I found a letter to the editor in the April issue of Golf Magazine to be quite revealing when it comes to the divided thinking between the truly serious golfers and the play-strictly-for-fun golfers. The letter was in response to a column by short-game guru Dave Pelz. Pelz’s column was about how he now supports allowing amateurs to continue using the so-called belly putter, but the gist of the column was his overall support for two sets of golf rules, one for the professionals and one for the amateurs.
The letter writer supported Pelz’s position, but he did so in a most condescending manner. Basically, the letter writer said there should be two sets of rules – one for the pros and serious amateurs – and one for everyone else. His contention is the “fun bunch” is going to cheat (using illegal clubs, taking putts, etc.) regardless of what the rules are.
He wrote, “I think the ruling bodies of golf should recognize that there are two kinds of players: those who just want to go out for fun with their buddies, and those who enjoy the challenge of the game as it was meant to be played. We need to have one set of rules for those who care and one set for those who do not.”
Let me point out that “serious” golfers make up a small percentage of people who play the game. I think it is great the game has evolved into a major form of sports entertainment at the professional level and I have no problem with amateurs who enjoy serious competition whether it’s the U.S. Amateur or the Hidden Hills Country Club club championships.
But understand, “the way the game was meant to be played” was as a recreational activity that was basically a walk in the park while using a crooked stick to hit a small round object into a hole in the ground. It was meant to be fun whether a family activity or a drinking game with buddies.
I get a kick out of people who argue nothing should be done to mess with the tradition of the game. What game/sport has constantly changed more than golf? Whether it’s Old Tom Morris or Bobby Jones or Ben Hogan, think they’d have trouble recognizing today’s drivers with heads the size of grapefruits?; rocket balls?; space-age metal in shafts? What about golf carts? What about the modern grasses that makes yesterday’s courses truly look like cow pastures?
While there’s certainly a place for serious golf, the survival of the sport is far more dependent on the vast majority of golfers who, indeed, play for fun. (For the record, most golfers would have more fun if they played the proper set of tees based on their skill level, but that’s another story.)
So here’s one more vote to have two sets of rules, one for the pros and one for the amateurs. For the serious amateur, understand they can always play by the pro rules.
And because I know some of you will bring up the handicapping system and wonder how it can be fair, I offer this suggestion: Handicaps should be determined only by tournament rounds when rules are followed to the letter. At other times . . . well, if it makes you happy then roll the ball out of that divot in the middle of the fairway; take a “gimme” putt; carry a 15th or 16th club; take a “mulligan”.
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