So the British Open has shown, once again, that no one is listening.
For the second major this year, penalties have been levied for slow play. First it was 14-year-old Chinese phenom Guan Tianlang charged for dawdling at the Masters. Then, on Saturday, Japanese golfer Hideki Matsuyama was penalized for taking more than two minutes to address and deliver his second shot on the 17th hole.
The game of golf is in crisis. In a world of instant gratification – in golf? ha! – worldwide attention deficit and sports journalism that insists a story be told in 140 characters or less, golf no longer works.
It simply takes too long.
And nothing – not penalties, not advertising campaigns – seems capable of hurrying up golf. Hitting into the foursome ahead just annoys slow players as they wait for the sluggish foursome in front of them. And, sad to say, 80-year-old marshals in golf carts are about as threatening as a noisy squirrel.
The Golf Channel is running “knucklehead” spots to encourage quicker play. And the United States Golf Association has a campaign under way in which the sarcastic Rodney Dangerfield crack from the movie Caddyshack – “While we’re young!” – pushes slow golfers to get a move on. The USGA’s choice of pitchmen includes Tiger Woods (sensible), but also the master of the ramble, Clint Eastwood, which seems counterproductive.
Golf.com even has a story on a new book by Sam Dunn, The Art of Fast Play: Solving Golf’s Maddening Problem of Slow Play, which is packed with common-sense suggestions such as keeping pace with the group in front and being more efficient around sand and water traps.
But some feel more drastic measures are needed if golf is going to become the mass-appeal, mass-involvement game that was predicted for it in the days before six hours became a lifetime and retirement ceased being a realistic proposition.
So we humbly suggest the following:
A quick 14
The origins of golf are Scottish, but the origins of 18 holes are somewhat obscure. Early courses had five or seven holes. St. Andrews – the Vatican of golf – had 12, but eventually 18, and that became the standard. Still, everyone who plays the game knows that the mind loses focus early in the second nine, and the last few holes are played with little thought other than the cold beer waiting at the other end. If golf courses were 14 holes instead of 18, we could begin to lose focus around No. 8.
The 15th hole
Move the club bar up four holes and a minimum of one hour would be cut off the usual playing time.
Institute beer-cart boys
And the homelier the better. If male golfers no longer wasted time chatting up women young enough to be their great grand-daughters, the game would speed up exponentially. Eliminate beer carts altogether and a good half-hour extra would be gained.
The Titleist TomTom Pro VIII
A marriage between a major golf ball producer and a major vehicle navigation system could produce balls with built-in GPS chips. Endless searches for lost balls would become virtually a thing of the past. TomTom could also provide a wide choice of helpful voices, such as David Feherty’s lovely Irish lilt commanding you to “TURN AROUND AT YOUR FIRST OPPORTUNITY!”
Ban range finders
Is there anything more annoying or time wasting than seeing a golfer, who has hit his last three seven irons 32 yards, 127 yards and 37 inches, respectively, stand with a small monocular over one eye until he determines it is “194 yards to the pin – looks like a seven iron to me”? Ban the ridiculous Father’s Day toys.
Restrict practice swings
As most players now believe they’re allowed five practice swings per missed shot, it would be wiser to allow but one practice swing per round – a mulligan swipe, so to speak, take-able at any point. For Canadians, taught to change on the fly in their winter game, maintaining flow on the course makes sense.
Free the carts
Anyone racing to one of the rare toilet facilities on a course will know that golf carts are outfitted with ridiculous governors that slow travel down to approximately the pace of social change in North Korea.
Take the governors off and golf would become two sports in one.
Switching the gimme
Currently, the “gimme” is a putt conceded by one’s fellow players, but if “gimme” powers were reassigned to the actual putter of the ball – with a maximum allowable “gimme” set at roughly 12 feet – players would be at the 19th hole, sorry 15th hole, in time for an extra round.
And finally, it can be said with some assurance that if these few new rules were instituted, the game might have enough new quitters to put an end to the bottlenecks.
Golf’s great problem, solved.