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Second Commandment: Covet Not the Skills of PGA Tour Players, And Design Not for Them, Unless They Will Show Up

By: Jeffrey D. Brauer


The oldest question in golf architecture is “who do you design for?” The best players are so talented that no hole is too long or difficult. The famous Robert Trent Jones philosophy of “Hard par, easy bogie” is now “Hard birdie, easy par.”

To make matters worse, the physics of new technology benefits the best players most. Einstein’s Relativity Theory tells us that power increases with the square of velocity. Typical professional swing speeds of 120 mph receive four times the distance increase from new technology than swings at 60 mph.

Average Tour Pro Tee shot distance increased 8 yards between 1962 and 1992, 8 yards from 1992 to 1998, and 6 yards alone in 2000 when most started playing solid core balls! Irons also travel farther, partially because a five iron today is actually the four iron of yesterday! Manufacturers gradually decreased loft and increased shaft length to advertise “More Distance,” then invented gap wedges for traditional pitching wedge shots!

The following table demonstrates how wide distance variances are now for common skill levels, based on research of Bill Amick, ASGCA, but allowing for distance increases for Perry and Pam Pro and Gary Good since 1996. For top tour pros, add another 10%!

Club Perry Pro Gary Good Pam Pro Mal Middle Sam Senior Gail Good Mal Middle Sally Senior
Carry/Roll Carry/Roll Carry/Roll Carry/Roll Carry/Roll Carry/Roll Carry/Roll Carry/Roll
1W 269 291 248 278 219 242 196 212 183 198 170 184 149 161 116 125
3W 250 261 228 247 195 208 178 185 -- -- 156 162 137 142 107 111
5W -- -- -- -- -- -- 166 169 161 167 151 154 128 131 100 102
7W -- -- -- -- 181 189 -- -- 154 157 142 145 120 122 96 98
1I 236 242 -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 111 1113 91/td> 93
2I 229 233 212 226 -- -- -- -- 153 156 144 147 -- -- -- --
3I 220 224 200 214 168 175 160 163 148 151 137 140 109 111 90 92
4I 210 214 192 206 158 165 156 159 144 147 128 131 102 104 86 88
5I 200 204 187 201 153 159 151 154 135 138 113 115 96 98 83 85
6I 192 195 179 193 146 152 146 149 126 129 104 106 89 91 76 78
7I 179 180 165 178 133 139 141 144 117 119 95 97 83 85 71 72
8I 163 165 156 169 122 127 133 136 105 107 87 89 78 80 64 65
9I 155 157 144 157 110 115 118 120 88 90 64 65 59 60 46 47
PW 134 135 122 134 91 96 96 98 78 80 54 55 49 50 36 37

With almost 200 yards tee shot difference from top tour pros to “Aunt Sally,” we can provide either eight multiple tees, presumably in place of the fairway, or choose not to design for a professional tournament that will likely not ever occur.

This commandment extends to sizing target areas, and designing hazards, as the accuracy and strength of tour players far exceeds that of average players. We can let all players enjoy the course by designing for the broad middle, who are most likely to play every day!