Do you consider yourself a golf traditionalist?
Do you have an official USGA handicap?
Do you regularly play in USGA sanctioned or governed events?
Do you religiously follow the Rules of Golf?
According to many studies, you are in a select group of about 20% of the golfing public. The rest of the golf world bends the rules a little, a bit or a whole lot?
Don’t believe that statement? Consider your last round of golf. Did you hit a ball out of bounds? Did you take a stroke and distance penalty, taking the walk of shame back to the tee to try again hitting three?
How about that unfair lie in a middle of the fairway divot that you tapped an inch onto green grass? Or maybe the gimme putts you and your playing partners granted? Or how about that extra driver you were trying out, bringing the number of clubs in your golf bag to 15?
Did you open your round allowing more than one tee ball on the first hole to get warmed up? Did you hit a second ball after a poor shot? Did you actually card a six on that hole and not a seven?
Does any of this remotely sound familiar? Be honest.
While 20% of all golfers religiously follow the rules, the vast majority of golfers enjoy the game by taking some liberties with the rules. Not every stroke, not every round, but somewhere along the way. That’s a fact.
Friends, golf is a game to be enjoyed. And while noone would condone playing in a USGA event and not following the rules, in a friendly game most golfers will manage to have some leeway in with the rules.
Golf is a hard, difficult, challenging, frustrating, you name it game. It has been said you play your foul balls, but the question is whether you count all the strokes!
Ask most golfers and you will hear how the game costs too much, takes too long to play and enforces too many rules that ruin the fun of it. These are players who never will play in the United States Open but enjoy being on the course. The game has seen its players reduced by nearly 20% from its heyday of 30,000,000 at the height of the Tiger Revolution. More golf courses are closing rather than being built, get greens fees are increasing.
The stewards of the game have tried to get more involved, from The First Tee program to the USGA’s Tee It Forward program. Still the numbers dwindle. So, the question is: how does the game turn from its tailspin and begin to accelerate growth?
Taking a page from skiing, which saw snowboarding introduced to goose participation, stories have been reported about Frisbee Golf and Foot Golf as ways to enjoy the concept of the game without all the frustration.
Others talk about Hack Golf, a concept where the USGA Rules of Golf are thought of but not necessarily followed. Thought of as a way to Grow the Game, Hack Golf supports different avenues to spark interest in the game. It uses 15 inch cups on the putting green to reduce the heartache of putting to a small target. It features large faced, non-conforming clubs including some that can be used playing a larger golf ball on a shorter course. As many as 100 existing courses are allowing such play.
According to Taylor Made, their MOAD club (“Mother of all Drivers”) allows beginners to hit the ball 160-180-yards off the tee. Hit it 180 on a 300-yard hole and all of a sudden that beginner can have a shot at a few pars that just might get them coming back to the course in the future rather than walking away from a too hard of a game.
Blasphemy to the traditionalists, when one of those newcomers graduates to “regulation” golf there might actually be some growth in the game.
Face it, basketball played in one’s driveway isn’t regulation. Nor is the game of HORSE or Follow the Leader. Don’t have 10 players? You can play one-on-one or any other variation and not be looked upon as a rule breaker.
Several smaller ice hockey rinks have been developed that feature three-on-three play, and others have temporary boards across the ice that allow half ice or third ice games for youth players.
In the golf world, there is more of a demand for Pitch and Putt and Nine Hole Courses, where a “round” of golf can be played in an hour or so, addressing the time and cost issue. Point is, the market is there for the playing of the game, just not by the traditional USGA Rules of Golf.
That’s not a bad thing. It might – despite distasteful looks from the traditionalists – save the game.