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With each year, golf continues to get weirder


A lot of big-name pro-tour golfers chose to join the LIV golf tour, welcoming $10,000,000, and some over $100,000,000, in Saudi Public Investment Fund mega-billions money, without even having to win a golf tournament. Why? They want to grow the game.

There is a major problem with gambling addiction in America. Yet, the PGA Tour is promoting on-site betting at PGA Tour tournaments – er – responsible betting.

“Sandbagging” (cheating by protecting one’s handicap), has long been a problem in amateur golf, regardless of whether many golf clubs require golfers to turn in their signed score cards after their round, as they post their score on the USGA app. I guess that still doesn’t keep some blokes from shooting 10-under their handicap for $500 in shop credit.

With huge water issues, along with escalating chemical and maintenance costs, it’s obvious to stop thinking that Augusta National, TPC Sawgrass or Riviera are models for golf course conditions. It appears brown is the new green.

Nearly all golf courses open to the public have on-course marshals and “ambassadors,” who try to keep players moving along so pace of play doesn’t get bogged down. But even hack golfers take their cue from the PGA Tour, which obviously is OK with tour players taking five minutes to decide on a pitch shot, three minutes to line up a three foot putt, and is OK with 5-1/2 hour rounds.

The golf ball goes too far for a small fraction of 1 percent of golfers in the world, prompting the USGA and R&A to favor the roll-back of the golf ball distance on professional and other important tournaments in the near future, claiming that 7,000-yard courses are made obsolete by the modern ball. Never mind that a 4,000-yard course is too long for the vast majority of high-handicap recreational golfers. What would be next – removing weights in the tour fitness trailer?

I realize a lot of golf equipment makers want to promote their products with claims that golfers will gain distance if they buy and use the products, from tees (“four yards longer”) to shoes (Sqairz) and drivers. If that were really true I would hit drives that carry over 300 yards.

The blue coats (USGA execs) believe golf is a difficult test – really an “examination” – meant to challenge our psyche and reveal what we’re made of. To some of us, all due respect, golf is a game, meant for our recreation, enjoying the outdoors and have some fun with our friends.

“Bifurcation” in golf is basically establishing different rules, procedures and equipment specifications for professional versus everyday recreational golfers. The USGA distance report and golf ball roll back probability have prompted heated discussions among members of the golfing media and others. Some think bifurcation is good, some see it as bad. The truth is, there has been bifurcation since day one. The rules, procedures and equipment requirements (e.g. pre-tournament lab testing) are already different. The game we watch on TV is nothing like the game we play week in and week out on our own courses.

There has been a trend in the golf industry in which quite a few golf courses decline to retain PGA head pros (or club manager) in an effort to skimp on money. This began even before the pandemic. Some of these longtime PGA of America pros have taken jobs at Dick’s Sporting Goods and other big retail golf outlets, and even private club-fitting shops. Then some clubs hire tennis instructors and expensive executive chefs. Tradition doesn’t seem to matter anymore.

When Herb Wimberly and I were doing weekend golf schools we would invite students to share their golf goals. One guy said he would like to get better if it wouldn’t lower his handicap.