Marolt: Golf: So you say you want a revolution?
Golf is fun, but it’s about as flexible as John Daly’s happy hour. You either burn up the better part of a day to play or you do something else. To many, the latter is more appealing. A decade ago, when Tiger Woods’ muscles made the world believe golf was a sport rather than retirement therapy, we all tried it — remember the Oakley Blades beneath the bill of your Nike cap? Well, it didn’t take many five-hour rounds to figure out that our bodies were actually atrophying as we slouched in the cart under the shade of a tree waiting for our next turn to hit.
Rigid etiquette is doing the damage. Watching a foursome take turns marking their balls, tiptoeing around everyone else’s lines, lining up their own putts, making sure nobody violates the pecking order of who’s out while everybody stands silently stalk-still as one person plumbs their line with a putter shaft is enough to bore a checkers referee. And why? Because it’s always been done this way! Somehow, wasting your golf buddies’ precious time is considered gentlemanly.
The other day, I was playing in a 16-hole charity tournament (the course is under construction) in a torrential downpour and had a couple of watershed moments. First, shorter was better. Second, as my partner leaned over his putt, rain pouring off the bill of his cap, I offered to hold an umbrella over him for fear he might drown otherwise.
“Thanks,” he said turning around and smiling. “But that’s against the rules.” Apparently, the reason golfers carry gigantic umbrellas in their bags is to stay dry while the person who needs it most is squeegeeing water off his eyeballs and wiping his hands on his underwear struggling to get a shot off.
I wish golf were more like skiing. Wouldn’t it be cool if somebody bought a huge piece of forested land and just started making fairways all over the place in it?
Let the golfers go wherever they want, just like skiing. If you want to wait for a good hole that lots of other golfers like, too, go ahead and get in line. If you want a little seclusion, drive your cart around until you find a hole that is deserted. Good golfers would head for the tougher holes, and beginners could congregate on the easier ones. If somebody really liked a particular hole, there’d be nothing to stop them from playing it as many times as they wanted. Heck, I’m sure I’ve skied Corkscrew half a dozen times in a day at some point.
The beauty of this plan is that it is flexible enough that even the purists could still play the same 18 holes sequentially every day just as they always have. Afterward, while they were calculating their handicaps, others could be quantifying the quality of their days by saying things like, “I got three pars on No. 16 today, but No. 3 ate me up both times,” or, “Man, the wind was blowing toward the pin all day on No. 6. I could have played it all day, but the noontime crowd discovered it so we moved on to 9, where nobody had made a divot all day.” Think of it: no tee times and you leave whenever you’re ready. You could play as little as one hole a day for 100 days and they’d give you a pin to wear on your golf shirt.
Of course, this plan has about as much chance as I do to win the men’s club championship at the Maroon Creek Club. No worries, though; I have a Plan B.
Plan B is simpler: If you take more than eight strokes on any hole during the round, you are finished. I don’t mean for the hole, either; I mean for the day. After you hit a golf ball eight times without hearing it plunk into the cup, you pick it up and head for the clubhouse. The same thing if you lose two balls on the same hole. Pick up and get the heck out of the way! That ought to speed things up.
We have to make Plan B user-friendly, though. Any player forced to quit because of poor play gets a prorated refund of their green fees in the form of a credit at the pro shop that can be used for purchasing range balls and/or golf lessons.
Wait, you think this plan is too radical? Maybe you’re right. OK, the credit could be used in the bar, too.