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If I were the King of Golf

It's that time again.

The Bermuda rough is suddenly swallowing your ankles and your Titleists. Ball marks speckle every green except those on 200-yard par-3 holes. Every golf outing is a scramble, which means it's made for non-golfers.

While the game has survived for centuries, it can still be improved. Therefore, here are some of the rules changes I would make if I were king of golf. It's not the first time I've proposed these but they bear repeating.

It's a working list. Feel free to submit your own suggestions to me at rgreenjr@charlotteobserver.com.

1. It's golf, not brain surgery.

Greens fees will be directly related to your pace of play. A round of golf should take no more than 3 hours, 45 minutes. They do it in Scotland and Ireland - without carts.

The longer it takes, the more it costs. (Note to novice golfers: Don't take three practice swings before every shot. You're already going to swing it more than anyone else, cut yourself and everyone else some slack and hit the ball).

Speaking of brain surgery, true story: I once worked at a golf course and when a brain surgeon came in after a day in the operating room, he remarked on how, during surgery, he had a new swing thought pop into his head he wanted to try out. Hmmmm....

2. Front, middle and back.

Courses don't need six sets of tees. We're going to have three sets and your handicap - not your sex or your ego - will determine which set you play.

If you can't break 80 from the middle tees, you sure as heck don't belong on the tips.

3. The out-of-bounds rule.

Back when golf was played in the great wide open perhaps the stroke and distance aspect of the out-of-bounds rule was reasonable.

It's not any more. Make out-of-bounds a lateral hazard like it once was. God didn't put those condos 30 feet off the fairway. Some misguided developer did.

And have you noticed that people who don't play golf buy the houses at the corner of doglegs and they wind up putting a net across their yard so they can sit on their patio without fear of getting beaned by a runaway Bridgestone?

4. Discount the price.

If greens have been aerated within the past 10 days, greens fees should be reduced.

If carts are required to stay on the path, cart fees should be reduced. And if it hasn't rained in two days, carts should be allowed on the golf course. The grass will survive.

Give people a reason to come back - even if they could really stand to walk.

5. Putt 'em out.

If you hit your first putt, or your second one, within three feet of the hole, you can't mark your ball - even if you're standing in somebody's line. Knock it in or close enough to knock it away.

Don't spend all day lining up putts. It's 90 percent speed, 10 percent line, anyway.

And please don't plumb-bob. It makes the rest of us feel stupid because we can't do it.

6. Post your scores - good and bad.

Handicaps only work if they're accurate and that means posting your scores, especially the good ones.

Here's the rule: If you play 18 holes and don't post a score, the pro shop or your buddies will do it for you - even par from the tips. No exceptions.

8A No one getting 10 shots shoots 73.

Remember, handicaps don't reflect your average score. They're what you should shoot when you play your best. You should play to your handicap less than 25 percent of the time.

7. Free drops from footprints in bunkers.

Let's see how good Phil Mickelson is from the sand when he's playing from the trench left by Vijay's size 13s.

C'mon people, take a second and rake the bunkers.

8. Repair two ball marks on every green

And do it the right way. It's not that hard and you could use the exercise.

9. No cars, fountains or signs in water hazards.

The only things allowed in water hazards are whitecaps, algae, Titleists, disobedient putters, ducks, rocks and bass.

10. Play ready golf

If you're ready, hit it.

One caveat: If someone has birdied the previous hole, don't jump them on the next tee. Let them have the honor. If it's a par-3, that allows you to discreetly peek into their bag to see what club they're hitting.

Don 't be that guy who doesn't figure out his yardage or pick a club until it's his turn. Be ready, please.

11. Caps forward, shirts tucked.

Before you tee off, look at what you're wearing and ask yourself a simple question: What would Golf Digest fashionista Marty Hackel say about it?

I'll leave the question of white belts open, though I tend to believe if your waist or age is higher than 34, leave the white belts to Rickie Fowler.

12. No cell phones or Blackberries:

I admit to violating this rule but it doesn't mean I'm right. I love places like Sage Valley that ask you to leave your phone at the gate house or in your car when you arrive. It's a nice idea, anyway.

IF YOU WERE THE KING OF GOLF ...

Submit your own suggestions to Ron Green Jr. at rgreenjr@charlotteobserver.com.

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