The title of this blog, for example, is “How Far from the Ocean do you Have to be to Hit a Long Drive?” And all the posts about golf are about that, and about water in general. About how golf course design interacts with water, and with sports philosophy.
You have to be pretty far from the ocean to hit a long drive. You have to be on the other side of a mountain range, or in an area where there is no nearby water. But if you live near a golf course, you can still play a very long distance if you want to.
Water affects every aspect of what we do, but when it comes to sports we tend to think only in terms of the most obvious effects: The ball does not go so far in rain; shots go lower in high wind; and then there’s the obvious effect: The ball doesn’t go so far in water .
But as soon as you start thinking about major league baseball, or college football, or professional soccer, or hockey, all these sports are affected by water. It always will be.*
It is a pleasant surprise to discover that some of the best shots in golf are not very far from the ocean.
A lot of golfers don’t believe me, but it’s true. The fairways at most courses are not very wide, and because of the way holes are laid out and the fact that there is no grass on them, they don’t have much loft on them. That means you can hit a reasonably long drive and still get back to even par (for people who hole out).
When I was growing up we had a friend who played golf a lot. He didn’t have a lot of money, so he played mostly public courses all over the country. I remember once when he got off a cart at his hotel and he found his ball lodged in a tree about 15 yards off the front porch. He was standing there looking at it with his clubs in his hand when two guys came out of the lobby carrying their clubs and complaining about how hard it was to find their balls, too. They proceeded to go on a bit about how easy it was to find theirs in trees or down ditches or something, and my friend said “Well, you know where mine is?” And they both looked at each other with confused looks on their faces because
The water in this part of the world is salty because it comes from the sea, and it can be a challenge to get the swing right and keep the ball in the air. But within half a mile of the ocean, you are dealing with a different kind of water, freshwater, which is not as easily affected by salt.
Freshwater golfers have to adjust their expectations. They won’t be able to hit long drives over the ocean; they will need a little more accuracy and touch.
The ocean is always there. It moves around a little every day, but it’s always there. It may be a little closer than usual, because of a hurricane off the coast of Brazil, or because of some unusual heat in the Atlantic, or because of unusual moisture in the air over Siberia, or whatever. But it’s still there.
The ocean is very hard to hit with a golf ball. If you hit it right, the ball will go in the water. A little farther out than usual, yes; but it will go in the water. And since you can’t see what’s under the water when you are standing on the fairway: no way to tell how deep it is. If you take your best shot from 60 yards away and you don’t hit it far enough, it’s not going in the water.
But if you were standing on one of those dikes that marks where the sea used to be before we made land, and you hit a drive far enough to keep going into the air and then out of sight: that wouldn’t be a good thing either. An egg-shaped ball flying up into the sky would be bad for us all!
The golf course at the naval base in China Lake, California, is one of the most famous courses in the world. But it isn’t very good. It’s not an amusement park, but it’s a little like one: at some level it’s trying to be a kind of escape from reality.
The clubs are close together, and they’re all bent under the weight of water; you can see that if you stand far enough back from the ball you have to hit your shot from places where the grass has been cut away to accommodate the green. The greens are so small that the players aren’t really playing golf; they’re playing a ball on a bit of carpet.
In other words, it’s not exactly designed for golfers. The point is that golf is fundamentally about distance and angle and power – you put something in motion down a slope – and these are hard things to do well with water in your way.
But there’s more to being a good golfer with water in your way than just hitting well: you can’t choose the kind of club you want to use or how far back from the ball you hit it, because those things depend on what kind of terrain you’re playing on. You have to take care not to hit into water
Being aware that a long drive is very difficult and doesn’t always happen, it is important to take the right things into consideration. The first ones are the weather pattern and the wind direction. First of all we have to find out the wind direction and then calculate the distance. And since golf has always been played in areas with heavy winds, it is not possible to play in a calm wind area. A golf course in such a place would be very dangerous for the players.
So, if we want to play golf in a good condition, we have to play somewhere where there is at least average wind speed and direction. This is why playing places like ocean coast, deserts, plains and high mountains are prohibited for golfers.
You can hit a ball higher and farther if you do it on the ocean, where the wind blows. You can hit a ball lower and farther if you do it on a golf course, where there is no wind. The golf course is like an artificial sea.
The geometry of the hole is carefully designed to make it as hard as possible to putt well. The result is that players have to get close to the hole, which they don’t like. They want to be able to swing away and putt far, but they can’t. So the golfer tends to tighten up his swing, whereas on an open course he would have swung more freely in order to putt farther.
In other words, golf courses are not just about making it hard for people who play them but also about making it easy for people who don’t play them.