Would a PGA Tour Pro Tear Up Your Local Course?

One of the favorite debates we have in our regular weekend foursome goes like this, “Would a top-tier PGA Tour pro shoot lights out at the venues we play on?”  We normally visit a circuit of courses with varying degrees of conditioning, length, and difficulty.  A common opinion is that PGA Tour pros always play on immaculate conditions and they would not be able to adjust downward and tear up a common man’s track with it’s assortment of un-replaced divots, half fixed ball marks, occasional aeration holes, and partially raked bunkers.  But as Granny Hawkins once remarked in The Outlaw Josey Wales, “I say that big talk’s worth doodly-squat.”

To figure this out, we do have a couple of reference points.  First, one of the more difficult tracks we play in upper Montgomery County is Little Bennett, with it’s good conditioning, fast undulating greens, and severe changes in elevation.  As a five-handicap playing from the blue tees at 6,770 yards and a par of 72, I struggle to break 80.  The course has been the site of local qualifying for The AT&T National (Previously Booz Allen Classic / Kemper Open).  Top local pros routinely shoot 64, 65, 66 to qualify, which blows my mind when you consider the difficulty level, and these guys are the lower-tier entrants in the PGA Tour event and usually miss the cut.

Reference point 2:  Back in the mid 1980s, while working as an assistant in the Mid-Atlantic PGA section, our tournaments were contested on the best local country clubs and the difficulty level was considerably higher than the courses my weekend group now plays on.  At the time, the top local pro was Fred Funk, who was working as the golf coach at the University of Maryland.

Fred Funk Photo by theguardian.com

Fred Funk
Photo by theguardian.com

Funk ultimately won eight times on the PGA Tour and this was a few years prior to when he joined the tour full time in 1989.  When Funk was in a MAPGA event, he’d routinely shoot in the mid 60s and everyone else knew they were playing for second place.  In his career, Funk’s average driving distance topped out at 281 yards for one season but was usually in the 269-279 range.  Nothing tremendous, but he was destroying us on the best of our local courses.  Now fast forward and think what would happen if you put an average tour threesome of say, Harris English, Jhonattan Vegas, and Graham DeLaet on your local muni.  These guys all average over 300 yards off the tee.  They would be hitting short and mid-irons into all the par fives and flip wedges into the fours.  Now, put a major winning caliber group of Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, and Phil Mickelson on the muni and you start to paint a different picture.  The only thing that could hold them back from the 58s, 59s, 60s, would be inordinately poor conditions on the putting greens.  The muni wouldn’t stand a chance.

Jhonny V winds up photo by golfweek.com

Jhonny V winds up
photo by golfweek.com

I’ve played with professionals who were good enough to qualify for the occasional PGA Tour event but never had the pleasure of playing with a top flight touring pro.  Have you ever played a round with a regular member of the PGA Tour?  If so, was it on your local course and did they tear it up?  The thought is a fun one to ponder.

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About Brian Penn

Avid sports fan and golf nut. I am a lifelong resident of the Washington D.C. area and love to follow the local teams. Also worked as a golf professional in the Middle Atlantic PGA for several years and am intrigued by the game to no end. I love to play and practice and am dedicated to continual improvement.
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10 Responses to Would a PGA Tour Pro Tear Up Your Local Course?

  1. Brian

    Great questions! I have never played with a professional golfer. I have had a lesson from a professional golfer on the PGA Canada Tour. To answer your question, the top tier pros would rarely it a driver on a my course. They would be hitting mid to long irons off the tee on 13 holes (including the par 3s). I think they would shoot in the mid to low 60s.

    Cheers
    Jim

    • Brian Penn says:

      Thanks Jim. Sounds like your course has some short to mid length par fours with doglegs and ample trouble. Enough to keep the driver in the bag for the extra long hitters. Definitely evens the playing field somewhat.

      Regards,

      Brian

  2. Nick Herbert says:

    I played with Darren Fichard in the 2012 South African Telkom Masters Pro Am – the lasting memory was short game sharpness was incredible – every chip had a chance and all 6 footers were drained with ease. Darren was also very methodical yet helpful when asked questions – a true pro! Distance is over rated, sharpen up those chips and short putts!

    • Brian Penn says:

      Nick, after watching yesterday’s coverage of the Northern Trust Open, I am in full agreement. When the top pros loose their feel around the greens, it pressures and affects their long game to no ends. Thanks for the comment!

      Brian

  3. I think it’s a no brainer that the Tour Pros would demolish pretty much every local course. There was a 9 hole course in Chicago we used to play a lot and we considered it tough for scoring due to small bunkered and elevated greens on every hole. The starter once told us that a few guys who played on the big break came out and all shot a few under par in the 9 holes. If even the big break contestants can rip up the local courses I can only imagine what world class players can do.

    • Brian Penn says:

      I agree. When you think about it, about 20 million people play golf and the tour pros are the top 125 in the world out of that group. The difference is tremendous. No contest. Thanks,

      Brian

  4. HA! Lol… Demolish a local course. It wouldn’t even be a contest. Soft greens, short course and no rough. 63 all day. Maybe even the magic 59! I played out there for a few years on various different tours in the early 90’s. EVERYONE hits the ball great. Putting and chipping, the short game out there is insane as well. I played with Tom Kite and Peter Jacobsen getting ready for the Oregon open. My coach said write a number on the ball for Tom. I think I wrote 68 yards. He hit it to the yard, over and over and over, Jacobson smokes it on a rope off the tee. Drive it, Chip it and Putt it. That’s what they said to me. I was just getting started out there working with my coach at the Sun River lodge in Bend. Then…I missed the cut. Thanks for the article. Follow me on FB, twitter @lifeislikegolf and my new site/blog coming soon. http://www.lifeislikegolf.com

  5. Cloudcpu says:

    These guys are really amazing I was a 3 index before joining my new club which is a tour level course for sure sadly it is only rated at 142 but that is way low as I am now an honest 9 index due to the lower rating! however, when I travel to other mid level clubs I shoot par or better ( I have gotten allot better by playing my new club regularly)

    When Morgan Hoffmann played my club he shot 71 and Phil shot high 60’s from what I was told. So I completely agree with this article I played a local muni last week in blustery cold conditions and I carded two under par so I believe top pros would shoot in the 50’s assuming the greens where moderately good. (I would have played better if the greens where not so bad but I was able to hit it close having wedge in my hand on most par fours)

    So from my experience this article is spot on!

    • Brian Penn says:

      Hey thanks for the comment and your perspective. It’s amazing how good the best players in the world are. They truly play a game with which we are not familiar.

      Thanks!

      Brian

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