By Richard Humphreys

Golf Course Solutions

Ninety-five per cent of golf course architects who responded to a recent survey by the European Institute of Golf Course Architects (EIGCA) said action needs to be taken to reduce hitting distances.

“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 EIGCA. “The most eye-catching result is that 95 per cent of respondents agreed that action needs to be taken to reduce hitting distances.

“The vast majority of respondents [75 per cent] 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. Eighty-eight per cent of respondents considered a reduction in driving distance of between 10 and 15 per cent would be appropriate.”

The survey also showed that 34 percent of EIGCA members felt that any action to reduce hitting distances should only be applied to tournament professionals, whilst 62 per cent thought that amateurs should be largely spared any regulatory effects. Importantly, 76 per cent thought that hitting distances were having a negative impact on golf course design.

“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,” said Städler. “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.”

Sixty percent of the 91 EIGCA members, candidates and students participated in the survey and the EIGCA has sent the responses to The R&A and USGA to assist them with the Distance Insights project.