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Cure for slow play and poor etiquette

The game of golf has boomed the past two decades with millions taking it up.
Sadly, though, few are schooled in the proper etiquette.

The boorish behavior on the course probably started in the gallery.

Nearly 15 years ago came the idiot who always got his vocal prowess on television with his inane "You da man" shout after a tee shot.

It got so bad that after winning the 1992 Canadian Open, Greg Norman, during his victory speech, called for a ban on the phrase.

He mentioned how the pros were sick of it and thought it ridiculous.

This was a year after John Daly captured the PGA Championship with his thunderous drives.

Daly was the people's champion, a street-level kind of person who had a taste for booze and wives.

Unfortunately, he also attracted (through no fault of his own) the beer-a-hole player to the gallery and the game itself.

These louts felt playing golf was similar to a pick up baseball game; profanity was acceptable, drinking on the course was the rule, slamming a club into the turf was cool, and repairing a divot was out of the question.

Then along came the "Carts Mandatory" rule at many golf courses.

With so many taking up the game, it was felt this would speed up play and save wear and tear on courses.

Naturally, it would increase profits since one had no choice whether to ride or walk.

Besides an overpriced green fee (topic for future discussion), players now had to cough up additional dough for a cart.

Too often, the John Daly generation has done their best Michael Andretti imitation, tearing up and down the fairway like a Formula 1 driver.

The growing numbers of degenerates behind the wheel have damaged greens, fairways, and bunkers.

Depending on recent weather and course conditions, there are days when the golf cart must stay on the cart path.

So, what happens?

After a decent drive, our player heads back to his cart to ride the 250 yards down a winding cart path. Next, he grabs two clubs, gets out of the cart, and walks at least 20 yards to his ball.

"Damn, wrong club," he mutters, and heads back to his cart for another stick.

Coming back to his ball, he finally hits it and heads back to the cart. He then has to wait for the person riding shotgun to hit his ball before the two of them drive up the fairway.

Meanwhile, a platoon of carts and impatient golfers wait in the fairway, ready to strike.

This process repeats itself several times over the 18 holes and at most, half an hour is saved over a walked round.

Of course, the new generation of golfer cannot resist having a beer or five in the cart, sold to him by the buxom blonde who patrols the course with her portable vending machine.

Out in the hot sun for five hours, the alcohol takes effect and the damage to the course increases while etiquette decreases.

Solution One: Ban the bottle until the 19th hole.

Golf is a game to be played on foot, not with the pedal to the metal.

With more carts on the course comes more damage.

In addition to damage done by the scaled down Popemobile, carts are ruining one of the main joys of golf -- exercise.

Eighteen holes on foot covers at least three miles over sometimes hilly terrain.

Play twice a week walking and watch some weight come off without even trying.

It doesn't look right to see four groups waiting to tee off and at least 8 carts parked near the tee markers. With a little imagination, one pictures the bumper cars at the county fair or a demolition derby waiting to happen.

Wouldn't banning golf carts exacerbate the problem with slow play? What about lost revenues that help pay for course upkeep?

Golfers over the age of 60 or those with a proven physical handicap (the Casey Martin rule) would still be able to drive the course. Everyone else walks.

If an over 60 duffer plays with a bunch of young guns, they are allowed just the one cart.

Given that the majority of golfers are duffers at best, set a cap of 4 hours 50 minutes for a round.

On the first tee, each group punches their scorecard into a time clock connected to a computer just before teeing off.

The computer also registers all of their names, ages, average time for 18 holes, etc., into a database.

By the ninth hole, the group will have a good idea how quickly they are playing.

If the foursome wants a break after the front nine, they punch out and punch back in when starting the back nine.

After holing out on 18, they again punch the clock with their scorecard. If the group is over the allotted time, they are banned from the course for a week.

Before being allowed on the course again, each offender must take two three-hour classes that cover proper etiquette and course maintenance, the rules of golf, and the perils of slow play.

The class has a final exam and 70% is the passing mark. The cost of the class is equal to the price of renting a golf cart and the class must be taken no matter how long between games.

The penalty for a second offence during the year is six more hours of classroom time (fee for the class and exam is doubled) and a one-month playing ban.

The third offence calls for a three month hiatus (fee for the class and exam is tripled, and a pass is 80%,), with the fourth carrying a yearlong banishment.

We're not cruel here. The slate is wiped clean after the yearlong exile and the process starts again.

In places where the golf season is shorter, the suspension would count only when the course is open for play-no being a sloth in October and being suspended when snow covers the links.

Every six months everyone has to take the class and exam, regardless of his or her age and record. This would serve as a reminder to follow proper decorum. True, slow play culprits would simply play somewhere else, but the rule would quickly catch up with them if they didn't mend their ways.

Given the fact that old habits die hard, clubs taking part in the program would institute a one year grace period to get people used to the idea.

On day 366 from implementation, the rule goes into effect.

Some would argue that this would lead to a decline in the quality of golf courses because of revenue shortfalls. That's doubtful.

The biggest complaint among golfers of any skill level is the six-hour round that must be endured because the guy up ahead takes longer to putt than Nicklaus.

Setting time limits would not only force people to play faster, it would impel them to get better.

No one wants to be prohibited from playing a golf course so the incentive would be there to either take lessons, or play more often to improve.

The result would be more revenue for the club.

So, what happens when everyone learns their lesson and only the semi-annual classes are needed?

First, it would not happen, as there will always be those who are penalized.

Second, more people would actually play the course since they'd know they wouldn't be stuck out there for six hours hitting one shot every 10 minutes.

A faster round is a more enjoyable round.

Course marshals at golf clubs have not been able to curb the glacial pace of many rounds, though it's not for lack of trying.

The duffers usually ignore them or the complaint is made that it's the group ahead slowing everyone down.

Put everyone on the clock with the new etiquette system and watch the problem of slow play quickly disappear.


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