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The 13 Dumbest Things In Golf

Written: By E. Michael Johnson
Voice over: Michael Robles

olf is a wonderful sport and the vast majority of things associated with it are equally as grand. However, in a game played by so many amateurs, run by multiple governing bodies and stakeholders and where everyone seems to think they’re an expert, there are a few protocols, rules, traditions—you name it—that simply don’t make much sense. Worse is that some have been around so long they are naturally accepted as being perfectly OK. Don’t be hornswoggled into that group. Here are 13 things—a nice Baker’s Dozen—the game could easily do without.

The guy who makes the hole-in-one buys the drinks

Golf has a few things backwards but this might be the most egregious. People who did absolutely nothing other than be on the premises are getting a free cocktail while the guy or gal who slam-dunked it in the hole gets a whopper of a bar bill? We understand the tradition. We’re just saying it’s a bit messed up.

Thinking you’re dialing in your distances with range balls

Spilled basket of yellow golf balls, close-up
Laurence Mouton
Man, you are just banging down that 100-yard flag with your wedges on the range, leaving you thoroughly convinced you’ve got that shot “dialed in.” Not. Even. Close. Unless, of course, you use a one-piece range ball out on the course. The range is a fun place and while you can work on your swing, you can’t work on your distance control unless you’re using the exact same ball you play on the course. Oh, and getting fit for that new driver with range balls isn’t so hot an idea, either. In other words, there’s a reason tour pros don’t practice with red-stripers.

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The par 3 “play up” to speed pace of play on a jammed course

It is such a nice idea. Wave the people up on the par-3 holes when you’re on the green to keep things moving along. Problem is, when it comes to pace of play you can only move as fast as the people ahead of you. And if the people ahead of you are standing aside for five minutes four times a round while you tee off, then you’re not speeding up play. You’re slowing it down. Period.

Multi-hole playoffs at major championships

We’ve heard all the explanations. Save yourself the oxygen. There is not a shred of common sense that can explain a two-hole (U.S. Open), three-hole (PGA) or four-hole (Open Championship) playoff. If someone jumps out to a lead you’re rooting for the other person to tie them up—essentially leading to sudden death anyway. Or you get to watch Tom Watson toss away a tournament of brilliance by watching him go double bogey-bogey when it was clear to all he couldn’t catch Stewart Cink. And wouldn’t have Tiger Woods’ putt-and-point birdie on 16 at Valhalla been better as a walk-off instead of dueling pars for two more holes? Since it adopted sudden death in 1979, the Masters, as usual, gets it right. Sudden death is definitive and more exciting. It also brings a bigger certainty of finishing on Sunday. Find a downside. We dare you.

Eight-minute tee-time intervals

We’re not against course operators making a living, and the eight-minute interval definitely helps stuff more people onto the tee sheet. But let’s do some simple math here. Eight minutes times 18 is 144 minutes—or 2 hours, 24 minutes. Now, we applaud fast play but no one moves that swiftly. Eventually, golfers will think twice about coming back to your course due to the slow play that will inevitably ensue. That helps no one.

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No lasers on tour

The USGA and the PGA Tour are against bifurcation yet allow everyday golfers to use rangefinders, but not tour players. They also claim they want to speed up play, yet they encourage players and caddies to step off yardages, engage in endless babble while staring intently at a yardage book and cause the player to weigh every option because he has some doubt in his head. Meanwhile, all they have to do is allow them to haul out the rangefinder and zap the number. Yes, it is tour pro cool not to use one but common sense anyone?

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