In Defence of Golf 

The slow play debate is still marching on at an ironic pace. Nobody seems to be able to universally agree on what the best course of action is, to ensure golf remains one of the World’s major sports. And by the ‘World’ I mean wherever there is plentiful wealth. I’m here to argue something possibly controversial; that in fact, nothing needs to change. 

I’ll start by asking a question; What’s changed more over the last two decades, the game of golf, or society? 

Other than the ball (!!), golf really hasn’t changed very much. We still play 18 holes, we still use 14 clubs and some of us are even now finishing with 14 clubs. Golf, to its credit, has survived World Wars, recessions, depressions and even Mark Roe’s commentary. (I feel bad about that joke) Society on the other hand has changed immeasurably, even in the small time I’ve been able to observe it as an adult. 20 years ago there was no Facebook, no Amazon, interest rates lived closer to 10% than 0%. There was no selfie stick, footballers didn’t dive, although Donald Trump probably was still a narcissist. 

Why do we now need to change golf? We would be changing it in the belief that society is on a conveyer belt that will only move in the same direction it has in the last decade. I only found out recently, that free trade between countries was never really a thing before World War 2. Tariffs were the norm for centuries before this period. However, if you are unaware of this, you’d think free trade is sacrosanct to humanity and must never be challenged. It has become abundantly clear to me over the last few years, having read and learned about more than how to hit a fade, that we humans have poor memories and are way too indulged in the present. 

Countries and individuals are dependent on cycles. Whether that be in the food we eat and when it can be grown or the businesses we can start and grow, depending on business cycles and/or credit cycles. These things become easy to forget as we are so busy consuming, working and living generally. Therefore I think we need to address whether we believe the current cycle we all find ourselves living in, is likely to be sustainable.

Yoga, Mindfulness, Spiritualism and Meditation are all becoming more and more popular, along with Veganism and a general move towards holistic living. These are the signs to me that the balance of our lives are wanting to shift back towards a centre point. Drug abuse, depression, obesity and stress related illnesses have been on the rise over the last two decades. This is another sure sign to me that we have pushed ourselves too far, in too short a period of time. We are finding managing our health, and subsequently our lives, tricky. Now, there is the argument that things will keep moving in the same direction, and that ultimately we will adapt because we have to. But dying, isn’t adapting, and there are too many people dying from chronic illnesses because they are unable to cope with modern day pressures. 

I would therefore suggest golf doesn’t need to change at all. I believe there is as much chance, if not more, that society rebalances and slows down, as there is that it continues to move at its current break neck speed. Golf has major therapeutic qualities, whether that be the fact it’s played outside, and so therefore it is effectively more in tune with nature. Yes, it is slow in its nature, unlike football, tennis and rugby, but this is a good thing as it can therefore be played by anybody. It is incredibly stimulating mentally, once you begin to grasp the movement of the golf swing. The social aspects of golf can be fantastic, and help people remove themselves from screens and technology. All of these things I believe have huge potential in dealing with chronic illnesses, whether that be physical or mental. I would imagine golf as a form of healing from depression could be enormous due to what I’ve outlined above. Plus, why change a sport to simply ‘conform’ to what we believe society ‘wants.’ Conformity is boring, each sport is different in its nature and we should celebrate that, not the opposite. 

When it comes to the changes we can make as professional golfers to ensure the viewing experience is better, I do believe like many others that there are things that can be done. We should be making an example of players taking way too long to hit simple shots. We shouldn’t be advocating pre shot routines where you close your eyes, breathe slowly and pretend to be a Power Ranger. Golf can be played faster at tournament level, as well as club level. But it can never be played in 2 hours. And I don’t want golf to change itself in such a way to make that possible. I think it would ultimately be a bad move for the game and risk dilution, the same way Cricket has done. We may currently have an ‘image problem’ in golf, but we don’t need to add schizophrenia to that. 40 second shot clocks may reduce a round of golf to 4 hours from 4 hours 30 minutes in a 3-Ball, but that’s still 4 hours, and in my opinion that’s not enough of a change to direct attention away from our sport being ‘too slow.’ 

Of course I could be wrong and all I’ve written above may end up being way off the mark. I hope it’s not though, and not because I want golf to be popular, but because I don’t want to live in a world full of over stressed, chronically ill human beings. 

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56 Responses to In Defence of Golf 

  1. Kim says:

    Very well said Eddie!

  2. Matt says:

    Great words as usual Eddie, very thought provoking.

  3. Dai Jones says:

    Played behind four vets yesterday; winter golf, cleaning and marking their balls on every green.

    Clearly playing in the US Open.

    Watched some ladies golf on TV recently – literally turned it off as the pace of play was so slow. Time taken over putts was mind boggling.

    It’s a simple, simple game. Get to your ball, pick a club and hit it. Repeat. Your point yesterday about through line very apt.

    • Steve Sharp says:

      Spot on
      Well said. Just punish the players that are making the game to slow for the majority of golfers. Start with the professional’s and I feel sure the amateurs will follow suit.

  4. Pat says:

    Eddie, you are exactly right ! As someone who’s beginning his 60th trip around the sun, and has enjoyed all the qualities (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, social, competitive) the game gives us … I can vouch for what you are saying based on my experience (45 years of playing this great game) and what I believe will happen in the decades to come. Thanks for putting this wonderful thought out there for all to contemplate 🙂

  5. Richard Shaw says:

    Absolutely agree Eddie – slow play is not important, and there’s more important things for us to worry about for the future of our society and that’s where we need to spend our time. Richard

  6. jpbpmh says:

    As a somewhat fast player, slow play has always bugged the snot out of me, yet I firmly believe at club level golf should be played at whatever pace is enjoyable. What really needs to happen is for slower players to accept they are slower and let faster groups and individuals through instead of backing up the entire course out of some stupid act of masculinity or worse, ignorance of everyone else on the course.

    At Tour level, they need to speed up. I can’t see why someone shooting in the 60’s and seldom looking for balls should be taking 5 hours. As a spectator I don’t want to watch a player fanny around throwing grass, looking at his yardage book and swapping numerous clubs before hitting a terrible shot 10 yards right of the green. 🙂

    I’d like to see the PGA treat pace of play as another performance statistic and “shame” those who deliberate too much.

    • zooname says:

      This comment rings the truest for me.
      The main problem (off tour) is the slow golfers (often those with the most free time to play with (seniors generally at my club)) just will NOT let people through… blaming (genuinely) the starter for letting people tee off so close behind them (whether that be a standard 8-12 minutes or not).

  7. Tom says:

    All sensible Eddie, but you got one thing wrong. Global trade was a massive thing before WWI, on a scale truly never seen before (until 20 years ago or so). Some argue it then led to protectionism, WWI and WWII.

    Some say that the world today looks eerily similar to the pre-WWI world.

  8. Andy says:

    Bottom line golf is not a popular as it was and the 5 hour round has to be part of the problem. What the pro’s think is acceptable becomes the norm. The PGA did not penalise a single player for slow play between 1995 and 2017.

  9. Alec says:

    Very well put and I totally agree….

  10. Prodivotwatcher says:

    Tell that to Elton John who is currently attempting to turn the European tour into some shite version of ‘it’s a knockout’ – granted without Stuart Hall…

    Actually hold the phone Ted – golf Is fixed, the messiah is back

  11. IanFursie says:

    Eddie perhaps you can answer this one. I was watching some highlights of the final round in India. When I’m playing (HC6.7 aged 53) friendlies/medals and I’m on the green, not first to putt, I’m already lining it up even if I’m closest pulling out the flag I’m looking at the lines. However in India and the PGA it appears the player furthest away is the only person lining up the putt. I find that slows down play massively in the pro game. They are on the green for ages. Even if I’m first to putt I’m lining up as I walk to the green. Perhaps there are some areas where little tweaks can be made to help the general speed of play. Anything longer the 3 and a 1/2 hours I start getting bored! Front 9 gross 38 back 9 48-51!

  12. John Elliot says:

    Always enjoy your writing and again, you deliver – bravo!

  13. Steve says:

    I gave up playing years ago when I moved house. Two of the major factors were the fact that the time for a weekend fourball had increased from 3.5 to 5.5 hours and 500 yard par fives had been reduced to a drive and a 9 iron. This meant that nearly all courses needed redesigning.

    Nowadays the only people who can afford to play golf are those who don’t have the time.

  14. Alun Morgan says:

    Couldn’t agree any more!

  15. Ali says:

    There are two types of modern amateur golfer: Those who have an abundance of free time for golf and those who don’t. The latter negotiate a time window in their weekend ‘family time’ schedule. Hanging about aimlessly on tee boxes with 2 x four balls in front of you waiting to tee off, is what is killing the game.

    Mixed playing abilities and playing group sizes and on course at the same time, coupled with too short tee time intervals are a big part of the problem.

    The issues around Pro golf and slow play is a different scenario all together. However, there is a risk is that younger players will adopt slow play habits seen on the TV and believe this is ‘the norm’.

  16. Alison says:

    Couldn’t agree more ….

    • Alex says:

      Many clubs have a two tee starting matrix that allows 2 balls to have a speedy round while allowing people to play in 3/4 balls from the other tee. My experience is that this works well and should be considered elsewhere…

      • IanFursie says:

        My club has that format changes every 2 hours. However many members, that should no better, ignore the rules and screw it up for everyone else. When you complain nothing is done about it. My lad played a 2 ball the other day starting on the right side. Just under 5 hours! Pathetic he’s 23 just taken it up how to put a youngster off!

  17. Greg Rowe says:

    Dear Mr P
    Thanks for another wise blog, looking at the pace of life/golf from a different perspective.
    I work in the investment management industry, and whilst I play some golf that feels somwhat pedestrian in my limited free-time, it’s always a pleasure to be out on the course away from life’s pressures and I’m rarely in a rush to finish my round.
    If you’d like to pop up and see how my industry functions I’d be very pleased to invite you up to The City to see it. Keep up the good work, both on and off the course.
    Best wishes
    Greg

  18. Peter Hume says:

    I accept that the reason for ‘so called’ slow play is totally different in the amateur game compared to the Pro’s.The amateur’s play too many shots and spend a lot of time finding those shots,this applies to all levels and regardless of the number of people in the group.There have been suggestions to reduce the rough and change the rules of golf to speed up the process of playing.
    The Pros,however, have always taken longer to play their shots because it is their job and they want to win the money ! I do feel the PGA’s could take some steps to improve the pace i.e. reduce the involvement of caddies (the conversations are getting longer ) and make the use of GPS compulsory.I would prefer to see a PGA event without caddies instead of the 45 second shot clock and see how long it takes.
    As the Pro’s are running the professional game this is unlikely to happen but it must be said we trying to get quicker but the Pro’s are not.

  19. robert hippler says:

    Great stuff!

  20. Tony levy says:

    Always/all ways look forward to your blog’s
    Eddie

  21. Sean says:

    Hugely insightful, honest and compassionate in terms of your views on a better world for people struggling with their health. Keep up the good work, love receiving the blog in a world where a lot of top sportsmen are too far removed from societal norms to appreciate the problems. Good luck this year Eddie.

  22. Frances E Kreigenhofer says:

    Like your thoughts, Eddie. I would also add that because of technology and “fast-food”eateries, we seem to have become very impatient and can’t wait, hence perhaps one of the reasons people want to increase the pace of play.

  23. Drew says:

    The best article I have read on golf in recent years. I have played golf for sixty years and love it still trying to get my handicap back down. The changes coming along are casting doubts on where it is going,
    Being behind a fourball playing for handicap when you want to enjoy your weekly fourball is not going to be quick.
    Change for changes sake and very little thought on outcome.
    Well done

  24. David Flynn says:

    Nice piece Eddie. As an aging late arrival to golf, I enjoy the gentle stroll around the golf course. It can take anywhere from 3 hours to 4.5 hours for a round depending who your playing with and how busy it is. Golf was never ever going to be a fast game,and stop clocks on shots won’t help, neither will taking 5 minutes to take one shot. That will just piss off your playing partners and the group behind. It’s only really the entertainment factor on telly that people are complaining about and that’s probably why par 3 competitions and golf sixes are popular to watch. Not everyone has the stamina or time to watch 4 ish hours of golf. Besides, it’s more fun playing!

  25. Phil Gibbs says:

    Really good article, plenty of food for thought. I think the problem of slow play is in the amatuer game. in most sports amateurs try to imitate their professional counterparts. When I played cricket when I was younger , a bowler would set his field and get on with it. Now the professionals move fielders almost every ball the same happens in the amatuer game. Amatuer golfers spend time lining their putts up when it’s their putting technique they need to look at.

    I agree with you about pushing ouselves too far. Everyone is trying to buy a lifestyle that the advertisers want To sell us. When we can’t achieve it we feel a failure

  26. nickluton says:

    Thought provoking Eddie and good to hear your take on both golf and society pressures.

  27. The Marshall says:

    Golf is such a game of contradictions. At my club, the biggest moaners about slow play on the course are also the slowest to put their hand in their pocket and go to the bar.

  28. Timothy James says:

    You’re on a par with Henry Longhurst. Tremendous reading, many thanks.

  29. Aidan says:

    To speed up the pro game, allow gps and laser range finders. Technology has moved into every other aspect of Golf, balls, clubs, etc.
    All amateurs use these devices now. It will speed up this aspect of the game.

  30. Tim says:

    Another well written thought provoking piece,must be remembered that golfers are all standards but if we are educated to keep a pace to keep up with the group in front time wouldn’t matter as you would be finished in around 4 or so hours anyway…. hope you are enjoying your break! following your W….. keep swinging..

  31. Simon Gray says:

    That was a great article and enjoyed reading it and agreed with a lot of your points. I will say that as one of the millennial’s lucky/unlucky enough to be stuck bang in the middle of this modern predicament , married with a normal job I have little to no patience for a 5 hour round of golf. I think you raise some fantastic points about society in general but lets not look too far into the future, golf like everything must adapt. I

    think the reality is that the longer the professional round is then the longer the amateur round becomes — golf should be played at a pace that allows you to focus and enjoy it to the maximum but modern society (my wife) will never allow 6 hours rounds of golf. Will society slow down and realize we are killing ourselves with this madness ?? Possibly … until then for the average man lets focus on keeping golf fun and not laborious! I’m so sick of watching people take 10 minutes over a putt!!

  32. Peter James says:

    A simple thing not taken up in the recent rules review is marking/lining up the ball on the green. It is terrible to watch on TV. One mark, clean and place is all that should be allowed. Stop this crazy process of lining ‘the line’ up that is rife in the pro game.

  33. Simon Fink says:

    World Trade Rules aside, there are many competing leisure interests these days and men are generally more inclined to spend more of that leisure time with their families. The problem with slow golf is that it leaves even less time for those other interests and so inevitably some people will abandon the game completely.

    Golf clubs generally are not doing well. Membership is falling. We can’t afford to put off some people or those who want to play will have nowhere to do so.

    As for the professional game, most people who take up golf do so after watching professionals play. If the game becomes a bore to watch, fewer will take up the game and watching some pros is pretty much unbearable right now. Interminable pre-shot routines, (even on tap in putts) makes this keen golfer turn off the TV. It must put off all but the keenest and that can’t be good.

    Eddie, you have a responsibility to the game to encourage faster play and it’s in the interests of all golfers that you do and we do.

  34. Ivan Morris says:

    Eddie is a breath of fresh air but he sees things through a professional’s eyes. Pro tournaments are a small part of the overall game. A shorter, spinnier ball will lead to shorter courses and shorter rounds. 4-hour+ rounds are ‘no good’ for the long term future of the game, 3-hours is plenty but 2-hours would be better! There was a time when I played 36-holes in less than 4.5-hours regularly but that isn’t feasible anymore due to ‘traffic’ and the length of today’s golf courses. Rein in the ball!

  35. Caro Rand says:

    Well said, Eddie.

  36. Peter wilks says:

    Wonderfull comments very true and thoughtful keep writing great blogs and playing great golf I think Mark Roe has spent too much time in America.

  37. Søren Bech says:

    Thanks Eddie for taking the time. And great win btw. Well written snd agree with your point.

  38. golfpunk64 says:

    Hi Eddie, congrats on your win! You made me a few quid!! My name is Tim Southwell (Editor of GolfPunk). We put out a monthly digital mag and would really like to run your blog posts in the mag? Would that be possible? Your take on golf is right up our strasse. We are trying to get younger people into the game by showing that golf can be fun and cool (as well as difficult). Be great to have you on board.
    Should I speak to someone from your team?
    Here’s a link to the latest mag: http://www.golfpunkhq.com/golfpunk-magazine/article/golfpunk-magazine-issue-1-out-now

  39. Sean Sheed says:

    Well said. Why do we always feel that things should be faster. From an aging gent I appreciate your comments and look forward to continuing to be able to play golf well into my dotage.

  40. Chris Spearing says:

    Great blog as usual. Sadly I am old enough to tell you footballers DID dive 20 years ago.

  41. Ivan Morris says:

    Hi Eddie – I accept it will never be a 2-hour game for the pros. FYI – I frequently played 18-holes under par and in a little over 2-hours back in the 1960s on a 6300-yards golf course. I, for one, am as in love with playing the game now as I was back then – even if I can’t play it as well and it takes me twice as long to complete 18-holes (not all my fault!) I also accept that people who play too fast are as big a nuisance as those that play too slowly. The compromise I seek is shorter courses and to facilitate that we need a shorter golf ball. I can’t stand it when someone hits a drive and a 9-iron to a 500-yards+ hole. Golf was never intended to be like that. Golf is 600-years old and it is only in the last ten years that the 350-yards+ drive has entered the arena. You can’t stop the players improving but you can do something about their equipment. That’s why I’m in favour of bifurcation although I’d settle for a ball roll back across the board and simply tee it forward myself. Keep up the good playing! -Ivan

  42. Chris says:

    A very thought provoking piece of writing.
    As a club player I do get a little frustrated with slow players but they are in the minority and often a game goes happily along at decent speed. And of course rushing is counter productive.
    I agree with the points about the health benefits of exercise in the fresh air with mental effort and stimulation.
    A great game just as it is.
    You never stop surprising us Eddie. Even with your golf!!😀

  43. Tom says:

    A thoughtful, erudite golfer? The world has indeed changed over the last 20 years. Hope this exposition wasn’t written on the 7th tee waiting for the green to clear..

  44. Melvyn Morrow says:

    Nothing changes, but in truth everything has changed since Golf become a worldwide game.
    We have changes the way courses are designed, by that we have some how deleted penal and now use the word strategic, which without penal is as useful as a fart in a space suit. Add to that the way many now expect course to be represent, i.e. like the finishes one would expect at a Palace of Stately Home, super, manicured, super watered, devoid of as much Natural and Nature as possible. Yet golf was a game with and upon Nature, today the Pro game has become as sterile as many of the course built over the last 50-70 years.

    The game and more so the Pro game has changed beyond all recognition. Its driven by money, with golf playing second fiddle to the circus that is today defined as the Pro Game.

    As for slow play, distance aids, golf carts, all are toxic to the game, that is if your game is The Royal & Ancient Game of Golf.

    Alas, all has changed and what we need to do is get it changes back to when golf was King, its went global because it was enjoyable and entertaining for both the golfers as well as the spectators. Courses were designed for the ground game, unlike today which is all aerial flying over the very thing that made golf ‘Chess on Grass’ i.e. the hazards and the wit of the designer utilising both Nature and, the hand of man in a natural way – today it’s all just fake.

    And to get change we first have to reform the R&A, to remind them just what the Royal & Ancient Game of Golf is all about.

  45. Melvyn Morrow says:

    Ivan – as you know I am not in favour of bifurcation in any shape or form – Like narrow fairways and island Green, it just expands the gap from the top players vs. Mr Joe Public.
    This IMHO, is not good for golf or Golf course architecture and I feel that if we could just stop and learn the mistakes made in the 20th Century, we might again have a Golden Age of Golf and Golf Course Architecture that could match the 1850-1899 period when Golf went from a small elite group’s past time to a worldwide game.
    Like Scotland, Ireland has not had many new ‘international ‘ courses that promote the modern easy game, many of our old existing courses still reflect much of what was once great in golf course design.
    Bifurcation, in the end will just add to the further erosion of what was once a great game, while still allowing the development of these awful international poor golf courses that todays uncommitted players love – sorry can’t call them golfers if uncommitted.

  46. Sylvie says:

    Totally agree trouble is everyone agrees but not much is done…playing in so different places and the matter is the same everywhere ! Longing to see you back on courses

  47. Will says:

    The game of golf should then be promoted more in the surgeries and hospitals throughout the world. What? Five hours walking in the fresh air, in all weathers, with a bit of healthy competition thrown in to stimulate the brain?…plus a deserved pint at the end of the day.. I’ll take it every day rather than watching day time TV. No surprise that golfers live a longer healthier life, than most.

  48. Bob Simpson says:

    Eddie you are so on the money here we need to keep out great sport as an example of the beauty of not chasing the 21st Century but enjoying our luxury of consistency
    Well said

  49. Rory McIlroy says:

    My sentiments exactly Eddie! Very well said!

  50. Daz says:

    Golf, perhaps through its very slowness, can reach the most extraordinary heights of tenseness and drama. Henry Longhurst.

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