The need for change in golf appears to be accepted with the sport’s governing body, the R&A, somewhat belatedly, considering changes to the rules designed to make the game more attractive, speed up play and encourage wider participation.The traditional 18-hole round no longer accommodates the requirements of today’s faster-moving lifestyles.
One of the suggestions seriously being considered is playing a shorter course, or one suited to the player’s capability, which supporters believe will help considerably towards speeding up the game and giving greater satisfaction.
Gender-free tees are now being used in an ever-increasing number of golf clubs. One of the first clubs to adopt the system, the UK’s Sheringham Golf Club in Norfolk, has three sets of coloured tees – blue, yellow and white – which are all rated for both men and ladies.
The preferred system is probably to move away from a three tee system to a three course system. Instead of using colour coding alone, names could be given to each course. For example the Championship Course (white tees), the Prestige Course (yellow tees) and the Gold Course (red tees).
All course lengths would be measured and defined and each would have a separate card, simplifying current composite cards. Handicaps would be rated relative to each course with men and ladies playing from any tee.
From a social golf aspect this must offer a more acceptable situation, particularly for mixed games, and help when families wish to play together. It will also help to keep ageing golfers interested and more competitive for longer, golfing columnist Peter Race believes.
From a club competition standpoint there should be no reason why a competition cannot specify the course to be used for the occasion. This could give more encouragement for higher handicap golfers to participate in competitions by offering a challenge more within their reach.
The idea intrigues former touring professional Chris Geraghty, the Royal Golf Club’s new GM, who told GolfWeekly: “There’s so many things which can be done to speed-up golf, it’s amazing. This is a good option: in my time I’ve seen a lot of men play from red tees as they are beginning, this has helped them be less intimidated about playing and let them enjoy the game, developing into a blue/yellow-tee player. So removing the labels from the tee location would be a good start.”
Jack Nicklaus once said: “Unfortunately golfers are masochists.
“They want a challenge but they end up playing from the wrong tees. Average golfers never hit the ball as far as they think.”
Higher handicap golfers struggling to reach the green only slow down play and cause frustration for other players. Pressure to keep up – a somewhat ludicrous request when a group of high handicap players are following a group of low handicap players – simply increases the stress.
Playing courses that are too long for the ability of the player means having to approach the green using long-irons or fairway woods which leads to inaccuracy and more frustration.
Stanley Louis Szecowka
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