CLAYTON: Women rise to course challenge

Female golfer

 

An early week controversy at the Vic Open has been the arrangement of 13th Beach’s two golf courses and more specifically where the women’s tees are placed relative to the men’s. Three of the four rounds are played on the Beach Course and the men’s layout, given how far they all drive, is a relatively short 6300 meters. Leader, Nick Flanagan’s opening 62 would suggest Thursday it was a pretty simple day on the links.

The women are playing a course about 300 meters shorter and 6000 meters should hardly be an onerous test for some of the best players in the world.

I’m carrying Christina Kim’s clubs this week and in her opening round (a somewhat disappointing, 35 putt, 74) the longest club she had into a par 3 or a par 4 was a 6 iron. Hannah Green, her playing partner drives ten to fifteen meters longer and whilst not turning the course exactly into a pitch and putt it wasn’t too much more. Three of the four par 5s are also reachable and the highlight of Green’s play was three perfect long second shots to those greens.

In all 96 women broke or equaled par with the best of them, Felicity Johnson, around in 65.

To argue the courses (Beach and Creek) are set up poorly and without account for the women is a ludicrous proposition. Indeed it’d be reasonable to suggest a couple of hundred extra meters wouldn’t to too taxing.

The mistake is to think spectators, observers and critics will judge the women on the basis of the men’s scores. 142 of the men shot 72 or better to prove 6900 windless yards is far from a stern examination. Of course, any seaside links  needs to be relatively easy with no wind because to make it hard in still conditions inevitably means it will be close to unplayable in a decent wind.

This is the great lesson of The Old Course at St Andrews.

Anyone who compares the scores of the men and women and judges them harshly is completely missing the point of this week. Does anyone compare the times the women run in the 100 meters at the Olympic Games and see them as something less worthy than the men because they are ‘slower’? Do the women suggest running 95 meters? Does anyone expect Naomi Osaka to beat Novak Djokovic?

As confounding was a tweet from American player turned commentator, Brandel Chamblee. He suggested, ‘The reason why there are so few women average under 70 on the LPGA Tour compared to the PGA Tour is because the setups in women’s golf are far too long. It is not because of skill, rather, it is because if a misunderstanding by those who set courses up. 7300y = 6000y or less.”

It’s hard to imagine someone being so out of touch with how far the best women in the world drive the ball and how well they play. To suggest they should be playing 6000-yard courses (5600 meters) is simply condescending.

With the women’s cut at even par and American Kim Kaufman leading at thirteen under par it seems the women can well manage a course 500 yards longer than Chamblee is suggesting.