viz blog
Bomber's Paradise
A common question these days is how can golf courses be set up to limit the advantage that bombers (long, relatively inaccurate players) reap week-to-week on the PGA TOUR? The knee-jerk reaction is to narrow fairways and lengthen the rough, with hopes of punishing wayward drives and rewarding shorter hitters for their accuracy. This idea has received criticism from the golf course architecture community, who believe this type of setup promotes "bomb-and-gauge" golf and minimizes strategy, which could end up giving bombers an even greater advantage.

The scatterplot below plots course yardage (y-axis) versus fairway width (x-axis). Each dot represents a PGA TOUR course, with the size of the dot corresponding to how much that course has historically favoured bombers (this is determined using our course fit tool).
*For reference — Bethpage Black, Whistling Straits, and Harding Park have the largest dots while Harbour Town, Sawgrass, and Sedgefield have the smallest. For those who watch a lot of golf, this should be in line with your intuition.
Average Fairway Width (Yards)
Course Length (Yards)
Dot size corresponds to the degree to which bombers are favoured (larger = more favoured)
1. The most obvious pattern is that dots seem to be increasing in size (distance is more of an advantage) as course yardage rises. There is not a strong correlation between fairway width and dot size.
2. Long courses tend to have narrow fairways as most courses over 7,200 yards are positioned left of the "Average Width" line. This is an important correlation to note as it helps explain why long players appear to excel at narrow courses like Firestone, Winged Foot, Bethpage Black, etc..
3. Lastly, it is clear from the plot that accuracy players are best suited for short and narrow courses given the high concentration of small dots in the lower left quadrant. Courses in this area are as you might expect — Harbour Town, Sedgefield, Colonial, Sawgrass, Innisbrook — to name a few.