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Women come up short in golf's 'Fairness Test'
Immense implications for golf
Editor’s Note: the following reports on an important and
overlooked problem whose solution could just help the
game and the business of golf.

Febraury 14, 2011 - According to the “fairness test”
devised by Arthur D. Little and Jann E. Leeming,
women golfers are being asked to play courses that
are generally more than 1,000 yards too long for them
to reach greens in regulation. In a recent posting on
their blog, Golf With Women, Little asks the following

good male amateur should play a 10,400-yard course,
Little contends.

“That’s how the math works if ‘fair’ is defined as having
to hit the same clubs to reach greens in regulation from
their respective tees,” Little writes. “This concept is what
we define as the ‘fairness test.’  Sorry, Dustin Johnson,
you are at 12,320 yards based on your average drive of
308 yards.”

According to Little and Leeming, the “average women
golfer” hits her tee shot 140 yards.  Hence, based on the
data they have collected in their research, the length of
the course she should play in order to have the
opportunity to reach greens in regulation is 4,200 yards.  
Note that this is 30 times her average drive, which, Little
adds, turns out to be a very good rule of thumb for

He goes on to note that the average male golfer hits a
drive of 210 yards, while Kuchar’s average drive of 280
yards is within a few of yards of the PGA Tour average in
“We neither realistically believe courses will be built that
are long enough to ‘fit’ players with faster than average
swing speed, nor do we support such an effort – 7,500
yards is plenty long enough,” he writes.

Little offers this advice for players when choosing their

Play a course where the yardage is approximately 30
times your average drive.  If a course is longer than this,
it will be a lot less enjoyable.
If you don’t really know how long you hit your average
drive (most people significantly overestimate), use two
times your average nine-iron yardage.  If you are among
the great majority (98 percent) of golfers, this will be

If your 30 times calculation results in a number shorter
than the most forward set of tees at the course you are
going to play, Little encourages them to read the “Move
On Up” post to see how to deal with this situation.
The complete “What’s Fair?” posting, and
accompanying graph, as well as other postings, can be
found by visiting
“If the woman is at 4,200 yards, the average male golfer
should be playing tees at 6,300 and the average PGA
pro should be at 8,400 yards,” he writes.  “These
yardages seem much more reasonable, even though
8,400 yards is approximately 900 yards longer than the
longest courses played on the PGA Tour.  No wonder
those guys are good!”

A graph that accompanies the blog posting shows that
the average woman is asked to play courses that are
generally more than 1,000 yards too long for her to meet
the “fairness test” of reaching greens in regulation.  The
yardage for the average male is just about right,
observes Little, who adds that better players usually play
courses that are close to 1,000 yards shorter than would
be indicated by multiplying their average drive by 30.

“The problem is that there are very few 4,200-yard golf
courses in the United States, never mind the world,”
Little writes.  “As a result, most women golfers do not
have the choice of a set of tees that gives them a fair
chance to hit greens in regulation and thus give them
the opportunity to score well.”

Little and Leeming believe the idea of courses with sets
of tees that fit players with a wide range of driver swing
speeds (from 60 to 110-plus mph) is critical.  He writes
that courses built (or retrofitted) this way will be more fun
for all and much faster to play, and points to Old
MacDonald Course at Bandon Dunes as one such
shining example.
How fair is a 5,600-yard
course for the average
What would you think if we
told you that a 5,600-yard
course would be equivalent
to an 8,400-yard course for
the average man?
How about an 11,200-yard
course for Matt Kuchar?
If the average woman
should play from 5,600
yards, the average LPGA
player should be playing a
9,600-yard course and a .