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After months of ranting and raving about why it makes no sense to anyone why mountain biking is being “preferred” over golf and hopefully proving my point that it is more expensive, takes longer and is far less sociable than golf, I now have to apply the cream that will mend the wound.

Administering of the muti (Zulu for medicine) will require a massive shift in the way in which the administrators currently operate, as well as from golfers themselves if we are to rescue this glorious game from extinction.

So before we can treat the diseases that are rotting the game, we must first establish what they are and why they are causing such devastation to the game.  With that, I took it upon myself to ask some dangerous, honest questions directed at a number of golf club managers, golf directors and golfers of various levels of skill and frequency.

I convinced my “samples” that the following are not valid reasons for the decline in golf being played in SA and mountain biking being the new sport of choice (with reasons included):

The cost of golf is the biggest problem.  Not even close!  Mountain bikes cost a ton more than golf clubs.

The time required to invest in golf is too much.  Nah … you have to train (spinning, regular rides) to be able to even compete in any form of race. The handicap in golf ensures that you can always compete, even without training. That’s not it!

Golfing doesn’t include the whole family …. Ummmmmmm.  Neither does mountain biking!  With varying ages and skill levels, it is virtually impossible to ride as a family.  In fact I’ve never come across one and I mountain biked for ages.  Carrying my kids’ two mountain bikes whilst trying to ride with one of them on my crossbar and one my shoulders proves problematic, dangerous and ridiculous.  Don’t ever try that. Oh … and my wife hates cycling now too!

So the results from my studies were that golf is not as “fun” as it used to be with the main factors (in order of significance) being slow play and cheating, as well as the control and regulation of both. Let’s look at these diseases a little more closely.

Slow Play
Golf is a delightful game when it takes four and a half hours. You have just enough time to compliment life, catch up with your mates, appreciate the beauty of the course, ridicule the weak player in the fourball and catch up on some stories from the lives of those who enjoy spending the day with you. When that turns into five and a half hours, you manage to squeeze all of that in, but with that extra hour, most of it spent waiting for the ****ing group in front of you, you create a new aspect to the game … the time to moan, gossip, politicise, criticise, condemn and generally be a negative sod. So do this once and you’ll threaten not to play golf again. When this happens over and over again, that golfer is now gone!  A mountain biker is born!

Cheating
Every now and then, it can be expected that a player or a fourball have an unbelievable day where the Gods of Golf summon the ball into the hole and a magnificent score arises from the doldrums, but I can honestly say that at a large majority of the golf days that I attend, the scores are record-breakers!

At one particular golf day, a winning score of 116 (fourball alliance with two scores to count with no scramble drive or mulligans) was posted and the winners (who averaged 6,4 points per hole) walked away with the title by only 17 points!

Corporate golf days become a hunting ground for former golfers (who no longer have registered handicaps) to play off 18 and thrash all and sundry in pursuit of the overpriced prizes up for grabs at these events.

So to those playing in such golf days, play fairly, play well and enjoy their outing … until prize-giving where they suddenly realise that their time competing fairly on the golf course would have been better spent in the office!  Another mountain biker is born!

The Remedy
Now, this is that part that is going to hurt!  Kind of like the medicine being administered by a very blunt needle.

For the game to change back to its “fun” state, there are changes that will need to be employed by both the industry itself, and the golfer, many of whom are guilty of the two sicknesses that rot the game.

The part that hurts is that golf administrators will probably have to change the way in which they go about their business and re-educate the golfers as to how they go about theirs.

Speeding Up the Snails
As drastic as this sounds, golf clubs are going to have to take responsibility by enforcing and implementing certain regulations on their facilities.
Avoiding the effort of severely speeding up the golfer will result in the ultimate death of the sport, so this has to be done.

When asked, all the golfers I know and approached indicated that they would “love” to play golf in four and a half hours, but because the general pace of the fields is slow, they play slowly too.

So there are two ways of tackling this … incentivise and penalise! I would suggest that the golf clubs start broadcasting that they subscribe to the “4 hour, 30 minute” round of golf, perhaps even at the club entrance.

They can then advertise that they will do whatever necessary to ensure that this is policy is upheld …. kind of like a disclaimer that can be referred to if an offender is resistant to reprimand.

With that, I would suggest that more course marshals are employed (recruited from the catering department (see below)) and, although studies have shown that golfers do not like being “policed”, it should be done anyway in the best interest and enjoyment for all.

If a fourball falls behind, and fails to catch up, I can also suggest that they might miss out a hole to catch up and the points conceded by their action would be penalty enough!

Grab and go is the only solution for the halfway house. A total waste of half and hour. Certain clubs, in fact most of the clubs, believe that this limits the revenue spend with the catering department (although most are outsourced anyway).

I play out of The Els Club at Copperleaf, and I can assure you, I spend as much there as I do at any other facility.
Structure your menu correctly and your margins should go up … and your staffing requirement will go down (your new course marshals armed with meat clevers).

So we’ve enforced the “penalty” system.  Where’s the reward? Simple.  A highlight of most golfer’s round is the 19th hole.  If a golfer completes the round of golf in under 4 hours, 30 minutes, he receives a voucher that entitles him/her to a free beer.  A cold, smooth, icy trophy.

Yes, his pace of play is dependent on the fourball in front of him, so how can this work?
Simple again … I am going to be barking at them at every conceivable opportunity if they start falling behind.

Cheating – Be gone with it!
No matter how well this is policed and managed, you are always going to have cheating in golf, but let’s put some measures in place and insist on them.

When playing in a golf day or competition, a golfer who is no longer a member of a golf club, but once was, should play off his “last listed handicap”.  Unfair???

No, as an unaffiliated golfer, this person has the ability to wreck the competition for all the others.

With that, the SAGA should be approached to list the handicaps of all golfers on the database (active handicaps) and those who were once on the database (inactive with their last handicap being listed) so that the custodians of the scoring at events can audit the scorecards fairly and correctly.

I also once played in a golf day where an 18 handicapper (not official) shot 67 gross!  Enough already!

If a dodgy score comes through the scoring facility, the golf director should be instructed to disallow the scorecard from being included as part of a standard operating procedure. This will automatically take the responsibility away.

A clever tactic was employed by Paul Marks (golf director at Woodhill Country Club) whereby when a score of 108 (fourball alliance – 2 scores to count) was turned in at a corporate golf day at his facility, he “lost” the scorecard, asked the fourball to complete another one and cunningly caught the cheats out.

By using the simple philosophy that if they cheated significantly, they wouldn’t remember where and by how much, the newly completed scorecard featured numerous variations from the original which he “recovered” from his back pocket to complete his audit.
The perpetrators were then kindly asked to finish their drinks and leave!

The listed remedies, although they may seem harsh, will appeal to 90% of golfers if put forward at a meeting.

Yes, you will upset a few people, but they would be of the 10% who are decaying and killing the game and denying us the fun we used to have.

Sort this crap out and the game will grow again.
I expect some hate-mail and look forward to the feedback. Email me on olddog@40yearoldrookie.co.za

Wishing you all 4 hours, 30 minute rounds over a safe and peaceful Festive Season.

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