Shorter courses are more popular


Sean Dudley

Golf developers may believe they need 7,200 yard long courses to attract good players, but back tees are rarely used and just add to the cost of construction and maintenance.

Such was the conclusion of a recent panel discussion involving members of the American Society of Golf Course Architects (ASGCA), and led by ASGCA president Erik Larsen. “A golf course owner told me in ten years there were no more than 50 rounds of golf played from the longest tees,” said Jeff Brauer, ASGCA, at the panel discussion, which was held as part of the recent Golf Course Builders Association of America annual meeting. 

“Extreme length and larger course sizes can be a financial burden on everyone,” said Tom Clark, ASGCA. “Courses measuring 7,500 yards or more for 18 holes are played to that length by about one per cent of golfers. Something closer to 6,800 yards from the tips and 4,800-6,200 yards from other tees is good for 95 per cent of all golfers.”

Taking into account financial concerns of players and course managers, and increasing demands on players’ time, a greater emphasis is being placed on the design and construction of nine-hole courses, a throwback to the popular plans of the 1950s and 1960s. “It is obviously less expensive to build and maintain nine hole courses,” Clark said. “And this also provides the benefit of perhaps adding on another nine holes in the future as needed.” 

During the panel discussion, Larsen noted architects are increasingly involved in land planning, including walking paths and trails near courses; a view echoed by Vicki Martz, ASGCA. “A 10-15 per cent reduction in the acreage to be maintained at a course can often be found rather easily,” Martz said. “And it doesn’t have to be an area where ‘you just let the weeds grow.’ Land planning and working with natural landscape can make for a beautiful course and surrounding area with less maintenance.”