How fair is a 5,600 yard course for the average woman?
What would you think if we told you that a 5,600-yard course would be equivalent to an 8,400-yard course for the average man? How about an 11,200-yard course for Matt Kuchar ? That’s how the math works if fair is defined as having to hit the same clubs to reach
greens in regulation from their respective tees. This concept is what we define as the “fairness test.”
If the average woman should play from 5,600 yards, the average LPGA player should be playing a 9,600-yard course and a good male amateur should play a 10,400-yard course. Sorry, Dustin Johnson, you are at 12,320 yards based on your average drive of 308 yards.
The average woman golfer hits her average tee shot 140 yards.
Based on the data we have collected in our research, the length of the course she should play in order to have the opportunity to reach greens in regulation is 4,200 yards. Note that this is 30 times her average drive, which turns out to be a very good rule of thumb for everyone.
The average male golfer hits his average drive 210 yards and Matt Kuchar’s average drive of 280 yards is within a couple of yards of the PGA Tour average. If the woman is at 4,200 yards, the average male golfer should playing tees at 6,300, and the average PGA pro should be at 8,400 yards. These yardages seem much more reasonable, even though 8,400 yards is approximately 900 yards longer than the longest courses played on the PGA Tour. No wonder those guys are good!
The graph above (click on it to make it larger) shows that the average woman plays courses that are generally more than 1,000 yards too long for her to meet the “fairness test” of reaching greens in regulation. The yardage for the average male is just about right. However, better players usually play courses that are close to 1,000 yards shorter than would be indicated by multiplying their average drive by 30.
The problem is that there are very few 4,200 yard golf courses in the United States, never mind the world. As a result, most women golfers do not have the choice of a set of tees that gives them a fair chance to hit greens in regulation and thus give them the opportunity to score well.
This is why we believe the idea courses with sets of tees that fit players with a wide range of driver swing speeds (from 60 to 110+ MPH) is critical. Courses built (or retro-fit) this way will be more fun for all and much faster to play.
To prove that such courses can be built, read our post about the Old Macdonald course at Bandon.
We do not realistically believe courses will be built that are long enough to “fit” players with faster than average swing speed. Nor would we support such an effort….7,500 yards is plenty long enough.
Some helpful hints to keep in mind when choosing your yardage:
- Most players should play a course whose yardage is approximately 30 times their average drive. If a course is longer than this, it will be a lot less fun.
- If you don’t really know how long you hit your average drive (most people significantly overestimate), use two times your average nine iron yardage. If you are among the great majority (98 percent) of golfers, this will be accurate.
- If your 30 times calculation results in a number shorter than the most forward set of tees at the course you are going to play, read our Move On Up post to see how to deal with this situation.
–Arthur D. Little