TO PLAY GOLF OR NOT TO PLAY
Many of you are surely confused about what is going on with the rules of golf. Bodies like the R and A and the USGA make sweeping decisions (that may be good decisions) for the 1% of the people who play tournament golf. But they do it in the public context of “The Rules of Golf” which makes the game even more intimidating for those trying to break into the game. For example when friends get together for a little pick- up basketball or shinny hockey, both sports can be enjoyed immensely without following the professional rules of the game. In golf, if someone “foot wedges” one out from under a tree or picks up after hitting two shots unsuccessfully out of a bunker, that person constantly wonders if that is okay?
As we see it the challenges to the paying public are three fold: time poverty, the difficulty of the game and the time it takes to play a round of golf. It is not whether or not a putter is fixed to my chin or not. The problem with our game is that the voices of golf tend to come from the traditional mindset. Are the “Rules of Golf” stopping your from playing? Does it bother you that someone has told you that you can’t use that long putter you spent $250 on last week?
GOLF AS RECREATION
At the Whistler Golf Club we tell our students to leave the scorecard in the golf shop. Go enjoy “the course” What does that mean? It means play it anyway you want with any type of golf equipment you want. Play 5 holes, play 9 holes, skip a hole, tee off from the 150, play scramble, tee it up everywhere….- Enjoy the view and enjoy the game. As your game improves so will your desire to make it more competitive, but enjoy the game first and don’t let the “rules of golf” deter you from enjoying a great walk and a great game.
So, what can we do to address the main barriers to getting more people playing?
- Offer different ways to play. “Can I play 9 holes?”- “Yes anytime”. ”I’d like to play today but I’ve only got an hour or so”. With time poverty we started hearing this more and more so we came up with 5 holes after 5pm. Guests were shocked to hear they could get out for an hour. We started see people we hadn’t seen in years. A few 5 or 9 hole games gets our guests jazzed about playing golf again and soon they are back up to 18.
- Juniors play for free. Anytime. Kid’s lives are busy, and being in a resort we want to ensure the families can afford to bring the kids out.
DIFFICULTY OF THE GAME
- Keep the rough low. Very low. Our rough units cut none stop.
- Encourage players to “play it forward”
- Beginner tees no further than 175 out. The sense of relief on beginners faces when you tell them it okay to tee off from the markers in the fairway is amazing. “I can do that?” It’s almost like golf has made people believe there is a rules official in the trees of every course.
- Easy pins. Nothing ruins a day like dumb pins. Course set up plays a huge part in pace of play.
- I tell the maintenance crew every year “no one has ever come into my office and complained the course was too easy, but set pins on side hills, pump up the rough and push all the tee blocks back and my phone starts ringing.”
- Encourage “casual golf” until the players are good enough to “play by the rules.” If you aren’t on the green in 5 shots, pick it up, drop it near the green and finish out.
TIME IT TAKES TO PLAY
- Our best staff work as player assistants. No one–shift-a-week volunteers here. Slow play is the death of our sport. Sure we have our days but not without throwing everything we have at it. We try and set the expectation on the first tee, build a relationship on the course and guide them home.
- Beverage cart training. We train our servers to be player assistants as well. Serve at the right time, and use some good wit to kindly nudge the group along
- 10 minute tee times. Slow play is often a capacity issue not a slow play issue. 8 minute tee times? Guaranteed slow play.
Competitive tournament golf is so important to developing fans for the game. In our opinion we need a set of rules for tournament golf and a more relaxed atmosphere around the recreation of golf.
So tee it up, smack it, go find it and have fun!