Much has been said in recent years about the necessity for golf to move with the times, to appeal to new generations and shake off an overly formal image. There’s no doubt that keeping pace with the modern world is important for any popular activity
Things change over the years and some customs of behaviour that were once adhered to have now, perhaps, become too old fashioned. Here are some we'd like to see changed...
Slavishly following the honour
Ready golf is undoubtedly the way forward and the first person to the tee should play away when they are ready. Keep it moving.
It used to be considered impolite to play if your ball was closer to the hole, or to tee off when not your “honour.” But the aim of making golf a little quicker now trumps those outdated concepts of “after you…” Playing ready golf allows a game to flow and be completed more speedily. It’s no longer discourteous to play out of turn in strokeplay. In fact, it’s the opposite. Playing when ready allows other golfers, who may be out of place or struggling to recover from a poor shot, a little more time to compose themselves.
Not letting people through
Slow play is an issue at all levels of golf and it’s something discussed and lamented at almost every club across the country. Something that exacerbates the problem is a stubborn reluctance from some to let faster groups play through. But resolutely moving on, denying or ignoring the frustrated tailback in the rear mirrors is the height of selfishness on the golf course and it does nobody any favours. Step aside briefly, allow faster players to bat on and then continue, free from pressure. The faster golfers complete their game more quickly, while those who have “let through” can carry on without angry eyes burning the back of their necks.
Old-school dress codes
Although golfers should always dress respectfully, prescriptive codes on what to wear should be a thing of the past. Long socks with shorts? No thank you. Most people will dress appropriately for an outdoor activity and for the weather. If they don't, they'll be miserable out there and won't do it again.
Spikeless shoes in the clubhouse
Many clubs still say no golf shoes in the clubhouse, but spikeless shoes do no more damage than the average street shoe. That's something that could easily be changed. Many people choose to wear their spikeless shoes to the club and it's a pain in the neck if you're not technically allowed in wearing them.
Drinks all round for a hole-in-one
Surely this should change? You should be rewarded rather than punished for one of golf’s greatest achievements. Admittedly, most clubs or individuals now have some sort of hole-in-one insurance to cover your bar bill to a certain extent, but the fact you have to put your hand in your pocket after a hole-in-one at all seems highly unfair.
Standing on the line of a putt
In the days of tungsten-tipped spikes, this was important, but on firm greens with soft spikes after 100 people have already trodden there? Come off it…
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Fergus is Golf Monthly's resident expert on the history of the game and has written extensively on that subject. He is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and his passion for the sport was bolstered during his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and the history section of "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin , also of Golf Monthly.
Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?