After reading my article on Le Golf National and the danger of abandoning strategic course design in professional golf, a Twitter user named David Knight made a suggestion:
Great idea, I thought, stupidly.
In the wake of the 2018 Ryder Cup, commentators pointed to the design and setup of host venue Le Golf National as a crucial factor in the European victory. Le Golf National has long been considered a ball-striker’s paradise, a course where accuracy off the tee and into the greens tends to be more important than raw power. Astutely, in preparing the venue for competition, Ryder Cup Europe grew out the rough and kept the fairways narrow. Team USA found its distance advantage largely neutralized, and Team Europe thrived on the ball-striking prowess of Tommy Fleetwood and Francesco Molinari.
Seeing this as a rare triumph of old-school precision over new-school power, some suggested that Le Golf National should be a model for future tour venues. This argument, which I will spend much of this post refuting, stems from a premise that actually I agree with: because of advances in ball, driver, and instructional technology, power off the tee has become a disproportionate advantage in the professional game.
This past weekend, as Brooks Koepka overwhelmed Erin Hills on his way to a three-stroke victory in the U.S. Open, golf obsessives on Twitter debated whether the venue was any good and, more interestingly, whether the tournament could use a new identity. Beneath all of the bellyaching and inexplicable rage, there was actually an engaging discussion.