independent

Thursday 17 April 2014

Dear Santa, can you please, please sort out slow play?

AROUND this time of year I usually write a letter in this column to Santa, asking for things that are golf related and, in general, I don't fare too badly, but naturally I never get everything that I wish for.

It's usually the same things like an Irish winner of a major, a national title for a Kerry club, success for Kerry golfers on an individual basis and so on, but while I would like all of those things, I will leave them for another day when I compile my "New Year's Wish List" in a later issue of this newspaper in January.

For now I just have a few items that I would like for Christmas for golfers everywhere and particularly in Kerry. Beginning with the slow players and how about a watch and a rule / etiquette book for each and every slow player who takes to our courses?

I've spoken and written about this before, but I have to say that 2013 took the biscuit for slow play, particularly at my home club, and from what I'm hearing, at most others at well. It got so bad during the summer months that I started to look elsewhere for something to do on a Sunday afternoon rather than be stuck behind a three ball or a four-ball, who want to spend up to and, sometimes more than, five hours on the golf course.

Call me old fashioned or impatient, but I grew up in a scenario where you hit the ball walked after it and hit it again, and if your four-ball took more than three and a half hours to play eighteen holes, then a search party would be dispatched from the clubhouse to look for you.

Most of the guys that I play with come from the same era and we cannot understand how it can take five hours to play eighteen holes. I blame two things for this. Firstly television and all this pre-shot routine rubbish that players go through before striking the ball.

By all means gather your thoughts and have a practice swing as hitting a golf ball does require concentration, but having five or six practice swings, then throwing up a piece of grass to test the wind, then returning to your stance and repeating the procedure is downright unfair on those behind you.

The second thing I blame is complete lack of knowledge of the rules and the etiquette of golf. I'm not castigating golf societies, but the vast majority of adult people who take up golf these days firstly join a society before becoming a member of a club and have no schooling in the rules and etiquette of the game.

Golf societies have enough to be doing without teaching newcomers to the game the rules and manners of how it is played and so you have guys going out every Sunday in club competitions who don't have a clue. I heard of a society where two players were tied recently for a prize and the society secretary's breakdown of the scores to determine the winner was nothing short of comical.

It's different for those who came up through the junior ranks as most clubs would have a programme in place to teach kids all about the rules and regulations, but most of the guys who take up the game in adulthood haven't got a clue, so I suppose it's hard to blame them, but it's no fun when you're stuck behind them, believe me.

Maybe if clubs had a more stringent policy when selecting new members it might alter things a little or even if clubs ran a forum for introducing new golfers to how things are done. The women do this all the time in my own club anyway and in fairness this problem about which I write is mostly confined to men.

Perhaps, if we took a leaf out of our friend's book in England where the policy at most clubs is that you have to play a round of golf with the Captain and he will assess your credentials before you become a member, or like in some clubs that I am aware of, you are asked to pass a written test on the rules and etiquette before being allowed to join.

Care for the course is another area where huge improvements have to be made and people who don't repair pitch marks, replace divots and rake bunkers are as bad a slow players in my book.

So Santa, please give a watch and a book on the rules and etiquette to each and every golfer who falls in to categories I have just mentioned and we might all enjoy the game a little more in 2014.

Happy Christmas everybody.

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