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GolfSpy MPR

How much difference does course length make?

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So in asking this question, I know there are about a million variables that can change the answer (which should make it an interesting discussion).

This past week, I got a chance to play two different courses, which is unusual for me, as I play nearly all my golf at my home course. As I've noted in other threads, our course is short: it barely cracks 6,000 yards from the back tees. It's a par 71; my scores cluster pretty tightly around 90. My best round has been a 77.

The first course I played this week is 6,297 yards from the back tees. The second course, SentryWorld, offered a mixed tee option that I expected to suit my game; the blue/white tee comes in at 6,401 yards. With those extra yards, I shot a 92 (+20) at Trout Lake and then a 91 (+19) at SentryWorld; that is, pretty much exactly what I shoot at 6,000 yards.

In fact, over my last 8 rounds at my home course, I've been averaging closer to 21.6 over. So there's a strong argument that I played better with an additional 300–400 yards to navigate.

This is an interesting question for me, because I normally play such a short course, and want to have a decent understanding, objectively, where my game stands.

So in your opinion, how much do you expect that adding yardage changes your expected scoring?

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I think that a lot of the distance changes depends on where the distance actually falls. My home course I consider short (6399) but it has 2 par 3's over 200 yards, par is a great score and bogey is the average. With my game distance is not usually an issue so I don't expect a whole lot of increase in score when playing a longer course. 

On the flip side of that if you play a course that leaves you a lot of half shots or feel shots and you struggle with those it can make scoring more difficult than a course that would be longer but leaves you full shots into greens. 

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12 minutes ago, THEZIPR23 said:

I think that a lot of the distance changes depends on where the distance actually falls. My home course I consider short (6399) but it has 2 par 3's over 200 yards, par is a great score and bogey is the average. With my game distance is not usually an issue so I don't expect a whole lot of increase in score when playing a longer course. 

On the flip side of that if you play a course that leaves you a lot of half shots or feel shots and you struggle with those it can make scoring more difficult than a course that would be longer but leaves you full shots into greens. 

Par 3 distance usually has more effect on my score than overall length as well. I have a higher chance of making par on a long par 5 than a 200+ yard par 3, because I have a higher chance of hitting fairway with a reasonable amount of distance with driver than I do hitting the green with a 4i or 5w.

I play courses ranging from 6000 to like 6600 and I'll shoot 85 on either of them because I suck 😭

Edited by yungkory
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Did you play better because those courses were new to you and you were thinking about the layouts because they were unfamiliar, and paying more attention to your aim and shots?

It may be that subconsciously you're not focusing as hard at your home course because of familiarity. Just a thought that the course being unfamiliar may have had more of an impact than the actual length... 

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32 minutes ago, russtopherb said:

Did you play better because those courses were new to you and you were thinking about the layouts because they were unfamiliar, and paying more attention to your aim and shots?

It may be that subconsciously you're not focusing as hard at your home course because of familiarity. Just a thought that the course being unfamiliar may have had more of an impact than the actual length... 

I think there is a lot to this. But for me, it's not about a lack of focus at home: it's trying to do more than just hit basic shots at my course.

In other words, on an unfamiliar course, I tend to pick a target, pick a club, and just focus on making a reasonable swing. On my home course, I tend to try to make things happen, trying to shoot a score. Not knowing what is ahead, for me, seems to be better for taking a round a shot at a time.

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Par 3 distance usually has more effect on my score than overall length as well. I have a higher chance of making par on a long par 5 than a 200+ yard par 3, because I have a higher chance of hitting fairway with a reasonable amount of distance with driver than I do hitting the green with a 4i or 5w.
I play courses ranging from 6000 to like 6600 and I'll shoot 85 on either of them because I suck 

I tend to agree with this. Any par 3 over 200 and I am no longer thinking birdie. I’m thinking let’s make par and move on. I’m not the longest hitter in the world but even a 550-600 yard par 5 still has me thinking birdie. Simply because a decent driver and 5 wood (I don’t use a 3w) showed have me inside 150 for my 3rd.


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I think that a lot of the distance changes depends on where the distance actually falls. My home course I consider short (6399) but it has 2 par 3's over 200 yards, par is a great score and bogey is the average. With my game distance is not usually an issue so I don't expect a whole lot of increase in score when playing a longer course. 
On the flip side of that if you play a course that leaves you a lot of half shots or feel shots and you struggle with those it can make scoring more difficult than a course that would be longer but leaves you full shots into greens. 


Exactly this. My home course is a hair under 6600 yards and I shoot low 80s and break 80 every now and then. 600 yard par 5, 2 200 yard par 3s. Now, if it was a 6600 yard course with 8 400 yard par 4s, short par 3s and 5s I’d probably score high 80s.


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I shoot scores that are fairly similar on courses 6800 or shorter. Over 6800 my score start to suffer dramatically. Most my ability to play well on longer courses is due to my long irons, I hit my 2-5 irons extremely well for someone of my handicap. 

Also, the breakdown of the holes doesn't matter a ton to me, ideally longer par 5s and shorter par 3 and 4s, but it's maybe a shot difference. 

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7 hours ago, GolfSpy MPR said:

So in asking this question, I know there are about a million variables that can change the answer (which should make it an interesting discussion).

This past week, I got a chance to play two different courses, which is unusual for me, as I play nearly all my golf at my home course. As I've noted in other threads, our course is short: it barely cracks 6,000 yards from the back tees. It's a par 71; my scores cluster pretty tightly around 90. My best round has been a 77.

The first course I played this week is 6,297 yards from the back tees. The second course, SentryWorld, offered a mixed tee option that I expected to suit my game; the blue/white tee comes in at 6,401 yards. With those extra yards, I shot a 92 (+20) at Trout Lake and then a 91 (+19) at SentryWorld; that is, pretty much exactly what I shoot at 6,000 yards.

In fact, over my last 8 rounds at my home course, I've been averaging closer to 21.6 over. So there's a strong argument that I played better with an additional 300–400 yards to navigate.

This is an interesting question for me, because I normally play such a short course, and want to have a decent understanding, objectively, where my game stands.

So in your opinion, how much do you expect that adding yardage changes your expected scoring?

What types of hazards do you have at your course, and are they typically in play off the tee?  At longer courses are the hazards not really in play?

I've found this is the case for me.  I play tees at my course that are borderline too long for my swing speed; about 6100y.  However, the next tee up is too short.  When there is wind, there are some par 4's and 5's that I can't reach in regulation.  If I play a longer course, hazards usually don't really come into play at all.  I can aim at a fairway bunker knowing that I can't get there.  I can play slightly longer courses, but it's not fun to do it all the time.  On holes I can't reach, I have to rely on my short game to make par with no chances at birdies.  I do this often at home, and when my short game is on, I can still manage a good score.  On unfamiliar courses that doesn't happen very often; not because I get into trouble, but because of unfamiliar grass and speed/contours of the greens.  Getting up and down is more difficult.  So, I can usually count on 5-10 shots higher than normal on courses up to 6500y.  

Curiously, when I play the senior tees at my course at 5400y, my scores are rarely different than when I play at 6100y, because there are only 5 holes where the distance advantage of the senior tees makes much of a difference in play of the hole. On those holes I usually end up with the same score anyway.

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I used to play the tips no matter what and that sometimes a shorter course (6500 or less) was more difficult than 7000+. Since my car accident and subsequent back fusion, I don't play anything over 6800 and I'm usually around 6100-6500 depending on the course. I have a lot of birdies putts and the game is much more fun. That said, I've noticed that I'm getting longer as I'm able to swing a bit more freely now so that may change. The longer the course the longer the club I'm hitting into greens both par 3's and 4's in particular (obviously) and I am not long with my irons. 155-160 yards is a 7 iron so if I'm hitting a lot of 5 irons I just don't have a lot of birdie opportunities. That's honestly the thing that has affected my ability to score so I've moved up a tee and it has made a real difference.


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Course layout has as much affect as distance. Hoke design, where trouble is, length of par 3s and par 4s.  I play courses that are 6100ish to 6600ish and sometimes the shorter courses are harder.

Course management comes into play more on shorter courses imo because driver may be the fun play on shorter par 4s but it could be the wrong play 

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I just had this exact discussion yesterday with a young man at my office. He's smitten with the golf bug. Basically I advised him to play the tees that fits your distances. My method says to use your driver as a starting point meaning; what is your average distance off the tee? And I'm not talking about a straight line drive. Many players especially less skilled players have severe slices or hooks. This shortens your distance off the tee. If you're one of those and you typically find your drives right for example - and you measure it at 200 yards (or less!) as opposed to 250; then you should be playing up a tee. Doesn't matter that your buddy normally hits his driver reasonably straight in the fairway and is 250+ yards. He's a better player and you are at a disadvantage against him and perhaps more importantly the course. Yeah sure, occasionally you might lace one down the middle 250+ yards. But that's not your "real" distance. It's your Lucky or occasional distance. By the logic below I think you should move back to 7,000 and end your quest to Single Digit Handicap. You'll be there tomorrow. 😎

15 hours ago, GolfSpy MPR said:

In fact, over my last 8 rounds at my home course, I've been averaging closer to 21.6 over. So there's a strong argument that I played better with an additional 300–400 yards to navigate.

 

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Great question @GolfSpy MPR, it used to be that new courses were getting longer and longer as equipment made it 'easier' for us all to gain a few yards.

However, remember when the Open was at Royal Troon? one of the hardest holes that week was the Postage stamp at 123 yards off the Championship tees to a tiny green surrounded by deep bunkers.

I used to play at a resort course which had 3 courses, a 5800, 6700 and 7200. I had a lower handicap than I currently have  playing there for years, particularly playing the 6700 yard from the back tees.

I moved to a 5800 yard course locally and thought I would lower my handicap further. Since then I mostly go up 0.1 each week as it's tricky, small greens and OB just about on every hole.

Shorter courses I think can be more fun, especially if set up to reward the high risk shot.

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I generally go by slope rating and try to play tees based on slope. I tend to play better on shorter ones, but also depends on rough.

Side note: Longer southern courses where you can punch out through the rough vs northern with thick rough that eats balls make a ton of difference especially if I'm erratic off the tee and have to punch out a bunch.

I do think there are tees with the same slopes but distances kill my score. I just haven't found that number whether it's 6500, 6300 or 6700 that I can't score as well.

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On 6/15/2019 at 5:48 AM, perseveringgolfer said:

Great question @GolfSpy MPR, it used to be that new courses were getting longer and longer as equipment made it 'easier' for us all to gain a few yards.

However, remember when the Open was at Royal Troon? one of the hardest holes that week was the Postage stamp at 123 yards off the Championship tees to a tiny green surrounded by deep bunkers.

I used to play at a resort course which had 3 courses, a 5800, 6700 and 7200. I had a lower handicap than I currently have  playing there for years, particularly playing the 6700 yard from the back tees.

I moved to a 5800 yard course locally and thought I would lower my handicap further. Since then I mostly go up 0.1 each week as it's tricky, small greens and OB just about on every hole.

Shorter courses I think can be more fun, especially if set up to reward the high risk shot.

We haven't had a new course in my area in over 25 years, so not getting longer.  My course is the newest, but it was a complete remodel of an old par 66 course and a 9 hole par 3 course.  Three courses in my area have back tees that are right at 7000y; one is private and used to host a web.com tour event until the members decided that they didn't want to give up their course for a week.

However, I would say that our courses that are 6700y from the tips are quite challenging due to the various lies you get off the fairway and even in some fairways!  At my course... miss a fairway by 10 yards and you might have to take a swing like you are hitting a fastball down the middle on a downhill lie or the ball is a foot below your feet.  Many off our greens are narrow and long front to back, around 40 yards, with either drop-offs or grassy slopes that make for challenging short game shots.  We also have some short holes, that would be reachable by big hitters, but there is risk involved.  I don't have to worry about that though, even up a tee box!!

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Couple of things specific to you, MPR:

1) What kind of condition were the two courses you played in? The few times I've ventured to nicer courses this year (i.e. courses with adequate drainage), I've played better. The fairways were more firm, the rough around the greens wasn't patchy, the ball rolled out a touch (or a lot) more. It is easier to score when I'm not chipping off of a patch of mud with a few slivers of grass in it.

2) Based on what I've seen on GAME Golf, your home course may be short, but it has a few holes where scores can add up in a hurry. The 90 degree dogleg par 4 comes to mind. If you don't hit a good first iron shot, you're guaranteed to be out of position for your second shot. That's not always the case with an errant driver.

 

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I play 9 hole rounds for my golf league where the distance averages about 2900yds. I am currently at 43.6 for my scoring average through the first 5 weeks of play.

In my weekend rounds, I have played courses from an average distance of 6300yds and am currently at 88.9 for my scoring average.

Based on that math, the extra 500yds of play impacts my score by about 2 strokes.

However, I feel that the lack of familiarity with the weekend courses has impacted my scoring rather than the distance. Not knowing where to miss, hidden hazards, green speeds, etc. plays a bit more into a 2 stroke difference IMO.

I did like the comment from @THEZIPR23 regarding shorter courses leaving more "feel" shots where the longer courses allow you to take full swings. That could explain why I'm not scoring better on the short courses.

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In my experience, distance in-and-of-itself isn't as key a factor in resistance to scoring as elevation, topography, width, green complexes and hazards.  I can generally hit a 6-iron approach as reasonably well as I can a PW approach.  I have found angles into green complexes to be much more of a factor in ballooning my scores.

My home club is 6,164 from the tips but also has 157 feet of elevation change that features prominently on virtually every hole.  For instance, A well placed drive on the 500 yard par 5 #14 often leaves a 7-iron second into a green protected by a large pond.  But it plays almost entirely downhill.  The hole adjacent to #14 is the 525 yard par 5 #10 that plays entirely uphill.  It takes three very well struck shots to reach the green for the bombers.  The green also has a significant false front.  If your third is not over the false front, you will have your fourth from the same spot as your third!

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There are limits on both sides, but there is a good 800-1000 yard range in which I can play and score within expectations (depending on course rating). My long game is fairly solid so I find that playing up or playing back on 90% of the courses I frequent makes very little difference. In fact, between the three courses I play most often the length (that I typically play) and course ratings are:

6123 (67.4)

6413 (70.2)

6727 (71.2)

Anytime I get the chance to try a new course, I always look up distance and rating to help me determine the proper tees. 

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On 6/14/2019 at 9:49 PM, blackngold_blood said:


I tend to agree with this. Any par 3 over 200 and I am no longer thinking birdie. I’m thinking let’s make par and move on. I’m not the longest hitter in the world but even a 550-600 yard par 5 still has me thinking birdie. Simply because a decent driver and 5 wood (I don’t use a 3w) showed have me inside 150 for my 3rd.


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Who in the hell is thinking birdie from 200 yards on a par 3!!!!  Par 5 maybe. 

2018 PGA Tour Stats

#1 in stat - Dustin Johnson made 25.86% birdies between 175-200.  That is 45 birdies on 174 holes attempted.  

Go out to 220+ yards - and the leader, John Rahm made birdies 41.30% of the time for 95 birdies over 230 attempts.  Why more birdie percentage from 200+ yards.  To make a birdie on a par three requires two shots to make a birdie on a par 5 allows for three shots.  The statistic requires that the ball ends up on or about the green.  

Based on the fact that most of us are handicap golfers, including myself, I'm thinking there might be a better strategy than trying to make birdie.  Especially since PGA are hitting 7/6 iron from 175-200 and likely 4/5 from 200+.  Just my opinion. 

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