M’colleague Paul Staley put forward a very interesting piece about how British golf is perceived in his side of the pond. He raised a number of points and I thought I would step up to the plate to deliver a reply on behalf of ol’Blighty.
First up, yes it is true that us Brits (well, the Scots to be precise) are responsible for bestowing upon the world the fine art of chasing a ball around several acres of grass for hours on end. To those who love the game & all it brings; who happily while away the hours watching the pros make it look so easy and, of course, for all who make a living from it, you’re very welcome.
To all those for whom this activity is a source of copious frustration, adult language and violence towards flora & fauna, we apologise. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
Much like colonialism, I guess.
Paul made a point about links golf and its place in the grand scheme of things relative to the US approach to golf design. Now, whilst I enjoy watching the PGA Tour events, WGCs and Majors played in the US (and the Playstation-scoring your boys enjoy), there is something inherently charming & pure about links golf that (as Dundonald Links in Ayrshire is testimony) you can’t really recreate away from the right environment.
From a personal playing perspective, links golf is the only real way to play the game, 40+mph winds, driving rain and bunkers so deep they require steps are all part & parcel of it. Whilst US-style courses (fountains, island greens, manicured fairways, cart paths etc) have their place, the playing of ‘target golf’ means you miss out on the opportunity to create and craft golf shots, to make use of the terrain and all its inbuilt idiosyncrasies.
This is golf.
Speed of play is very much a hot topic over here – alongside dress codes, lady members and casual racism, it’s guaranteed to be high on the agenda of many a club committee meeting across the land. Paul is right; we do like to crack on with the game and not hang around – I will concede that there are (very rare) occasions when the weather has an influence on our desire to keep moving, but there is a fine line to be drawn here. Now I like to enjoy my golf so I’m no fan of rushing around to get finished – I’ve played with some folks for whom three hours is long enough to play 18 holes – but five or even six hours, waiting on every tee and for every green does get a little tiresome. Golf carts do have their place (particularly useful when suffering from a hangover, I have found) but they are of limited assistance to keeping play moving, particularly when the two players sharing have sprayed their balls to opposing sides of the hole. Give walking a try. It’s fun.
On now to the Ryder Cup which, given we are looking at British golf, is slightly off-message but, given that the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland were more than happy to supply seven members of the victorious European team this year (eight including VC Darren Clarke), I guess it’s worth including.
So, you folks liked it better when you were handing us our trousers time after time? Well, I can’t say I blame you, as we can recall from our own bitter experience of those dark years. To be honest, unless UKIP’s fortunes take a dramatic upward turn, us Brits are firmly ensconced in the bosom of Europe so our team format won’t be changing.
We have considered letting you chaps bring in some other nations (South Africa, maybe? Australia, perhaps?) but, when we think properly about it, it’s much more enjoyable to maintain the status quo. If it’s not broken, why fix it?
Joking aside, the Stars and Stripes occupy a healthy slice of the upper echelons of the OWGR so I don’t think you need worry about it. That said, it’ll be interesting to see how some of them get on when they have to lose the illegal putters in a couple of years...
Paul made a very valid point about how our very own strutting peacock, Ian Poulter, causes some confusion, being the antithesis of preconceptions about British golf. Well, he happens to be my own favourite player and his brashness & straight talking certainly polarises opinion amongst golf fans and the general public alike. He’s a bit like Marmite, really.
As far as American players are concerned, there are some whose approach to the game, demeanour and general carrying of themselves is worthy of deity status. For example, your new Ryder Cup captain, Tom Watson, is just the kind of American player we like – respectful, knowledgeable and likeable.
If only the same could be said for all of your golf fans – exhibit A, the ‘Mashed Potatoes’ shout.
I rest my case, m’lud.
I am the Part-Time Golfer