Tad Short asks, ‘Why don't architects use forced carries much anymore?’

By: Jeffrey D. Brauer

We simply want to allow everyone to finish a golf course . . . in one day! Here is a story illustrating the problem with forced carries:

Once upon a time, a famous architect renovated an equally famous club. In the process, he added a carry bunker on the par-3 9th hole. The female members – none of whom was named Martha Burke – were furious. "Mr. Famous Architect," they said, "Do you know that we can't carry the ball far enough to get on that green? And the bunker is so deep, we can't get out of it without hitting backwards? But you added a pond, meaning we would have to deliberately play into the water? Why, that bunker ends our round right there."

Mr. Famous Architect, rather than being contrite, thought for a second, and replied, "Had I known that, I would have put it in the 1st fairway."

The explosion of public courses (which by definition, allow anyone to play, providing they can afford the greens fee), gender equity (i.e. female members at most clubs) and Political Correctness*, has dictated reducing forced carries to sensibly accommodate a wider variety of players on the large majority of courses. Besides that, forced carries don't really challenge great players**. If they carry the ball 255 yards, they can carry a 250-yard pond, unless there is a gusty wind. Lastly, that type of shot provides no options, the hallmark of a great golf course.

In fact, it's fair to say that most current architects purposely avoid designing forced carries. To be fair, and politically correct, I seriously doubt that many male golfers would enjoy a course full of forced carries, either.

New environmental rules often dictate carries in modern design. In those cases, we design limited ones – no more than 100 yards from the front tees, 135 from the middle tees, and 200 or less from the championship tees. We prefer them on tee shots, where the shot is easier since the ball sits on a tee. We prefer them even better on par-3 holes, where the golfer tees the ball, and has a shorter club in their hands.

* For my future readers, I explained this once before, but it basically involves the common-sense idea of not hurting anyone's feelings, even when being so bold as to state a fairly obvious truth. Prior to political correctness, the phrase, "sensibly accommodate a wider variety of players," may have read, "women don't hit it far enough or consistently well enough to clear it." However, there have always been women who do hit it well enough, and Michelle Wie certainly hits it far enough, once again proving the danger of shameless generalization. It is no generalization to say she hits it further than most men. Well, it is, so I can truthfully say she hits it farther than I do, damn it!

** When we designed Colbert Hills, Mr. (Jim) Colbert originally wanted 200-yard carries. However, one day, in a 40-mile-per-hour wind blowing from an unusual direction, he hit a few balls and found he couldn't reach the fairway in that wind. We brought the carries back to about 180 yards as a result.