The 3-Shot Hole, RIP
Rees Jones, the golf course architect, was saying the other day that in flat, still conditions, a true par-5 for a Tour player must be at least 600-yards long, and even that might not be enough. The traditional post-War World II American golf course -- par 72, with four par-5s -- is now dead. The South Course at Oakland Hills, which Jones reworked for the PGA Championship next month, has no par-5s. Yes, it's a par-70 and No. 2, at 529 yards, and No. 12, at 593 yards, are listed as par-5s, but the fact is nearly every player in the field will be able to reach those two greens in two if they drive it long and in play, including Rocco Mediate.
"To have a true par-5 for the Tour player," Jones said, "you have to present them with something very penal in the landing area of the missed second shot, water or waste bunker or something else, at about the 575 mark." That, Jones explained, is how you get the hole in the head of the elite player. Otherwise, it's bombs away.
The three-shot par-5, after hitting a drive in the fairway, is dead, as dead as wooden heads and leather grips and Balata balls. Among Tour players, there's less of a gap between long-hitters and short-hitters than there has ever been. Correspondingly, there's less of a gap between younger players and older players. As the kids say, it's all good -- but the game Jack Nicklaus conquered is gone and it's not coming back. A par-70 course at 7,400 yards is way too short for the 330-yard driver who hits a nuked 5-iron 220, but nobody wants to see the 8,000 course. There's not enough daylight for that, on Thursday and Friday especially.