Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Trouble With Golf Today? Apparently The Rules

Its not really news that the sport of golf is in decline. A couple of bench marks are the annual number of rounds played, net growth in number of courses and the number of American's who identify as golfers. The reasons for the decline are varied and differ regionally as well as internationally.

Photo Credit: First Tee Charlotte

But the facts are clear, "In 2006 some 30 million Americans were golfers. In 2013, 160 of the country’s 14,600 golf facilities closed, the 8th consecutive year of net closures. The number of players has fallen to around 25 million." (Source The Economist )

Often cited are cost, time, the effort it takes to be reasonably effective at the sport; oh and the rules. Again from The Economist sourced above: Golf's "200-page rulebook make(s) it a tough sell to new players". More about the rules shortly.

I'm very fortunate to live on a golf course, in fact I grew up on a golf course, worked weekends and summers in High School on a golf course. I've played some of the greatest courses in the world and some not so great dog tracks. But the truth is I am really bad at playing golf. A life time double digit handicapper who has great rounds with a game that's in sync and embarrassing rounds that make my partners cringe when its not.


Its those snowman (8's) that litter your score card, that make you want to throw your clubs in the lake, yet you some how manage to chip in for a eagle on the 18th and the snowmen melt away.

You'd think living on a golf course I'd be pretty good, nope. Much of the trouble with my game is I'm an accountant when it comes to counting my strokes, and a purist when it comes to the rules.

Now living on a golf course has its draw backs. You have to like golfers, and greens crews, who often start before dawn.

To me the greens crews are like snow cats at a ski resort, working all night long on the mountain. Their pre-dawn lights darting back and forth across the fairway. A promise of perfectly "groomed" greens and fairways for the day ahead. As far as I'm concerned mowers and leaf blowers at 5 am are a perk.

However as golf has declined, clubs like mine have been less selective as to who they let join and the afternoons are frequently filled with players who are playing on some discounted deal. Often my course also hosts young players, both high school and junior high.

Now, I truly enjoy watching kids play, since some of them are really good. But I've also noticed a steep decline in the decorum of young players.

14 year olds dropping F-bombs after missed shots is nothing new, but I'm drawing the line at kids 30 yards out of bounds hacking out large chunks of turf that happen to be my back yard.

The penalty in golf for being out of bounds (O.B.) is commonly called “stroke and distance.” This means that a one-stroke penalty is added to the score, and the ball must then be dropped as nearly as possible to the spot from which the original but errant shot was played.

Most amateur golfers modify this rule by picking up the ball and dropping it inbounds, then recording the two strokes, without going back to where they originally hit the O.B. ball.

But I've noticed over the last five years, kids could care less about the rules. Rake a trap, why? Repair a ball mark, isn't that what the greens crew does? Out of bounds, why" I can still play it.

The club's thinking (local rule) is if the ball is out of bounds in a homeowner's yard it is deemed lost. Which means you don't go wandering around someone's back yard hoping to find your ball. Yes, I've had more than a few Saturday afternoon naps interrupted by someone screaming under my window "hey Larry I foundddddd youuuur baaallll!)

On occasion I've called out to a young player getting ready to whack his wayward and out of bounds Titlist Pro V 1 out of my wife's flower bed, by using my best golf god voice: "hey, you can't hit from there - you're O.B. take a drop in bounds, count your 2 strokes and play on." Which is often met with some F-bomb laced tirade.  My retort is normally: "Hey, if you don't wanna play by the rules; take up hockey, or join NASCAR!"

So it goes that Tuesday afternoon one of the chaperons/wanna be golf coaches over heard my admonishment of a young player, likely his son. The dad/coach stormed into my yard demanding to know if there was a "problem".

Keep in mind my deck is about 20 feet in the air and standing at the top of the stairs at 225 pounds and 6 feet I imagine that I don't look even the slightest bit timid.

But I'm a nice guy and explain that "yes there is a problem", in that each of the last 3 groups had, someone who was O.B. and elected to play from my yard sending large chunks of my lawn soaring towards the sky.

Now at this point you'd think the guy would back down. But no; rather he proceeds to tell me that if that bothers me maybe I shouldn't live on a golf course.  He continues on that they are only kids and that they are better ways to handle things. Adding that since I live on the right side of the fairway I should expect golf balls in my yard. I politely tell the parent that while I expect some golfers will slice a ball into my yard I don't expect that they will play it from my wife's flower bed or leave divots the size of footballs in my lawn.

The parent then quips that I must be great golfer and never slice. Truth is I'm a terrible golfer but I never slice and I let the angry parent know it. With that he circles back to "there are better ways to handle it than yelling at the kids".

I completely agree and suggest that the better way is for him to do a far better job coaching the kids and teaching the rules.

Anyway the blue Master's Golf Tournament shirt wearing smurf finally leaves before I have to call the cops and explain why some kid's father was on his way to the ER and a plastic surgeon who specializes in broken noses.

But the entire episode got me thinking about the future of golf. Are we really raising a bunch of golf playing heathens who think they are above the rules set forth by the Royal and Ancient Golf Club and USGA? Kids who are taught nothing about etiquette or sportsmanship? It sure looks that way from my back yard.

Thankfully there are the kind folks at The First Tee, who pride themselves on teaching kids a little more than how to bang a ball 300 yards. Something they call "The First Tee Nine Core Values".

Maybe if Mr. "Is There A Problem?" was a little more focused on the core values rather than making excuses for his kids there wouldn't be a problem.

The First Tee Nine Core Values

The First Tee has established Nine Core Values that represent some of the many inherently positive values connected with the game of golf.

By participating in The First Tee, young people are introduced to these core values which are incorporated throughout the program. Parents are encouraged to reinforce these behaviors by talking about them, what they mean and what these behaviors can look like at home.


the quality or state of being truthful; not deceptive

Golf is unique from other sports in that players regularly call penalties on themselves and report their own score.


strict adherence to a standard of value or conduct; personal honesty and independence

Golf is a game of etiquette and composure.  Players are responsible for their actions and personal conduct on the golf course even at times when others may not be looking.


observing the rules of play and winning or losing with grace

Players must know and abide by the rules of golf and be able to conduct themselves in a kind and respectful manner towards others even in a competitive game.


to feel or show deferential regard for; esteem

In golf it is important to show respect for oneself, playing partners, fellow competitors, the golf course, and for the honor and traditions of the game.


reliance or trust. A feeling of self-assurance

Confidence plays a key role in the level of play that one achieves.  Players can increase confidence in their abilities by being positive and focusing on something they are doing well regardless of the outcome.


accounting for one’s actions; dependable

Players are responsible for their actions on the golf course.  It is up to them to keep score, repair divots, rake bunkers, repair ball marks on the green, and keep up with the pace of play.


to persist in an idea, purpose or task despite obstacles

To succeed in golf, players must continue through bad breaks and their own mistakes, while learning from past experiences.


considerate behavior toward others; a polite remark or gesture

A round of golf should begin and end with a handshake between fellow competitors. Players also should be still and quiet while others are preparing and performing a shot.


the ability to make a decision or form an opinion; a decision reached after consideration

Using good judgment is very important in golf. It comes into play when deciding on strategy, club selection, when to play safe and when to take a chance, the type of shot players consider executing, as well as making healthy choices on and off the golf course.


Anonymous said...

White people problems

Anonymous said...

Nice read and sharing what may observe in that next generation

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 11:00 - unless your comment was made as sarcasm you're the poster child(parent) for the problem.

Anonymous said...

I would hope someone takes the time to teach the kids, so many are taught "short cuts" like Patrick Cannon.

That parent needs to take a hard look at himself.

Anonymous said...

7:15 my comment was extremely sarcastic

Anonymous said...

Cedar it's not just the kids, adults even members of private clubs have tossed the rule book.

Anonymous said...

If and I say a big IF, people would apply golf's rules and ethics to everyday life what a better place. But as your article describes society has become a place of I did something wrong and if you call me on it then I will bombard you with insults. You shouldn't live on a golf course. No one takes any ownership of their own mistakes. Everyone messes up and no one is perfect but a sincere I am sorry and taking corrective action or actually calling yourself on something before the media has to report it, that's just class, and if we could find those people anywhere we should elect them to office and put them in charge of the cities and towns. Golf teaches the responsibility and attributes of a good adult whether you master the game or not is irrevalent,if you can master the rules you are the real deal. It should be a goal of everyone and not just someone.