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Ten ways to change the golf model

I’ve been out on the road a good bit the past couple months. I’ve had a chance to attend both the World Amateur Handicap Championship in Myrtle Beach, S.C., and the Golf Channel Amateur Tour National Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

These events have given me the opportunity to visit with a wide range of golfers and it’s been a real pleasure. In my conversations with all these golfers I’ve tried to get a feel for “the state of the game.” What I’m hearing bothers me. Participation in the U.S. is flat and it feels like enthusiasm is waning. I know much of this can be blamed on the economy, but I get a feeling there’s more to it than that. I get the sense that, for many people, the current golf model is broken. I know that many owners and operators are struggling. Many have have not survived and even more are teetering on the edge of solvency.
We need a new model for golf. The old model isn’t going to cut it in post Great Recession America. Albert Einstein suggested that doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is the definition of insanity. We need change. I think it’s possible to to be progressive on some fronts and still be respectful of the game’s history and traditions. Golf needs to increase the “fun factor” to attract more youth, decrease the “time factor” to accommodate a stressed out and pressed-for-time middle age population, and increase the “fitness and socialization factors” for seniors. I’ve been collecting ideas that can help to accomplish all three of these goals.

I’d appreciate your feedback and any other suggestions you might have.

1) It makes no sense that recreational golfers (especially beginners) play by the same rules that professionals and elite amateurs play. Simplify rules for everyday recreational play. Would you ski off a double black diamond hill after your first ski lesson?

2) Players choose which tees they play from. They should also be able to choose the size of the hole they play to. Courses should have a regulation hole and a 10-inch hole on every green. This would have a major impact on pace of play and enjoyment.

3) Get the pros out from behind the counters. Golf can be intimidating and confusing. Pros should meet, greet and make golfers feel welcome. Let the grumpy rangers collect the cash. Quick tips on the range and advice on how to play the course should be the priority for pros. Who knows? This might even bring back pro shop customer loyalty and give those grumpy rangers more cash to collect. Golf pros don’t need to be general managers. They need to be golf pros. Deal with the golfers, not the computers.

4) Find ways to let seniors and juniors play 3-, 6-, and 12-hole loops walking. If regular play starts at 8 a.m., let juniors and seniors tee off the 12th or 16th tee at 8:30.

5) Widen fairways and lower rough cuts. Nobody wants to have an Easter egg hunt on every hole. And more importantly, nobody wants to stand on a tee watching the group in front of them have an Easter egg hunt.

6) Educate golfers on the economic reality of high green speeds. Golfers need to appreciate healthy turf more than greens that roll 14 on the Stimpmeter. Not only does this take pressure off the golf course owner but it also helps with pace of play.

7) Learn from bowling. Bowling was withering on the vine in the 1970s and early 1980s. People couldn’t figure out how to keep score and gutter balls just weren’t that much fun. Automatic scoring and retractable bumpers helped revitalize the sport.

8) Push the physical activity and socialization button with seniors. Movement and activity helps fight heart disease and diabetes. Socialization helps depression and overall mental health. Nothing brings these factors together better than golf. Especially on a golf course with less rough and a 10-inch hole. Find creative ways to get seniors on the golf course.

9) Base handicaps on scores shot in competition and on designated medal play days. Illegitimate handicaps discourage many golfers from competing. The current system doesn’t provide incentive for many golfers to take pride in their handicap.

10) Have golf courses prepped and ready for play at first light on weekends. This gives parents the opportunity to get in some golf and still have time to spend with the family. Recreational time can’t compete with family time in this day and age. And rightfully so.

My Game was Realy sucking

My Game was Really Sucking

1996 was my sophomore year on the PGA Tour. Coincidentally, it was also my second to last year as a member. Heading into the Byron Nelson Classic I wasn’t exactly in top form, in fact, my game was really sucking. I made the cut by a shot so I thought I’d try something new and exciting on Saturday. The main cause of my obesity is that I skip breakfast. When you have three entrees for dinner you generally don’t get hungry until around 11am, which, ironically, is the exact time that the buffet in the locker room starts serving lunch. Vicious cycle! The food isn’t really that great, but they don’t limit the number of trips through the line (at least not officially and I’ve read the PGA Tour rules and regulations after acrid remarks from some of the emaciated players).

Anyway, let me get back to the story at hand. I was paired with Davis Love III, you might have heard of him. He is, by my estimation, a pretty good golfer. Anyone with a jet meets my criteria for the “pretty good golfer” category. Some people have different rating systems. This is mine. I was also playing with Donnie Hammond. He doesn’t have a jet and although he is a very nice person, I wasn’t particularly worried about embarrassing myself in front of him. I’m sure they were both thrilled about playing with me.

To break my cycle of poor golf, I thought I would try a big breakfast. And yes, I thought this up all by myself. The items that appealed to me were parts of three different breakfast entrees. The Salesmanship Club of Dallas (they run the tournament) has some unusual way of taking care of the food for the players. You can get as much of whatever you want and it is free. The only trick is that you have to sign the ticket. You don’t have to sign your name, just a name. This may explain why Ed Fiori’s food bill was over $2000 one year. Then again Ed may have just been hungry that week. Well, anyway, I chose pancakes, corned beef hash, two eggs over medium, white toast, and bacon. This seemed reasonable to me. Let me tell you that got things stirred up. The waiter informed me that this order was well outside the parameters of their ordering protocol and processing it would crash the system and probably bring the entire golf tournament to a grinding halt. I assured him that money was no object. Ed Fiori signed for another $37 breakfast.

After my ninth birdie of the day, the bloated feeling finally subsided. That is when the troubled started. I was playing the 7th at TPC Los Colinas as my buddy Glen Day was playing the parallel 8th. He saw that I was nine under par with three holes to play and that I had a chance at shooting 59. I didn’t even realize that the course was a par 70 until he “gently” reminded me. Then Glen asked if they were still offering a million-dollar bonus to anyone shooting 59 on tour. I honestly couldn’t remember if they were or weren’t. Somehow, I scraped three pars together for my 61. Miraculously, Glen and I are still buddies.
In case you are interested Davis Love III shot 71 that day. Let me help you with the math. Charlie Rymer 61. Davis Love III 71. Same tees. That would be 10 shots. I’ll never forget and you can be sure I won’t ever let Davis forget. In fact every time I see him, I ask if he needs 5 shots a side. He just smiles and says, “Want to ride on my jet.” Davis seems to be the only player on tour that can shut me up.

That 61, which by the way beat Davis Love III by 10 shots, put me in the final pairing on Sunday. That was the first and only time that I played in the final group in a PGA Tour event on a Sunday. Let me tell you, there isn’t much oxygen around that first tee. I was paired with Phil Mickelson who I’ll wager, even with all his accomplishments, has never beaten Davis Love III by 10 shots in one round. Anyway, when I arrived on the tee, there was the great Byron Nelson. He could sense that I was distraught and immediately came over to calm me down. He told me that the 61 I had the previous day was one of the best rounds he had ever seen. And that upon further reflection he realized that in his career he had never shot 61. At this I started to breath a bit better. I looked over at Mickelson and realized that maybe he is mortal and that on occasion he has been known to miss a short putt or two. I was starting to feel my oats; after all I had beaten Davis Love III by 10 shots the previous day. It was at this point that Mr. Nelson uttered the words that unintentionally sealed my fate as a television golf analyst. He proclaimed, “I shot 60 on many occasions, but never a 61.”


Golf According to Charlie

I ‘m a golf expert. What are my qualifications you might ask? Well, in 1996, I finished 39th at the Buick Classic. Tiger Woods was 43rd. Now that we have established my credentials, let’s go over my thoughts on the way golf ought to be.

My number one pet peeve is the tee time. I’d like to meet the idiot who came up with the concept of tee times and hit him right in the mouth. One should not be required to determine six weeks in advance the exact time at which a round of golf will commence, much less who it will be played with. My home club allows members to secure tee times two days in advance. As we have 1100 members, you can imagine what the pro shop is like at 8am on Thursday mornings. You have to be a speed dialer to play on Saturdays. And I really hate the computer tee time management systems some of fancy clubs have. Make me deal with one of those and I’ll be cutting grass every weekend.

A much more efficient system is to have the golf professional manage the various groups of players to give them a range of when they could expect to play. The young guys who like to gamble are the first one’s out. Let’s send the ladies after that. You wouldn’t want to send the ladies in front of these guys, as they would start betting on the ladies. “I bet you a hundred Mrs. Johnson takes at least 6 practice swings.” “Double or nothing says Mrs. Smith just fell asleep in the cart.” Next will come the doctors and lawyers. Nobody else can stand playing with them and besides, they deserve each other. Following closely would be the group that includes me. Those players that are too cheap to gamble and too lazy to get up early. This is the group where everyone is talking and no one is listening. It’s also the group that stops for lunch at least once and on occasion has a player put some vaseline on the face of a driver. And finally, we get to the serious uptight golfers. These are the guys that have a copy of the Rules of Golf in their bag. No mulligans allowed. Putt everything out. Smiling or idle chitchat prohibited. Real golf with a purpose sort of a thing. These folks do golf stretches before rounds and cool downs afterward. Conversation is limited to spin rates, coefficient of restitution, launch angle, and the demise of hickory shafts. This group must tee off last; otherwise nobody will finish before dark.

Golf carts. Much has been written about these great monstrosities. The worst 3 words in golf are “cart path only.” I say either walk and carry your bag or ride all over the ranch. There is nothing in this whole world worse than standing on a tee and watching a golfer in front of you walk back to the cart because he has the wrong club. Especially when you know he’ll get the same results with the one he has in his hands.

I really love the folks with the pull carts and trolleys. If you use a trolley and you sense that good golfers think you are an idiot, then you are dead on. Pulling a trolley is only about 10 times more cumbersome than carrying a golf bag. And besides it’s really hard to throw a trolley…tough to get a good grip. I recently spent some time at the PGA show in Orlando. They had all kinds of trolleys; big wheelers, four wheelers, and some that were remotely controlled. They had one that looked like a lunar rover. You strap some pager-looking device to your belt and the contraption follows you around like a puppy dog. I grew up playing golf at the Fort Mill golf course in Fort Mill, SC. If you ever want to get beat up and thrown in a ditch, show up at the Fort Mill golf course with a remote controlled golf trolley.

Dress codes at golf courses make no sense to me. A sign on the first tee at Uncle Remus Golf Course in Eatonton, GA reads “No tank tops, No muscle tees, No fishnet shirts.” I say if someone wants to play golf in a fishnet shirt, let them have at it. In some ways, the absence of a dress code can be quite beneficial. Golfers are always looking for excuses. “Well of course I hit that ball out of bounds. How am I supposed to focus when Bubba over there is wearing a fishnet tank top?”

As a former PGA Tour player, I can tell you the worst pairing in golf is to be stuck behind a group of fat guys wearing plastic spikes. Lets face it, the real reason plastic spikes have become mandatory at many courses is the fact that course owners don’t have to replace flooring in and around clubhouses nearly as often as facilities that allow traditional spikes. One of my best buddies is CEO of the worlds largest carpet manufacturer and he HATES plastic spikes. Ask PGA Tour players if they would rather putt over an old fashioned spike mark or Coke bottle cap dents and they’ll take the spike marks every time.

And finally we get to the item that really, really, bothers me the most. One of the greatest traditions in all of golf is the Sunday lunch buffet. After the last “amen” there has always been a mad dash from the church to the country club. In the South, this is a way of life. The challenge is to stuff your gut and then race to the first tee in order to get in 18 holes before sunset. The problem is that you always seem to get stuck in the buffet line behind a gaggle of blue-haired church ladies. You want to get to the roast beef and pecan pie while they are picking through the baby corn. It’s truly a miracle that this phenomenon hasn’t yet led to the loss of life or limb. Don’t blame the church ladies. It’s not their fault. The blame should be placed squarely on the club manager. Clearly the CMAA has failed to address this issue. Place the deserts first, followed in precise order by: meats, other hot entrees, bread, butter (not margarine), anything else that is white, green, or yellow, and lastly the salad paraphernalia stuff (including margarine). The guys can get their fried chicken, pecan pie, and 18 holes. The church ladies can pick at the beets, broccoli, and tofu until the cows come in. It’s really an embarrassment to human kind that it took someone so long to figure this out. Not to mention the fact that the “someone” is me.

Did I mention I’m a golf expert?

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Mike Young

Mike Young's path to course design began with studying the works of early and modern-day masters across America and Europe. Later, while working in the turf equipment industry, he was exposed to hundreds of different layout styles and learned everything about environmentally effective design and construction literally from the ground up.

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