Vegging out, I watched a bit of the World Cup of Golf over the weekend and cheered yet another 2016 underdog – Denmark!! – to an upset win over…China and …France. Who would have thought? But what I really noticed is that, unlike most other sports games, golf has not only not speeded up but it is actually slowing down. Which is a pity, because it is a difficult game played in beautiful locations, with great possibilities for luck to be involved in the result. So I wondered – in the long gaps of time between shots – what could be done to speed up golf and make it interesting?
Introduce a shot clock like tennis and basketball. Once a player gets to the ball on the fairway they have a set time to play (say a minute). When it becomes their turn on the green, they have 30 seconds to play. Penalty of a shot if they don’t play and the shot clock starts again.
- No one can move their ball to clean it while playing a hole. If it’s dirty – too bad. That’s just another part of the luck of the game. No more picking the ball up on the green each time they putt.
- Where a player’s ball is in the way of another player, the closer player must play first to clear the path.
- Once a player starts putting, they continue putting till their ball is in the hole. Again, no more picking the ball up and marking it between shots. Keep going.
- In the cases of obstruction or unplayable lies, any appeal to the referee is decided by the referee without discussion with the player. The referee can move the ball. The player must play from where the referee places the ball (just like any other sport).
These simple changes would knock an hour off the average round at least. More players could be included in the tournament, more players could make the cut. Most importantly, it would make it more fun for spectators. Spectators would see more errors, more strokes, more players, more volatile scoreboards. (The average difference between the best and worst scores is usually around 10-15 strokes per round, for 50-100 players. This would increase that by at least 5 strokes, and make good scores much harder to achieve and therefore more valuable.
Those watching on TV would benefit too. Instead of interminable repeats (‘highlights’) of the day, there would be a lot more interesting bloopers to watch (notice how boring F1 is to watch now because there are very few crashes and few passes during a whole race).
Speed is the way of the world now. Golf is dying, except the top players don’t yet notice it as their pay increases for the dullest of automatons, which mostly they are now, with the latest golf club technology. There could be other versions of the game, as cricket has T20 and One Day. Go Go Golf where players run between shots. One Hole Knockout, where, if you win the hole, your opponent drops out and you take on another opponent on the next hole. Best win-lose record after 18 holes wins. Nine Hole Golf. Night Golf. Golfing with the Stars (Like Dancing with the Stars). Get with it, golf. The world has moved on.