Within the space of a week on the European Tour this month, two of the game’s most iconic golf courses saw their course records fall.
During the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, Tommy Fleetwood tamed the traditionally tough Carnoustie with the first 63 in its illustrious history.
Then a few days later Ross Fisher shot 61 on the Old Course, and this while coming very close to a 59.
Granted, both courses were played in benign conditions.
But add in the 62 – the lowest round in men’s Major championship history – by South Africa’s Branden Grace in the third round of The Open at Royal Birkdale, and then American Justin Thomas starting the year with a 59 in the Sony Open, and Gary Player’s call for limits to be placed on the golf ball become increasingly relevant.
Fleetwood is headed to South Africa later this year for the Nedbank Golf Challenge while Fisher and Grace are also likely to be at Sun City.
As tournament host, Player always keeps a keen eye on the scoring on the golf course he designed and which has traditionally been able to withstand the advances in golf equipment technology.
And as the host of his own annual Gary Player Invitational at the Lost City Golf Course, he can also see first hand the effect technology has on another of the courses he has built.
But Sun City Golf Director Ken Payet is not yet ready to start setting up either of these courses just to protect them against the long hitters.
“Any older golf course is vulnerable to technology in the game. But I’m of the opinion that it’s a very small percentage of a field that hits distances to that magnitude, and we can only stretch golf courses to the point where they get utilised.
“It’s no good building a tee that’s way back but only gets used for one week in a year.
“There are also other ways you can toughen up a golf course. You can narrow the fairways, grow the rough, and place strategic bunkers. And on the Gary Player Country Club, the clover-shaped greens allow us to really tuck the pins in some difficult corners.”
For Payet, Sun City’s two golf courses and the tournaments they host offer two very different golf offerings that he also believes reflects what needs to be a general focus in the game at the moment.
“I just feel we need golf courses that are challenging for the best players in the world, but they must be enjoyable for the average golfer as well.
“We shouldn’t change golf courses for a very small percentage of the field that hits it miles. A course mustn’t become too tough and too long. From a Sun City resort point of view, that’s not our focus.”