Dear Dr. Divot,
What do you make of guys who treat our great game like a big frat party? I get really upset when I see “players” who don’t respect the game, who think golf is an excuse to drink beer and smoke cigars and ride around in a cart. And, oh yes, occasionally hit a shot in the general direction of the green.
Am I wrong to think these people should be banned from our courses?
Old and Grumpy
I feel your pain. It’s always been very important to your ol’ Doc that people who play “our great game” as you call it, understand the traditions and basic etiquette that separate golf from other sports and the people who play them.
Golf is the only competitive athletic activity that I know of where the players police their own performance. How many times have you heard that a player on the PGA TOUR called a penalty on himself and, by doing so, missed the cut or finished second by a shot?
And it’s not just on TV. Every day there are instances of amateurs and professionals alike who understand the rules of golf and who believe that ours is a game of honor and integrity. You know, O&G, integrity is what you do when no one else is looking. I believe most people who play golf – even recreationally – are honest people who intend to do the right thing.
But let’s talk for a minute about the fellows you mentioned. When playing at a public course not long ago, the ol’ Doc caught up to a threesome of young, twenty-something guys who probably fit the mold of the kind of players you asked about. When they asked if I wanted to join them on the final few holes, I had little choice.
They hit a lot of bad shots…some right, some left… and a few surprisingly good ones. They made no bones about the fact that they were novices on the golf course. One wore flip-flops. None, as I recall, had a complete matched set of clubs.
You know the Doc is a stickler for the rules and especially for the etiquette of the game. But these guys were having a great time. You may think the ol’ Doc is off his meds, but… what’s the harm?
They were careful not to interfere with any other players on the course; they were polite; they didn’t hold anyone up; searches for lost balls (and there were several) lasted only a few seconds before they dropped another and played on.
When I was a kid (back in the ice age) we played baseball on a vacant lot in the neighborhood. A scrap of cardboard was first base; the sewer drain was second; a small tree worked for third base. We basically made up the rules (within the general framework of “real” baseball) to fit our needs. And we had a great time.
The three guys I played with that day were really enjoying their day on the course…the way we used to love playing baseball all day on that old vacant lot. They are never going to be great golfers… and they know it. They will probably never break ninety or play in a tournament and they don’t care about maintaining a handicap.
They all knew and agreed to their rules, kept up with the group ahead of them, raked their bunkers and didn’t hurt anyone else or damage the course. The USGA may not recognize the game they played as “golf” but, so what?
Frankly, Old & Grumpy, the golf industry has to keep growing. It’s going to take people like those fellows who come out once or twice a month, pay a green fee, rent a cart and financially support the course, the snack bar and the pro shop if you and I are going to have fine public courses to play.
Ban them? On the contrary. The courses that make hackers and scratch players alike feel welcome and appreciated are the ones that will prosper. The future will probably look a lot more like those three guys than like you and me.
Dr. C.B. Divot