Why Tour Players Should Stop Criticising Course Set-Ups And Just Play Golf

Two incidents over this weekend did not show top-level golfers in the best light.

Hatton, Rahm and Brooks
Hatton, Rahm and Koepka
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Tyrrell Hatton, defending champion in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, was so critical of the 18th at Yas Links he said he’d like to “drop a bomb on the hole and wipe it off the face of the earth.”

At The American Express on the PGA Tour, a spectator caught Jon Rahm on camera unleashing an expletive-laden tirade about the course being too easy. “Piece of s**t, f***ing setup, putting contest week,” he said.

Although there were very different circumstances for each of these outbursts – One intended to be heard, the other being overheard, there’s a bit of a theme in that some professional golfers need to be a little more careful about what they say for the overall good of the game.

Hatton won at Abu Dhabi Golf Club in 2021, picking up a cheque for over €1,000,000. Despite his struggles on the 18th hole at Yas Links, the Englishman finished this year’s tournament in a tie for 6th and earned just under €200,000.

Two weeks of playing golf in the sun for upwards of €1.2 million – Not too shabby. The tournament organisers and sponsors responsible for the massive pay-days Hatton has enjoyed over the last two Abu Dhabi championships surely deserved more than for their event to be discredited on live TV by the defending champion. Dare we say, it made him look a little spoilt? Hatton’s critical comments will not have endeared him to golf fans.

OK, the hole might not be to Hatton’s taste, and it cost him a chance at winning. But he also made a couple of birdies on it, so it clearly wasn’t impossible.

Golf needs passionate players like Tyrrell Hatton and his fiery approach is entertaining for viewers and will draw people in. When he berates himself, we can empathise – we know how frustrating golf can be and just how much he wants to perform to the best of his ability.

But fewer of those watching will have felt sympathy for him over this incident. Hatton could have voiced his concerns about the last hole behind the scenes and been more circumspect for the cameras. How about, “It didn’t quite go my way this time but, hey, that’s golf and I’ve had a great week. I realise how lucky I am to be doing what I’m doing.”

Jon Rahm could have chosen his words more carefully too this weekend. The way modern cameras and mics now work, it’s inevitable that bad or inappropriate language will be picked up and players must moderate what they say because of that. The American Express is played on resort courses, is renowned for low scoring and for being a “putting contest.” Rahm knew what he was playing in…

Incidents like this and those last year with Justin Thomas caught on camera using a homophobic slur and Brooks Koepka in the Ryder Cup directing a swear word towards rules officials highlight that very little will go unheard these days. Golf tournaments are being watched by kids who can and will be inspired by these icons of golf. The top players have a responsibility to set a good example. Yes, they should be passionate, yes, they should unleash a roar of frustration or pump the air in celebration, but they should surely be able to curtail the outbursts to not use words they wouldn’t like their own kids using, or for their families to hear coming out of their mouths. They are professionals after all.

Fergus Bisset
Contributing Editor

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?