Cheers to Sir Charles

Golf Digest was busy on social media yesterday having a little fun with Charles Barkley’s scorecard.

Obviously, this captured people’s attention and as always golf is a game of total contradiction.

On one hand, Dicks Sporting Goods just fired all their PGA pros to cut cost on a declining golf business they acquired. As well, Taylormade/Addidas, a major advertiser in every issue of GolfDigest is lamenting the lack of growth, creating a Hack Golf initiative and suggesting things like a pizza pie cup.  On the other, attacking golfers who are struggling to recover their game sends a pretty opposite message.  Especially when one of the major barrier to golf for beginners is the intimidating factor of looking bad in front of better players.

Most of us are familiar with Sir Charles’ struggles in golf. As a bogey golfer, I have great respect and admiration for those of us who:

  • Struggle from getting it to getting worse from one day to the next;
  • Continue to challenge the game despite being embarrassed by their peers or by the game itself from time to time;
  • Have the fortitude and grit to dust themselves off, stand back up, and face their own psychological demons.

In fact, I think I have even greater respect for Sir Charles more than ever.  Who hasn’t faced first tee jitters with a bunch of judging eyes looking on from the clubhouse?  Sir Charles does this x millions of eyes every time he plays in a tournament.  There is some type of NBA-all-star-elite-level athlete mental toughness and determination in this man.

While I don’t believe Golf Digest is truly belligerent towards Charles, I do wonder who they think their target audience are?  I’m thinking your scratch golfers will not be flipping through the magazine for tips on escaping the greenside bunker.  If anything, I bet the average reader is a bogey golfer or worse, looking for little tidbits that might improve their enjoyment of the game and increase participation in this “declining game”.

In the end, it generated lots of discussions- a lot of facebookers think they can easily beat Charles but they forget that Charles did this in a tournament, adhering to the strict rules of golf, and probably have cameras and onlookers waiting to see his famous swing on every stroke.  That’s quite a difference between us weekend warriors and our 3 ft gimmes and first tee mulligans!




Quick being bad!

One of the main challenges of introducing the wife into golf is the intimidation factor of playing (and getting potentially embarrassed) in front of “real” golfers.

Really, what I’ve found is that most players do not care if you shoot well in the 100s as long as you play efficient golf.

Nothing is more frustrating to see something like this:

  • A group of players all drive to one ball
  • All people in the group watch their one partner
  • Check the yardage
  • Rattle through an un-organized bag to pick a club
  • Go into their 45 second PGA pre-shot routine with unlimited amount of practice swings
  • Set up frozen over the ball for 25 seconds
  • Break out of set up, crouch down to check the ball to see that it’s not their ball
  • Go to the next ball 5 yards ahead
  • Check the yardage again
  • Switches club,
  • Restart PGA routine
  • After another agonizing 25 seconds over the ball, duffs it 15 yards

The only thing worst than that is when someone drives the ball shorter than the distance remaining to the green, but then waits up for the green to clear on their second shot which is a good 100y short when they make perfect contact on it.

Okay, so I may be exaggerating but that was pretty close to my 5 hr 15 min round this last weekend as our walking foursome kept catching up to a riding 3some in front of us.

Whenever I read golf digest, I see these articles on crazy golf rules, and how you should hit a provisional when the shot is OB, and then if you can’t find it after 5 mins, the penalty is stroke + distance, so you should technically drive back to the tee and hit another.  That, on top of harping on “the best players have a pre-shot routine” + when you see pros measuring putts from 6 different angles, makes me feel that golf really is its own biggest enemy, and doing more damage to the amateur game than it helps.

The PGA has been promoting “Tee it Forward” but I don’t think that is the solution.  For most amateurs like us, moving us 50 yards closer to the hole means we’re at some awkward yardage.  Instead of hitting a super forgiving 460CC driving, now we might be hitting the 3W or 3Hy that we rarely ever use.  If anything, I’d imagine hitting long irons will get amateurs into even more trouble than slicing a driver off the tee.  Instead of a 7, 8, 9 iron out, now you might end up being 65 yards out on a half wedge shot that no beginner ever practices.  As well, most beginners really have trouble scoring from around the green.  2 sand shots, a bladed chip, and 3 putt will add 6 more strokes to the hole even if you’re greenside with a short iron off the tee.

Instead, I applaud the “While we’re young” campaign (where Tiger pokes fun at himeslf).  I think the message should be to play ready golf.  Despite playing from different tees, my wife is always conscious that it is our job to stay up with the group in front of us.  We were taught early from our golf school instructors the importance of etiquette and keeping up is a fundamental part of golf.  Having played with some beginner friends and partners, I’ve noticed the misconception and the lack of education in general:

  • One friend has a long and elaborate pre-shot routine.  He also shoots in the 120s and is more likely to duff a shot than to send one in the air.  When I asked him what is he doing exactly, he tells me “This is what my instructor taught me to do.”  I try to tell him that he needs to simplify and just pull the trigger.
  • When I feel like we’re falling behind, I play anxious and start rushing my shots and putts (much to the detriment to my scores).  Once, another friend ask me “What’s the rush?  Why do they want to play through us?”  Meanwhile, we have already fell a couple holes behind the group in front.
  • On a few occasions, I’ve played with the “frozen still for 25 seconds over the ball” guy.  I’m sure it’s no surprise that none of those players are great players.  I think when we first pick up golf, we are filled with information overload and too many beginner just cannot pull the trigger.  One occasional partner has this problem and when I asked are you going through a checklist or something?  He says, “No, not really- I just can’t get comfortable over the ball”.

Instead, I propose Golf Channel and Golf Digest have segments or columns related to how we should play ready golf and raise the awareness to make this game more enjoyable for everybody.

  • Whoever arrives at the tee box first should just play.  The few times where my partners insists on honors, I try to ask if they mind if we just play ready golf instead and I’ve never been declined.
  • Off the tee, pay attention and make sure you help your partners track their balls.  We should all be helping each other out.
  • If playing different tees, walk or drive up to the next tee box immediately after the last person tees off from the back tee box.  They can easily walk up and catch up to your cart by the time you tee up and hit.
  • I blame Titliest for this- yes, we should all be playing your $5 balls but that means beginners who slice every shot spend a good 5-10 min every hole looking for your balls on every hole.  If you lose a sleeve or two of balls per round, it probably is best if you play cheaper balls that you aren’t afraid of losing.  In fact, the harder balls have less spin and may actually help your tee shot.  In the interest of pace, we should be given reprieve to just drop another ball in the general area and keep on playing if we can’t find a ball within a couple minutes.
  • Hitting it off line into the rough is supposed to be penalizing but I bet alot of golfer wouldn’t mind if they can find their ball quicker in more shallow, and also less punishing rough as well.
  • Play from the appropriate tee.  I can’t believe how often we get paired up with people who insists on playing the blues when it means Driver, 3W, and wedge into the green all day.  It puts alot of pressure on your 3W game and I don’t think golf was designed to be hitting Driver, 3W, 3W, then wedge in par 5s.
  •  We were once paired up with someone who has all their irons socked.  It was a wet cart path only day and this is the routine on multiple occasions.  Walk to the middle of the fairway, take a look, decide it’s the wrong club, and then mozy on back to the cart, resock, switch clubs, desock, walk back on, etc.  Needless to say, we were told by the marshall to pick up and keep on moving.  If you have to, bring 4 or 5 clubs out with you if you have to hike to the other side of the fairway.  And if you’re within a wedge distance, grab your putter as well so you can just walk up the middle of the fairway instead.
  • If you’re riding, drop your playing partner off first with all their clubs so they can play out the hole (grab the wedge and putter in case the approach shot goes offlinje) then you can ride off to begin the search for your ball.  Or if appropriate, drop them off to look first so they can find and plan their shot.  By the time you hit and drive back, they’ll have a club in mind and be ready to go instead of beginning the search together.
  • Play out of order if you have too.  Sometimes you’re on the putting green and your partner just shot one from the bunker to another bunker.  Putt out and tend the flag instead.
  • Park your cart off the the side near the next tee box. (super obvious #1)
  • Get off the green as soon as you can. (super obvious #2)
  • Write down your score on the next tee box instead of replaying all your shots when someone is waiting to hit their approach
  • Meanwhile, just drive off with your putter and wedge in your hands after your shot.  You can clean and re-arrange your clubs on the next shot or next tee box when no one is waiting behind you.
  • If you’re still falling behind after all of this, wave the next group through if it makes sense.
  • On the other hand, if you keep catching up to the group ahead, and there’s no opening ahead- just ease off a little.  It might just be one of those slow days and remember that at least you’re outdoors playing golf so you should be enjoying your time out here!

As for my wife being intimidated- I’m happy to say that she isn’t anymore.  We find that the red tees are often an after thought on golf courses- forcing the average lady to rely heavily on their 3W or leave them in no (wo)man’s land after their initial tee shot.  Either they are blocked to go around a dog leg or have an unreasonable water carry, they are often forced to lay up and play one, or maybe two extra shots than the “par” number for the hole.  With this, she plays it as a par 5 to start out with and not to attempt an impossible water carry.  Also, she takes no practice strokes- just walks up, get in her stance and hit, usually with some type of positive forward progress even if it doesn’t go in the air.  Consequently, our playing partner doesn’t really mind the extra stroke or two in the fairway since we’re never dragging behind that much even on the worst days out there.

So go ahead and be bad- we all started there at one point (and I still feel like that on some days) but be quick about it and no one will even notice.