Early in the 20th century, England's Sunningdale Golf Club was home to one of the toughest and most revered golf courses in the world. I remember reading about a particular round of golf played there by Bobby Jones (ever heard of him?) that totaled 66 strokes, masterful play considering the relative conditions and equipment in vogue at the time. He used 33 strokes from tee-to-green and 33 strokes on the greens, registering nothing more then a 4 on the scorecard for any one hole. He referred to it as a perfect round of golf and it sounds to me like he wasn't much for exaggerating. What really caught my eye though was the length of the holes played that day--not a single par 4 (of which there were 12) had a yardage between 300-399 yards. They were all less then 300 yards or 400 yards or greater. I'd hazard a guess that the average golfer today plays a course of almost the exact opposite, meaning every single one of the par 4s they play has a yardage between 300-399 yards. Perhaps one of those holes they're charged with conquering creeps just barely over the 400 yard mark, like 405 yards maybe. So when did things change so drastically as far as course design is concerned? A quick perusal of the current hole yardages of Sunningdale's Old Course confirms that two of the three par 4s that once measured under 300 yards have been lengthened to a whopping 318 and 322 yards respectively, while the other 9 holes still measure well over 400 yards. Fascinating, indeed. The next time I play my home course and start feeling sorry for myself that half of the par 4s are too long, I'll pretend I'm at Sunningdale with a persimmon wood in my hand and a rock-hard gutty at my feet and see how much harder this game once was.
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