce hitting distances.
“The vast majority of respondents (75%) believed that increasing ball flight length and advances in equipment technology are diminishing the skill of the game, which is leading to a simplification of golf course strategy. And 88% of respondents considered a reduction in driving distance of between 10-15% would be appropriate.”
The survey also showed that 34% of EIGCA members felt that any action to reduce hitting distances should only be applied to tournament professionals, whilst 62% thought that amateurs should be largely spared any regulatory effects. Importantly, 76% thought that hitting distances were having a negative impact on golf course design.
Summing up the results, Städler said: “Golf course architects are clearly concerned about a number of factors influenced by hitting distances, including safety, negative impacts on the environment, land grab and threats to the integrity of historic courses.
“Reducing hitting distances could lead to shorter courses which are quicker to play, cheaper to maintain, need less land, are more sustainable, more accessible and potentially more profitable. At a time when we are looking to increase player participation surely these should be our objectives.
“By the clever use of design, skilled golf course architects are able to achieve a certain balance between the challenge for the best players and fun and playability for weaker and shorter players. With ever increasing hitting distances, this becomes increasingly difficult.”
As stakeholders in the future success of golf, the EIGCA has sent the survey responses to The R&A to assist golf’s governing bodies as part of their Distance Insights project, the results of which aren’t expected until March next year.