“This course is too easy”

(The last statement at the bottom of today’s post, is my profound view of golf and where it needs to go.)

I was inspired to write this after -7 won at Riviera and I again heard someone on the range yesterday making the same old, tired comments about traditional golf courses. He was dumb founded at how Tour players couldn’t shoot lower on such an “easy” looking course.

The so called, “Well Manicured Muni” attitude that most golfers take on a course that has tees, fairways, trees, small greens, fairways and rough.

Here is a conversation I have had literally hundreds of times. Change a few words and the name of the course, but it’s the same conversation.

I know this is the umpteenth time I have talked about this and it is not meant to be a rant as much as evidence at how uneducated the golf public is about the game…and by default, uneducated on how to get better.

21 handicap…”Monte, what’s your favorite course in the area?”

Me…”Newport Beach Country Club.”

21…”Really? That course is so easy.”

Me…”So I assume you shot 65 when you played it?”

21…”No, of course not.”

Me…”Then 5 or 6 shots under your handicap?

21…”No, I actually shot over 100, but I was having trouble hitting the fairway and I missed a lot of short putts. My chipping wasn’t so good either. I had some chips where I was only 30 feet from the hole and couldn’t get it withing 20 feet.”

Me…”Probably had nothing to do with the fairways being narrow, the rough being difficult and all of the short putts having break.”

That is how you make a course hard. Small fairways, rough that makes missing the fairway and green a penalty and greens that have subtle slopes, so short putts have break. For regular, every day play, the rough only has to be long enough to alter shots. Not so long you can’t find your ball, or can’t advance it.

However, the average golfer finds the tools that Alister Mackenzie and Donald Ross used as unfair and Mickey Mouse, yet rock piles in the fairway, water falls, 5 tiered greens and canyons in the middle of the fairway as devices that make a course “pretty and challenging.”

Modern courses have wide fairways, but your ball is lost if you are 6″ off the fairway. They also have greens the size of military bases and multiple tiers…but most of the tiers are flat or they would be unplayable.

The way I describe modern golf design is way too many 2 shot penalties for bad shots and unfortunate good shots and way too few 1/2 shot penalties for marginal shots.

You play an old style, US Open type course, you have a 1/2 shot penalty staring you in the face every time you address the ball and almost no two shot penalties, unless you completely leave the property into the parking lot of a strip mall.

The same can be said for the old Scottish Links courses…except replace the strip mall with a sheep pasture.

Modern designs will empty the ball pouch of your average 21 handicap on a bad day, have pros standing in the middle of the fairway scratching their heads not knowing where their ball is and the 13 handicap micromanaging his straight in 4 footer after he blocked his hybrid 20 yards right of the green and had it redirected to near gimmie range.

OK, so it was another rant of sweeping generalizations, but now that I am teaching, I don’t have my headphones on at the range and hearing people say dumb things about Riviera and slip seamlessly into, “hold the lag, complete your back swing and low and slow,” leads me to also believe there is a 2 minute preshot routine lurking, as well.

To sum up…if we minimize swing crack, play “muni style” courses, we will play faster, shoot lower and have more fun. In other words, swing crack, modern course designs and long preshot routines, lead to higher scores and less fun.




  1. Keith Z.

    Bravo! Well said.

  2. Wally

    It’s not just the courses, it’s modern everything, putters that look like something out of Star Trek, adjustable drivers,balls made for “your game”. That’s why I am going completely retro. I persimmon “woods”, blade irons, and a “BULLSEYE” putter. Granted, persimmons don’t go quite as far as the lighter stuff, however, I have more fun. I play closer and shoot lower scores. It feels like GOLF again. Besides, the persimmons really look cool.

    • Calvin

      Completely agree. My bullseye has been in the bag for 30 years. Tried the UFO’s but couldn’t fly them. I love my blades and my next driver will be a Louisville persimmon.

      Great post Monte.

  3. Wally

    Calvin give Joe powell golf a try

  4. ghpennington

    +1 on just about everything. How ironic that golf has gotten less fun ever since Ely started marketing clubs to make golf more fun. Equipment is too expensive. 4 1/2 hour rounds and longer are the norm. New courses are so long and spread out it’s almost impossible to walk. No wonder people are leaving the game.

    But wasn’t it great to see Mickelson working shots at Pebble and Riviera! Not many players play shots anymore; they’re all busy making swings.

  5. woody

    To exist the course has to make money. To make money, they probably need carts. To make money on carts, they need to make the courses long to discourage walkers.

    And, probably more people would rather take a cart than walk anyway. (Personally, I’d rather just hit balls at the range than take a cart.)

    On a destination resort course, I can see the advantage of building holes with awesome views, and requiring carts because of the distance to the next tee.

    But, hold the railroad ties.

  6. wally

    I bet they barely break even on golf cars

  7. Jason

    My Brother in Law shoots in the mid 90s and won’t play a particular course because it has no bunkers LOL………….I shoot the same but will play anywhere. No matter where you play you still have to hit the ball well. I always walk. No carts for me.


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