In 2014, The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews commissioned a book called Golf's Royal Clubs, written by golf architect Scott McPherson.  The publication was in honor of Her Majesty the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and has forewords by HRH Prince Andrew, a past Captain of the R&A, and Sandy Dawson, also a past Captain of the R&A. ( To order the book:  https://shop.randa.org/golfs-royal-clubs-2)
   Inside are many charming stories about golf and the Royal Family or family members, and it explains how each of the clubs got its royal designation, if known.   
   Because there are more than 60 royal clubs, it is worth remembering that there was a time when golf did not have a good relationship with the monarchy.  In fact, King James II banned it in the 1450s, saying that the populace was spending too much time playing golf and not enough on archery. In those days, archery was a means of defense, so, he had a point. However, James II obviously did not know avid golfers. A little thing like a royal ban was not going to stop them from playing.
   Fifty years later, James the IV actually took up the sport, effectively ending the ban. However, it was more than 300 years before a golf club would became royal.
   Now, one does not get to be a royal club just because one wants to.  The club must have made some impression on, been a help to, or been a part of the life of a member of the Royal Family.  And then, one has to apply and have the request granted.

   Sometimes, as in the case of Royal Mayfair Golf Club in Edmonton, Canada, it can be two years in the making.  When Royal Mayfair made the request, it was suggested that they demonstrate number of qualities of the facility including its service to charitable or scientific causes, as well as an association with the Royal Family and good standing in the community and the region.  
   In addition, royal designation can only be made by the monarch or by a member of the royal family with permission of the monarch.  In other words, understanding how some of the clubs got to be royal is about as convoluted as the ancestry of the characters on Downton Abbey.  With others, it is easier to comprehend.

   From the top of the hill looking back down toward the ninth, there are stunning views of the Tudor-style clubhouse. From the hill on the seventh, there’s the Lake itself, glistening in the sun. Every direction offers a beautiful view.  While the fairways on the front side are divided by trees, there are not so many of them that they completely obscure other holes from view. 

   Similarly, at Augusta National, standing near the first hole just below the tee, it’s possible to take in views of the first and ninth, portions of the seventh and eighth as well as the second and seventh greens. The actual open space seems bigger at Augusta National, maybe because you can see so far.  

   Both second nines are routed through tall deciduous trees and Georgia pines.  It does not look like there is a flat lie anywhere, except on the tees. Everything rolls or tilts or slants just a little to keep golfers, even the best in the world, slightly off balance.

   The holes are secluded on the back side of East Lake, like they are at Augusta National. Without the skyboxes present at EastLake for the tournament, it would be possible to see the 17th green from the 12th green or 13th tee, but then it’s back into the trees again.

   Comparing the two, the elevation changes are more severe at Augusta National but both require some climbing.

   At EastLake, the bunkers are strategic and not overpowering, which is similar to Augusta National with the possible exception of its seventh hole.  There’s no excess of sand for the sake of it. No waste bunkers, no Church Pews, no Hell’s Half Acre. In fact, both courses look gentle until you try to play them.

   When it comes to the greens, well, there are plenty of differences between the two courses.  Set at PGA Tour speeds, any green causes consternation.  At EastLake, though, it’s unlikely anyone would start a putt with his or her back to the hole because of the amount of the break.  It would also be unusual to see someone putt off a green at EastLake, but both of those can happen on several greens at Augusta National.  They are the greatest defense of the course.

​If You Can’t Go To The Masters, Go To The Tour Championship

Jack Nicklaus Room at USGA Museum

Kathy Bissell has more than 25 years experience as a golf writer and television producer.

    The first club to become royal was the Perth Golfing Society. It happened in 1833 when Lord Kinnaird, the sixth president of the Perth Golfing Society, arranged, through his royal connections, to get William IV to agree to become the club's royal patron.  Henceforth, as they say in proclamations, the club became known as the Royal Perth Golfing Society, the first royal golf club. Today HRH Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, is the royal patron of the club and he is also patron to more than a dozen other royal clubs. However, not every royal club has a patron from the Royal Family.
   The Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, the world’s oldest club, had to wait until the next year, 1834, to become royal.  It was second. You can imagine that Royal Perth members remind R&A members of that as often as possible.  The ultimate golf one-upmanship.
   While, Royal Perth was the beginning of royal designations for golf clubs, the idea gained steam when Queen Victoria got involved.  She took the throne in 1837, and her reign lasted until 1901.  During that time, she proclaimed eleven clubs as royal starting with Royal Blackheath, her first, and Royal Sydney in Australia, her last, in 1897.  Queen Victoria also gave her royal blessing to some clubs favored by her husband, Prince Albert, including Royal Montrose, and her sons, including Royal Portrush. 
   Queen Victoria also became the first monarch to name clubs outside the U.K. as royal, thereby establishing the precedent for including clubs in other countries.  Those outside the U.K. during her reign included, Royal Melbourne, Royal Sydney and Royal Montreal.  Her descendants, particularly Edward VII and George V, jumped into the naming fray with enthusiasm.  They spanned countries and continents with their royal designations including Royal Durban, Royal Freemantle, Royal Hobart, Royal Ottawa, and Royal Queensland. 

   There are many interesting twists and turns to becoming a royal club.  The story behind how Mayfair became Royal Mayfair is fairly convoluted. 
   In 1927, the Prince of Wales at the time, who later became Edward VIII and soon after abdicated, and his brother George, the Duke of Kent, who later became George the VI and father of Queen Elizabeth II, visited the club and played golf.  Little did they know that the dress code for the club was knickers or plus fours. The brothers played in trousers.  No one stopped them. Soon after, trousers became standard wear for golfers at what would later become Royal Mayfair.
     Five decades later, in 1978, when Edmonton hosted the Commonwealth Games, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and their sons, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward, attended a luncheon there.  That was the second royal visit.  The club’s third brush with royalty occurred in March of 2002 when Prince Michael of Kent, a first cousin of Queen Elizabeth II,  attended a dinner held at the club for the South Alberta light horse infantry.  In 2003, several club members discussed the possibility of requesting the royal designation which Queen Elizabeth granted in 2005.
    Sometimes it’s even longer between the first Royal Family association and the granting of status, as it was with Royal Homburger Golf Club in Germany, founded in 1899.  The club's first president was Field Marshal HRH the Duke of Cambridge, a cousin of Queen Victoria. Its first honorary member was the Prince of Wales who became Edward VII.
     Edward VII officially opened the club in 1905, and it was nine holes at the time.  A second nine was later added in 1923. It survived WWII and the U.S.S.R. regime.  Because of the association of Edward VII the club eventually gained royal status in 2013, more than 100 years after a ball was first struck there.
 

 The only 9-hole Royal Club


One of the most amusing stories about a club has nothing to do with its royal appellation.  It has to do with a drink that was invented by members.
      Royal Worlington & Newmarket is currently the only 9-hole course in the royal clubs list, and it is located near Cambridge University. 
      Queen Victoria conferred the title for the club in 1895 because the first president of the club was the Prince of Wales, who was her son and heir to the throne.  He relinquished the title of club president when he became king in 1901.  However, the club retained the right to use the feather symbol of the Prince of Wales in its logo.
      Royal Worlington & Newmarket was first designed by Tom Dunn, and then adjusted by the legendary Harry Colt.  Several rather important Cambridge graduates often played the course including Bernard Darwin, Henry Longhurst, and former R&A secretary Peter Dawson.
      At some point in the club’s history, a drink, called the Pink Jug was invented.   It came about in the 1920s when some of the more party-oriented members stayed out all night drinking and returned to the club still thirsty.  But when they went to the bar, all they could find was brandy, Benedictine, champagne, Pimm’s Number 1 and lemon.
     What they concocted was christened the Pink Jug, which is:


1 shot brandy
1 shot Pimm’s ( Number 1)
1 shot Benedictine 
1 bottle champagne
Ice and lemon
Pimm’s, a gin-based drink, was invented by James Pimm in 1823, predating the naming of any club as royal.

To order Golf’s Royal Clubs, contact Catherine McGrik on +44 (0)1334 460153; email, catherinemcgirk@randa.org

Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, courtesy Getty Images

   The USGA Museum now has a room dedicated to the career of Jack Nicklaus.  It is only fitting because Nicklaus won eight USGA events in his career, including four U.S. Opens.
    During the ceremonies to open the exhibit, Nicklaus reminisced in some surprising ways about a few USGA tournaments he had played. While most golf fans would expect to hear about his great victories, Nicklaus chose to talk about some of the less than stellar performances he's experienced on the golf course, including the time he Bobby Jones came out to watch him for the first time.
    The Jones encounter occurred at Nicklaus' first US Amateur competition. Although he was just 15, he knew who Jones was.  The event was held at the James River Country Club in Virginia.  At the end of his last practice round, Nicklaus hit the 18th green in two shots.
    "There was a gentleman in a cart off the 18th green who said, 'Come here, young man. I'd like to say hello.'  It was Bob Jones,  and he said, 'I've been here for a couple hours, and there's only been three people who have reached this green in two today. You're one of them. I wanted to meet you,'" Nicklaus recalled.  Jones said he would come out and watch Nicklaus the next day
    .The next day Jones kept his promise.  He went out to watch the match with Nicklaus and Bob Gardner, who was older and a Walker Cup player. 
    "I had him 1 down after 10 holes," Nicklaus said about Gardner. "Bob Jones showed up. Bogey, bogey, double bogey. I'm now 2 down. Mr. Jones said, 'I'm going to get out of here!' " 
    While Nicklaus was not successful in that Amateur, he went on to win the title four years later, in 1959 and again in 1961.  Those victories exempted him into The Masters.   Like Arnold Palmer, who won the U.S. Amateur in 1954, Nicklaus credits his Amateur victories with giving him confidence that he could play against the best of his era.
    Nicklaus first played in the U.S. Open in 1957.  He was 17.  Initially, it looked like he might be a contender.
    "On the first hole, I hit 3‑wood, 7‑iron, 35 feet, boom, right in the hole," Nicklaus recalled. "Parred the second hole, parred the third hole. My name went on the leader board, 1 under par.  All charged up, I double-bogeyed the 4th hole and was never to be found again."
    Clearly, Nicklaus learned from those early experiences and went on to become, in the opinion of many, the greatest golfer ever.   However, he was not focused on the records of those who played before him.
   "The first time I ever even thought about major championships was 1970," Nicklaus recalled.  It was at  the British Open at St. Andrews. "I walked in the pressroom, and Bob Green, an AP reporter, Bob is like, hey, that's 10 majors now, only three more to tie Bobby Jones. I never even ‑‑ never entered my mind."
    However, the death of Nicklaus' father early in 1970 inspired him to remember to play his best, particularly at majors.
    "Sure, I was making money and winning golf tournaments, but I wasn't winning the ones that were important." he admitted. "I wasn't prepared like I should have been."
    Remembering his father, he refocused his energy at St. Andrews.
     "I just sort of felt like he had been there, and he always said, if you're going to play something, give it your best," Nicklaus added.  He won the British Open that year,  the second of three he would win over his career.
    According to Nicklaus it is very hard to be at the top of your game all the time. As great a player as he was, as prepared as he tried to be, even the Golden Bear finished second in majors 19 times.
    "I don't think you can give your best every time. Maybe you think you can, but I don't think that you're able to," he said. "I just don't think that either mentally or physically or something, it doesn't allow you to sometimes. But you'd like to think that you give it your best."
     In terms of the USGA exhibit items, Nicklaus said he is the one who kept the clubs, and his family members kept everything else.
    "I give all my stuff away," he said. "The only golf clubs from my major championship wins that I don't have is my putter that I won the Masters with in 1986. Where it is, I have no clue."
    The putter he used to win the 1980 U.S. Open at Baltusrol was missing for a long time, but he finally got that back through a connection his son had at Florida State.
    Joe Messler played defensive back at Florida State when Steve Nicklaus played at Florida State.  He was cleaning out his garage one day and found a putter that Steve had given him.  He remembered it came from Steve and asked Jack Nicklaus if it had any significance.
    "I said, 'Yeah, as a matter of fact it does,'" Nicklaus said. "It's the one I won Baltusrol with."
     Strangely enough, the club had been given to him after a round he played with Deane Beman and Fred Mueller at Baltusrol in 1967, a year before the formation of the PGA Tour and seven years before Beman would become its second commissioner.  Beman had given the putter to Mueller a year earlier, and for whatever reason,  thought Nicklaus should have it. Mueller found the club, and it went on to make history.
    "I got the putter, and I won the U.S. Open. That was White Fang." Nicklaus recalled.
    While others like to talk about his playing career and achievements on the course, Nicklaus has a surprising attitude toward his victories and what others call his legacy. 
    "I never really worry very much about my legacy," he said. "If I worried about my legacy, I think I probably would have prepared myself better and won more like 25 major championships."

Photos:  Kathy Bissell

    The first club to become royal was the Perth Golfing Society. It happened in 1833 when Lord Kinnaird, the sixth president of the Perth Golfing Society, arranged, through his royal connections, to get William IV to agree to become the club's royal patron.  Henceforth, as they say in proclamations, the club became known as the Royal Perth Golfing Society, the first royal golf club. Today HRH Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, is the royal patron of the club, and he is also patron to more than a dozen other royal clubs. However, not every royal club has a patron from the Royal Family.
   The Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, the world’s oldest club, had to wait until the next year, 1834, to become royal.  It was second. You can imagine that Royal Perth members remind R&A members of that as often as possible.  The ultimate golf one-upmanship.
   While, Royal Perth was the beginning of royal designations for golf clubs, the idea gained steam when Queen Victoria got involved.  She took the throne in 1837, and her reign lasted until 1901.  During that time, she proclaimed eleven clubs as royal starting with Royal Blackheath, her first, and Royal Sydney in Australia, her last, in 1897.  Queen Victoria also gave her royal blessing to some clubs favored by her husband, Prince Albert, including Royal Montrose, and her sons, including Royal Portrush. 
   Queen Victoria also became the first monarch to name clubs outside the U.K. as royal, thereby establishing the precedent for including clubs in other countries.  Those outside the U.K. during her reign included, Royal Melbourne, Royal Sydney and Royal Montreal.  Her descendants, particularly Edward VII and George V, jumped into the naming fray with enthusiasm.  They spanned countries and continents with their royal designations including Royal Durban, Royal Freemantle, Royal Hobart, Royal Ottawa, and Royal Queensland. 

Embed from Getty Images
Embed from Getty Images
Embed from Getty Images

Royal Birkdale, 2017 British Open, courtesy Getty Images

Photo Courtesy USGA/ John Mummert 

Do we need 8500 yard golf courses for professional play?

     When the PGA West Stadium Course opened in January of 1986, it looked nuts to have the back tees with a length of 7700 yards.  That was about 1000 yards longer than many Tour caliber courses played in those days.  Several PGA Tour players who lived in the area went to give the course a pre-opening test drive.  Fred Couples shot a 64 from the tips and set the course record, but of course, it was not in competition.  That was probably a clue that the course could be even longer for professionals. 
    The second par three on the PGA West Stadium course, the 6th hole, played 255 yards from the back tee and it was bulk-headed at the green.  In other words, it was 255, all carry, just to clear the water.  At that time, 255 yards was, technically, longest a par three was supposed to be, but of course the USGA, which sets the standards, made a par three play 288 yards at Oakmont in 2007.   They increased that to 300 in 2016.

How does a club get to be Royal?

       Although Carnoustie, the site of this year's British Open, is not a "Royal" club, most of the courses in the British Open rotation are Royal.  The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews. Royal Birkdale.  Royal Lytham and St. Annes.  Royal Troon.  Royal Liverpool.  And so on.  But  how does a club get to be “Royal.”  What did they do to go from plain Birkdale to Royal Birkdale? What did the other royal clubs do to get that name? 

     As Tiger Woods likes to say about his golf game, it's a process.  And sometimes it can take a while.

Since 2000 Driver Distance for Pros Has Increased at A Ridiculous Pace: 
The Pro VI golf ball debuted in 2001, and presumably, everyone else retrofitted a similarly long ball.  Longest drives each year on the PGA Tour.  In 2017, to date, Dustin Johnson has the longest drive, but it was at the SBS Tournament of Champions, at Kapalua, 428 yards. In the non-Kapalua category, Jon Rahm had a drive of 415 yards at the Valero Texas Open.

2016 --Justin Thomas, 16th at Firestone CC, 414 yards
2015 --Bernd Wiesberger, 16th at Firestone, 428 yards
2014 --Bubba Watson 16th at Firestone CC, 424 yards. 
2013 – Phil Mickelson, at Doral, a slick 450 yards. 
2012 -- Gary Woodland, 450 yards at Hyundai  
2011 -- Dustin Johnson at Deutsche Bank , 463 yards.   
2010 -- Steve Stricker,  424 yards at the SBS Championship. 
2009 -- Charley Hoffman,  467 yards in the Texas Open.  
2008 -- Bob Heintz, Reno Tahoe, 435 yards.  ( Elevation assist a possibility.) 
2007 -- Brett Wetterich, 437 yards, Mercedes Benz. ( Kapalua) 
2006 – Jason Gore,  427 yards, Mercedes Championship.  ( Kapalua) 
2005—D.A. Points, 442 yards, Buick Championship. 
2004—Davis Love, III, 476 yards, Mercedes Championship. ( Kapalula)    
2003--  Most amazing drive, pound for pound, Jeff Sluman, 2003, Humana, a 473-yard tee shot. 
2002 -- Tiger Woods at the Mercedes, a monster drive of 498 yards.  ( Kapalua) 
2001 -- Casey Martin, 409 yards. ( Tucson Open)    
2000 -- David Duval, 305 yards, Mercedes Championship.  ( Kapalua)  

   The original East Lake Golf Club opened in a 1908 when Bobby Jones was six. His family had a summer home near the club. Today it seems ludicrous to call a part of Atlanta a summer home location because it is so close to downtown. But in those days, automobiles were not omnipresent. It would have been considered far away from the city.

    The Jones family moved to East Lake shortly after it opened because doctors thought it would be better for the young Bobby Jones’ health.  Obviously his health improved – at least for awhile -- and so did his golf game. By the time Jones was 11, he had posted an 80 for 18 holes at East Lake.  When he was 12, he won two club championships. Then he went on to make modern golf history. 

    At age 28, after winning the U.S. and British Opens and the U.S. and British Amateurs, Jones retired from national and international competition. With help from financier Clifford Roberts, Jones purchased Fruitland Nursery in Augusta, Georgia, and made a different kind of history with a new golf course.

    Augusta National GC opened in January of 1933, 25 years after EastLake. The following year, Jones and Roberts sent something special in the mail to noted golfers.  It was a request for them to play in the Augusta National Invitation. In 1939, the tournament was renamed The Masters.

    Jones was subsequently diagnosed with syringomyelia, a disease that causes progressive paralysis.  In what was a full circle of his affection for the course that was his first golf home, he played the last round of golf of his life at EastLake in 1948.

    Today EastLake GC clubhouse has memorabilia from the Jones era. For an additional look at the career of Bobby Jones, visit the Atlanta History Center which has exhibits and memorabilia from Jones’ life and career.

    A ticket to The Masters may be out of reach, a ticket to the Tour Championship gives golf fans a look and feel of Augusta National Golf Club for under $100 for a daily pass and under $200 for Wednesday through Sunday.  And you are still walking in the footsteps of Bobby Jones.

​     Several people insisted my theory that EastLake Golf Club had the look and feel of Augusta National was crazy, at least until Jordan Spieth mentioned exactly the same thing in a press conference at the 2015 Tour Championship and more recently at the 2017 BMW.  When a top player agrees with you, your IQ goes up.

   "East Lake and Augusta remind me a lot of each other," he said before the 2017 BMW. "You have a really well designed golf course where the fairways slope against the ball flight that you need off the tee and then the greens remind me of each other with the slope, the speed and the bunkering around them.
   "East Lake has a lot more rough which is very different from Augusta and the greens aren't quite as severe, fast, but I just like the layout of it," he continued. "I like the shots that it makes you play off the tee and things into the green you can be bold or you can play safe but with the green shapes when you play safe you're left with a tough two-putt.
"

    The fact that there seem to be visual similarities at EastLake and Augusta National shouldn’t really come as a surprise because Bobby Jones grew up playing golf at EastLake Golf Club.  It’s not astonishing that, as an adult, EastLake was a look he wanted to emulate when it came time to create Augusta National.

    Both courses have broad vistas and green spaces, particularly on the front side.  At EastLake, standing between number one and nine, a wide expanse of golf holes unfolds, rises up to the west, slowly climbing the hill where the first green, and second and third holes lay waiting.



18th TPC Sawgrass Stadium. Photo: K Bissell)   


     The 9th at PGA West is a par four at 495, and at the time the 495-yard length would have qualified it as a par five  You get the picture.  The full 18 holes comprised a monster of a golf course.   It had all the Pete Dye teeth and fangs and pot holes and hazards and bloodletting a person could want, including one yawning 19-foot-deep chasm with sand at the bottom.
     However, when the PGA West Stadium Course opened, it was still the age of persimmon drivers, well before most golfers had made the switch to metalwoods.  It was five years before the introduction of the original Big Bertha. 
    Today, that 7700 yards is probably not be enough, which is pretty frightening. 
     If you need more convincing, in 2015 the PGA Tour still listed all the long drives down to nearly 1000 places. Today, the PGA Tour doesn't even track more than 193 long drives on its web site, probably because there are just too many of them. It cuts off at 193 drives with distances of 368 yards or more.
    In 2015, PGA Tour stats through the Masters  showed that there were already 506 drives of more than 350 yards and 41 drives of more than 390 yards are already in the record book.  Ten were longer than 400 yards.  Lest you think this distance thing is an aberration, in 2015, 906 drives were longer than 350 yards.  Nine-hundred-six. 

And yet the USGA & R&A are still considering whether something should be done.  
    A 350-yard distance used to be an entire golf hole.  A modest par four.   But today's tournament courses have already been tweaked to eliminate all but the rarest of shortish or "sporty" par 4s because they've had to.  Most of the shorter par 4s that have survived for professional play have something wacky to penalize the player for attempting to drive them.  There's the 10th at Riviera, with its small, angled green surrounded by bunkers.  The 17th at TPC Scottsdale has water behind and to the left of the green.  The 15th at TPC River Highlands includes a creek that runs the length of the hole.  In other words, there has to be a physical barrier to stop the bombers from landing a ball on the green and turning the 300 to 350-yard par four into a par three and from turning a birdie into a par four eagle.  At the TPC Sawgrass, the 353-yard, par four, 12th has been driven.  The only thing to protect that green is its small size,  some overhanging trees and perhaps the fact that the mounds on the left side of the hole mean you can't really see the target from the tee. It's s blind shot. 
    When it comes TPC Sawgrass and scoring, anybody who is over the age of 40 and has watched golfers for 20 years can recall the time when Greg Norman won. He still has the tournament record for The Players at 24-under par.  In those days, Norman was considered one of the best long drivers of the golf ball.  Yet looking back, his distance average was between 275 and 280 off the tee, although we all know he could hit it 300.   In 1994, the year he won the Players, his driving distance average was 277.  That same season Davis Love III led the PGA Tour in driving distance with an average of 284 yards, and we all knew he could hit it at least 300.
    So translating for the changes in equipment and player strength, 2016's driving distance average leader is  J.B. Holmes at 312.7 followed by Dustin Johnson at 312.3 yards, and Bubba Watson is close behind at 308.6 yards. So today's 312-yard drive is yesterday's 280-285 yard drive.  Now we do some extrapolating. 
    That's 30-35 yards on average, between the distance of Greg Norman and Davis Love distances and J.B. Holmes, Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson distances.  That means courses need to be 420-490 yards longer just for the tee shots on 14 holes, the ones that are not par threes.  Second shots probably need to be proportionately longer as well.
    If an average length par four is now 440, and if a solid drive is near 300 that means the second shot is just 140-150, which for a Tour player is an easy wedge distance.  If courses are going to be more challenging than driver-wedge, then perhaps 20 to 30 yards needs to be added to each second shot on par fours, of which there are typically 10.  That's another 200 to 300 yards. 
    A three-shot, par five today has to be over 550 yards. Assume a 290-300 yard drive, which leaves 260-270 for two additional shots, maybe one shot for the really big bombers.  We've all seen the commercial where Dustin Jonhson hits an iron 274 and says, "That's all I've got."
    At 600 yards, a hole should be a three-shot par five, unless it's down hill.  Even a 350 yard drive on a 600 yard hole leaves 250 to the green, and it's hard to hit two accurate shots in a row that far. That means for par fives, in addition to the 30-35 yards for the tee shot, we need to add 20 to 30 yards for the second shots which adds up to between 50 and 65 yards on par five holes or between 200 and 260 for four of them.
    This is not as extreme as it sounds.  In 2012, the U.S. Open at Olympic Club had a 670-yard par five.  Mandatory three shots for top players.  Mandatory four or five or six shots to get to the green for the rest of us.  
  Being generous, in doing the calculations for what length a course should be, we won't even add anything for a third shot on a par five. 
    Finally, let's throw in 100 yards for the four par threes, 25 yards per hole. 
    So recapping, we need to add 420-490 yards for 14 tee shots, 200 to 300 yards for 10 second shots on par fours, and at least 200-260 for four par fives and 100 yards for four par threes.   That means today's courses need to be 920 to 1150 yards longer to make them challenging for today' s players. 
    That additional length gets a 7,200-yard course to between 8,120 and 8,350 yards. It transforms a 7,500-yard course to between 8,420 and 8,650 yards to offer the kind of test today's PGA Tour player is quite capable of playing comfortably with the equipment of today and the skills demonstrated by the stats. Given that, it's not so crazy to think about 8500 yard golf courses. And with that information it's easy to see that the equipment is obsoleting today's wonderful courses.   
    The PGA Tour used to list longest drives down to about 1000 places.  Today it's only 182, and there are 15 players tied there with drives of 370 yards.  That distance used to be a medium par four. 
    What's going to happen in the future? 
    It's a very tough call.  Some wonderful courses, like Pebble Beach, are land locked. They have precious few options.   The 17th has been backed up across the cart path to the 4th tee for years.  The 9th and 10th could be extended a little, but the tees are already dangerously close to other holes.  The 18th green could be backed up, but it would change the character of the hole.  
    Riviera CC is in worse shape.  It's in a canyon with cliffs on three sides of the course and housing on the fourth.
    Augusta National has already pushed the 15th green back so far it's nearly on top of the 11th fairway.  They are already leasing or borrowing or have some other arrangement for land from neighboring Augusta CC because they needed to extend the 13th tee.  They've already backed up the 7th and 11th tees so far already that players need a couple of boy scouts and a compass to locate them. 
    When does the course you knew become some other course?  And does that matter?  
    The next line of defense is to do what the U.S. Open does every year and play a couple par fives as par fours.  That affects just two holes out of 18.  We could change all the par fives into fours and turn courses into par 68s, but that takes away the fun of the game, spoils those birdie opportunities, and golf should be fun to play and fun to watch.  There should be a chance to make eagle on a par five and worst case, birdie.  Fans like birdies and eagles.
    However, this distance thing is so crazy that maybe the eagle chances will now come at par fours that are driveable.  You think not?   During the first round of the 2015 Valero Texas Open, Aaron Baddeley hit his first shot out of bounds. He re-teed and holed out at the 336-yard par-4, 17th hole at TPC San Antonio.  Score: a birdie including the penalty for hitting out of bounds.
    How do we go about protecting courses from today's distance eating equipment and stronger players?
    From a standpoint of practicality, scaling back the technology of equipment, much like adding restrictor plates in NASCAR because the cars were actually reaching flight speeds and went airborne, may be the most equitable way.  But there are other ways to throttle back.  Whether it's reducing the size of drivers, changing the trampoline effect on the face of the clubs, restricting use of "springy" metals or eliminating specific designs, there are many ways that technology can make a U-turn and allow the courses that exist now continue to be great playing fields in another 20 years.  We just need the stomach to do it.   
Edited from the original version which appeared in the Ponte Vedra Recorder, May 2015