We all make mistakes, and golf is a game where it’s so easy to make mistakes. These days it seems to me that people are more judgmental and critical than they used to be. One of the most talked about incidents of last year came when Phil Mickelson hurriedly followed his putt that was speeding on its way to rolling off the green and stopped the ball with his putter at the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills.
He knew it was wrong to do that, but it was a spur of the moment reaction which he apologized for at the first opportunity. Mickelson is one of the most honest and accessible players on Tour and it was totally out of character for him to behave in such a way. The incident was blown out of all proportion in some quarters of social media.
When Sergio Garcia, who I’ve always found to be one of the most likeable, straight-forward and considerate individuals in the game, seemingly completely lost his cool at the inaugural Saudi International last month by taking his frustration out on the greens and a bunker. His burst of temper cost him a disqualification after playing two rounds but he apologized profusely after the event.
Golf can be a frustrating game at the best of times and all golfers, and Tour players in particular, should do their utmost to behave impeccably and act as role models for youngsters taking up the sport – but we’re only human and we should be forgiven for the occasional lapses in concentration.
I’ve encountered a number of wild men in my career and I can recall many misdemeanors that have occurred, including the time when the revered Bobby Jones tore up his scorecard and threw it to the ground in disgust with himself at St. Andrews.
Punishment was certainly harder then, but we all have to abide by the Rules and comply with the etiquette of Golf.
On the subject of the new Rules of Golf, which were designed to simplify and speed up the game, the situation surrounding J.B. Holmes taking five-and-a-half hours to win the Genesis Open at Riviera last month would have been avoidable, had the officials put him on the clock and acted accordingly.
His response to the criticism of slow play was that the officials hadn’t given him a warning and that had he been put on the clock he would have accepted the ruling and acted accordingly. It seems a waste of time that everyone is so concerned about speeding up the game, but when an obvious opportunity like this occurs, the officials don’t apply the ruling.
The use of Range Finders would automatically speed up the game. It would eliminate the various yardage books where players constantly refer to them before weighing up the landscape and walking aimlessly around the course. They can be used for practice rounds but why not for tournament play?
On another aspect of the new Rules, I was playing golf on my local course recently when I noticed the state of the actual holes on the greens. The new Rule of keeping the flagpole in the hole means that when a player has holed his putt, he often struggles to pick his ball out of the hole with the pin still in position.
I’m sure that nobody suspected that this rule would cause the edges of the holes to be ‘roughed up’ – but just have a look at the holes on your local course and see the damage it’s causing.
Having said all this, change is the price of survival and golf needs to keep evolving like everything else in life.
Article courtesy of Worldwide Golf