There’s been a lot of concern expressed recently about a drop in golf’s popularity. Apparently golf is too difficult and takes too long to play, so 12 hole rounds on courses with larger cups and shorter holes will bring ’em back in droves. On the other hand, we can’t let them putt at those bigger holes with a putter that makes putting easier, and we don’t want the ball to go too far on those holes that we’ve shortened because they were too long. (A prize package awaits anyone who can figure out how these ideas are consistent. It’s above my pay grade.)
In the spirit of increasing the popularity of golf, I have a few additional suggestions. I offer some of these from my perspective as a psychologist and some from my perspective as a misguided soul who has been willing to play this poorly designed game for years. I present these suggestions with the sincere hope and expectation that the number of golfers will increase exponentially. The good Lord knows how much I love crowded courses and making tee times weeks in advance.
First, the concept of handicap needs to be entirely rethought. The word itself conjures up a negative image by suggesting a deficit in ability. Instead, it should be called a “potential excellence indicator.” Imagine how much better you’ll feel to say “my excellence indicator is 20” instead of “I carry a 20 handicap.” One lifts you up, the other drags you down. The time honored practice of sandbagging will be known as “strategic excellence enhancement.”
Second, rough and hazards should be eliminated from all courses. Not only will everyone feel better when every drive is in the fairway, but rounds will naturally speed up when hunting for balls becomes a thing of the past. No more wading into the weeds or fishing in the pond. Your ball will just be sitting there in plain view on the closely mown grass, no matter what direction you hit it. And golf will immediately be cheaper when it’s next to impossible to lose a ball.
Third, a player may play any number of holes he or she chooses and it will be deemed a full round. Scores will be adjusted to a standard of 18 holes for the calculation of the player’s excellence indicator, but this in no way suggests that the 18 hole round is an expectation or a goal. After all, the 18 hole round is an arbitrary conception, just like the number of clubs in the bag or the characteristics of the legal club and ball.
Fourth, since 12 hole rounds seem to be the emerging popular choice, it wouldn’t be fair to penalize those
old fogies traditionalists who insist on playing the antiquated standard 18 hole round. If more than 12 holes are played, the player may eliminate scores on any holes of that player’s choosing to provide the score to be recorded. The excellence indicator will be calculated from this adjusted score. Players may do this in advance by skipping the hard holes.
Fifth, the “gimmee” will finally be made an official part of golf. All putts shorter than the length of the longest putter carried by any competitor in a players group will be called good. It’s harder to miss putts with large holes, anyway, so this will not distort scores. It will only speed up play. It will also lead to interesting strategy decisions as players choose putters.
I trust these suggestions will find favor with golfers everywhere. I know my love for the game would have been immeasurably increased if it would have been much easier to play from the start of my golfing career. I could have mastered it early and gone on to more rewarding pursuits, like …….. uh …… I’ll think of something ……….. uh ………. How ’bout them Cowboys?
Oh, wait. The idea was to increase the number of players, not encourage them to play for a while and then quit. I guess the problem is above my pay grade. My bad.