Distance Control and Dispersion to be tested at the PGA Championship
There will never be a major tournament that doesn’t value elite control of distance and dispersion, but there aren’t many courses that will penalize misses as much as Southern Hills this week. Southern Hills Country Club, host of the 2022 PGA Championship, opened in 1936 and was designed by Oklahoma golf legend Perry Maxwell. Over the last 70 years, Southern Hills has become an established stop for men’s major championships, hosting three U.S. Opens and four PGA Championships. However, this year the golf world will see a considerably different course than they did when it last hosted the PGA Championship in 2007. A 2019 renovation by architects Gil Hanse and Jim Wagner, along with Caveman Construction, helped restore the original Maxwell vision. Trees that had begun to narrow the fairways were removed, grass which obscured creeks was cut back and thick rough which often typifies major championship golf was trimmed down. But the most impactful changes may have been around the greens. If you have even a passing interest in course design or strategy, this feature from the Fried Egg’s Andy Johnson and Garrett Morrison is a must-watch (even Rory watched in preparation for the tournament). At 2:15, Andy asks architect Gil Hanse to describe what makes Southern Hills such a stern test of a golfer’s ability. Hanse’s answer should provide some foresight into the skill that will be particularly rewarded this year: “I think ultimately it’s going to come down to the greens. They are small targets. The restoration of the green complexes we found there was a lot of buildup on the edges… There was a lot of shelf building along the edge of them so we pulled all of that back away based on all of the old photographs that we’d seen. So now you have to be incredibly respectful of the edges because the balls will just run away.” In addition to creating sharper edges so that balls repel away rather than being funneled in, the Southern Hills renovation will feature short grass - not thick rough - around the greens. This means that if a golfer misses their number by a few yards they won’t be faced with a green side “chop” out of thick rough, but potentially chips of 10 - 30+ yards. No golfer would sign up for the latter over the former, which emphasizes the importance of managing shot dispersion and distance. Professional golfers have long benefited from data related to shot patterns and carry distance. They even employ personal data scientists to help them understand their game and how to navigate a golf course based on their strengths, weaknesses and tendencies. While many of the resources available to TOUR players are impractical for amateur golfers, accurate club averages and detailed data analytics is achievable if they have a Rapsodo Mobile Launch Monitor (MLM). The shot dispersion tracking and visualization offered by the Rapsodo MLM can be an impactful tool for amateurs. By understanding where you miss, how often you miss and by how much you miss, golfers can identify weak spots in their game and make more informed decisions related to course strategy.