Playing 18 holes or 6?
I’ve repeated and repeated this through the years, but I;m going to give it one more try. One of the best things about playing eighteen holes of golf is that it has always taken a long time. As kids, whether in the summer or during the school year, that kept us doing something character-constructive instead of the myriad of messes we could have been getting into Being calm was the point. Spending a leisurely afternoon with friends and a great game was the point – along with several other points that go with playing a full 18, or in our case, 27 or 36. It was a counterpart to staying at the movies all day for a nickel. The all-day movie disappeared long ago, and now, here goes the 18 hole format, piece by piece. Europe is experimenting with a standard round of 6 holes for certain competitions, and one can only wonder where it will lead.
It had to happen in Europe – good old efficient, slim-it-down Europe. On both continents, the “leisurely” days that kids spent playing 18 are all but gone. They pack much more into a day than we did. We never intended to pack it with anything, just golf. A round of golf was a mini-vacation to us. The golf industry continues to blame sagging play on how fast the game is played, rather than the exorbitant costs it takes to play that sends many of us to the driving range and, less often, to the course. But, since they’re going to stick to the slow play thing, the solution of truncating the length of the round seems to be in vogue. We’ve experimented with hole groups, certain hours of the day and handicap schedules, like the fast, faster, and fastest lanes of the highway system in Germany
And so, the European Tour is visualizing a country versus country competition that features a 6 hole group. That certainly would have cut a few of those famous Arnold Palmer rallies short. He would have run out of holes before he scarcely got started. Our friends across the pond are also going to tinker around with a shot clock. What happens if you run afoul of the thirty-second duration (if that is the duration)? Do you get a shock, a terrible alarm or siren that goes off, shattering the rest of your game?Is it a stroke penalty, or like basketball, do you have to give your opponent the ball, and reset the clock? What a round that would make, with an accumulation of tee-foul violations that sends lining up a shot back to the stone age.
One article this morning suggested that music would be used – how is that? Like background music? Montavani’s strings, or a little rhythmical rap for keeping your swing well-timed? We should remember that a game of golf is supposed to lower blood pressure, calm the heart and prevent nervous breakdowns. There are some of us who can’t listen to music as background. I’d forget that I was on a golf course entirely.
The same article suggests that we would no longer use all the clubs in the bag. That format has undergone changes before, but I sense that either the game is going to get shorter in distance, or that we can offer gimmes from off the green that used to be there, No driving? Does it take too long to walk that distance before hitting the next shot? Remember when the walk was the point of it all? If we’re going to do away with traditional clubs, could we start with the wedge family, pitching and sand? There’s no love lost there, not for me.
Golf is not at fault here. It hasn’t moved away from the people, but rather the opposite. The serenity that golf offered (outside of the occasional tantrum) is the very thing that the pro and amateur industries are trying to do away with. Turning it into a game of action in lieu of mental discipline will certainly attract the young. When we say “Let’s play a quick round, we’ll really mean it. I don’t need that – and I don’t think the kids do, either.