One of the common themes voiced in the recent debate about anchored putting is that recreational golfers who use that method will continue to do so, no matter what the USGA/R&A say, so whatever happens shouldn’t affect grassroots golf too much.
That’s true, although I’m sure the USGA and R&A don’t want to admit that any golfer, be it elite level golfers who are usually the targets of such rule changes or the masses, many of which don’t even keep a handicap, would defy golf’s governing bodies.
Rec golfers who have played for some time realize nobody is following them, looking for breaches of etiquette or rules unless they’re in a tournament, but one wonders about the perception among neophytes, or those who the industry is trying to lure to the game.
Too often, those familiar with the game fail to put themselves in the position of prospective golfers, assuming that they are as well-versed on rules and etiquette. They aren’t and some of the controversies that have been consuming golf recently may lead them to believe the rules police are out in full force if they try playing the game.
These days, even rules officials and players at the upper echelon of the game seem confused about such matters, so how is somebody new to the game supposed to understand?
The issue isn’t whether those things can be taught in lessons or clinics, but can we get those newcomers to try the game when the focus seems to be rules over the fun that can be had out on the golf course.
If they can’t get it right at the Masters, how can a newcomer be expected to do so? It’s no secret that many of those casual golf fans immediately focus on Tiger Woods, who found himself in the middle of a dropped ball controversy at Augusta last month.
What was clear in that incident was the confusion that surrounded it on the part of tournament officials and players, but at least it was an infraction, unlike the manufactured controversies that took place at the recent Players Championship.
The first involved a stink-eye flashed by Sergio Garcia across the fairway when the crowd gathered around Woods responded to him pulling a fairway wood to make an aggressive shot. All of that occurred while Garcia was making a wayward shot, leading to the dirty look.
There’s been plenty of controversy surrounding that incident, ranging from Sergio being a whiner to Tiger’s gamesmanship and Garcia fanned the fire with comments about Woods when the day ended, not exactly the gentlemanly image golf likes to present.
For his part, Woods said the marshals told him Garcia had already hit, something that one marshal denied. Then, another marshal said Woods did communicate with the marshals. You can read about that here.
So, you have two of the best-known players in golf sniping at one another about etiquette and then, marshals contradicting one another on what actually happened during the incident, not a good scene for golf overall, but especially confusing for the inexperienced viewer.
If that wasn’t enough, Woods plunked his tee shot on the 14th hole of the final round at Sawgrass and, perhaps harkening back to his drop at the Masters, that was questioned as well, even though Woods consulted with Casey Wittenberg, his playing partner, and his coach/caddie.
As Doug Ferguson points out in this story, the tour’s vice president of competition Mark Russell even issued a statement on the drop. As Ferguson points out, Woods’ outstanding golf right now is being overshadowed by scrutiny.
That’s definitely true for the most polarizing player in the game, but it goes beyond that.
Forget for a moment your own background in golf and put yourself in the place of a casual observer of the Masters or Players Championship watching the game’s best-known players and tournament officials bickering about drops and etiquette.
If they appear to not get what’s happening out there, how is a newcomer to understand?
At that point, would you be ready to learn or play the game, or would such controversies have the opposite effect?