Through two days in Paris, the United States inability to drive the ball straight has been exposed. Le Golf National places an emphasis on accuracy over distance, a sight rarely seen on American soil.
The distance explosion (yes the ball goes further) from equipment, fitness and trackman has crippled the integrity of golf courses. 480 yard par fours are a simple driver-wedge for the power player. It’s led to a demise of the accurate player. Most courses are unable to provide a proper all-around test because the penalty for missing the fairway at 280 yards versus 320 is not close to being the same. Power is king over all else. It’s flawed the American game and it’s why the Americans has looked powerless at Le Golf National where inaccuracy receives a stiff penalty at every distance.
The Americans’ golf mentality is flawed. In 2017 Gil Hanse debuted a new 12th hole at TPC Boston, it favored the accurate player over the power player. The redesign with a centerline bunker forced a decision and rewarded the accurate player who could confidently take on the left side of the fairway. The PGA Tour’s best deemed this “unfair” and the PGA Tour changed the hole.
At the 2016 Ryder Cup, Hazeltine’s rough was short and pins were in centers of greens. It made for a “bomb and gouge fest” that heavily favored the powerful and inaccurate American team. Europeans Justin Rose and Thomas Pieters both hinted at this.
Thanks to its design and thick rough, Le Golf National has a dozen holes where the accurate players have the advantage over power players, especially when those players knows the course well, as the Euros do. Just like most American setups, it provides a skewed test of golf, just in a different fashion. If the Americans played courses of this fashion week in and week out, we would see a different combination of 12 players this week.
Le Golf is one end of the spectrum, the vast majority of PGA Tour courses are at the other end. What golf needs is more courses in the middle. Ones with a mix of holes, some that provide advantages to the power player, some that provide advantages to the accurate player. In the end, golf courses with more variety will yield better winners and championships. The issue is there aren’t many of these courses thanks to the ever-growing distance problem. Until distance is reduced or heaps of new courses are built, we will continue to see American teams that can’t find fairways.