The LPGA's image problems and need for public momentum have been discussed ad nauseum since the economy tanked in 2009. Everyone agrees that the women's tour needs better exposure, more buzz and bigger stars in order to thrive. Yet the tour isn't giving its players their best chance to create buzz and turn in star-making performances. The talent is there, but most weeks, the courses are set up too long.
The average driving distance on the LPGA Tour in 2012 is 253 yards. According to the PGA of America's "Tee It Forward" chart, a player who drives the ball 250 yards should be playing from tees that measure 6,200 to 6,400 yards. Yet the average tournament course length on the LPGA Tour is 6,550 yards. Before you say, "Sounds close enough," consider this: The PGA Tour driving average is 287 yards, and if you calculate where the same chart would put a player with that distance (the chart actually ends at 275 yards, but the math is pretty simple to figure out), he would land right around where the average PGA Tour layout does: just north of 7,300 yards. So the men are playing courses that suit their driving distances perfectly, while the women are playing from courses that are too long. Why? Because even at 6,500-plus yards, the girls are fighting a stigma that their courses are skimpy compared to the guys'. Never mind that a venue like Seaview, with unpredictable ocean winds and tight fairways, requires tremendous shot making to master.
We all remember what happened when Annika Sorenstam recorded her 59 at Moon Valley Country Club in the 2001 Standard Register Ping. It remains one of the biggest moments in the history of women's golf. Sure, Sorentam is arguably the greatest female player ever to grace the game, but one still has to consider the fact that there's only been one 59 recorded on the LPGA Tour a bit of a disgrace.
It's time to lose the inferiority complex and start playing courses set up like Seaview every week. If the girls on tour consistently played tracks that measured under 6,200 yards, more players would reach par 5s in two, more par 4s would be approached with wedges and short irons, scoring averages would drop and the golf would be more fun to watch. And, hopefully, the number 59 would once again appear in the headlines attached to an LPGA player's name.