Why 600-yard par 5s aren't the answer to flummoxing pro golfers
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Why 600-yard par 5s aren’t the answer to flummoxing pro golfers

The yardage marker from he blue tees on the 18th hole at Erin Hills. (Ryan Ballengee)

A golfer's eyes have a natural way of bugging out when they see a par 5 that can -- and did on Friday -- play 675 yards. Most golfers equate length with difficulty.

Pro golfers don't, however -- particularly on courses like U.S. Open host Erin Hills which play firm and fast with plenty of rollout. Add in that the 675-yard hole in question, the closer, usually plays downwind. It's really not that bad. Lots of players, even those most wouldn't consider long relative to their peers, hit less than driver off the tee with the aim of missing a fairway bunker some 285 yards off the tee. From there, it's either a massive, 300-yard second shot to the green -- or long, as Dustin Johnson demonstrated -- or a pretty simple layup to 100 yards or less.

Yes, the 18th played harder on Friday at 675 yards than on Thursday when it was 43 yards shorter. The stroke average was 5.01 on Friday compared to 4.64 on Thursday. That's a one-day change with Friday seeing a firmer, faster Erin Hills.

But if you look more broadly at how well 600-or-more-yard par 5s defend par against their shorter cousins, it turns out to be somewhat evident that, at a certain yardage, distance doesn't matter. In fact, at a certain point, distance can actually work against the longer players in favor of the shorter players.

I took a look at par-5 scoring averages on the PGA Tour for the last four full seasons, slicing and dicing the average of averages based on 25-yard increments of hole length, all the way from 500 yards to 650 yards and greater. The data show that going from one 25-yard range in hole length to the next equates to a little less than a 0.1 stroke increase on average. However, as the ranges continue to increase beyond 600 yards, something funny happens: The average stops increasing. In fact, beyond 624 yards and beyond 649 yards, the distance means no increase in average.

500-524 -0.501 --
525-549 -0.404 0.097
550-574 -0.313 0.091
575-599 -0.220 0.093
600-624 -0.146 0.074
625-649 -0.146 0.000
650 -0.194 -0.048
ALL -0.321 --

Now, some things to keep in mind: There were only 27 par 5s playing 600 yards or longer on the PGA Tour in 2015-16, up from 19 in 2012 (an abbreviated season for the wraparound schedule) and 24 in 2013-14. Only two par 5s -- No. 16 at Firestone Country Club and No. 18 on Kapalua's Plantation Course -- are over 650 yards. Only 10 par 5s range from 625-649 yards.

Also, there are some six times more par 5s under 600 yards than 600 or greater. There were 120 par 5s less than 600 yards in 2012, 130 in 2013-14 and 138 in 2015-16.

However, the trend is worth noting: At a certain length, par-5 length not only takes away the inherent advantage for longer players but it also removes the gamble of going for a hole in two. In other words, a hole that is a true three-shotter for just about everyone means nothing.

About the author


Ryan Ballengee

Ryan Ballengee is founder and editor of Golf News Net. He has been writing and broadcasting about golf for over a decade, working for NBC Sports, Golf Channel, Yahoo Sports and SB Nation. Ballengee lives in the Washington, D.C. area with his family. He used to be a good golfer.

Ballengee can be reached by email at ryan[at]thegolfnewsnet.com

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