Welcome to my new ‘Range Rover’ column here at GolfDigestME.com. I am looking forward to sharing my insights from a career in coaching as well as giving my take on current topics, from tour golf around the globe to developments closer to home in the Middle East.
I’ve learned how to best help players from the famed Harmon family and this has been a thrill as you’d expect. Butch Harmon’s commentary has drawn plaudits due to its clarity, realism and honesty. “If it barks like a dog, smells like a dog, it’s probably a dog,” he would say. I will try to bring you the same dose of honesty and I hope we can also have some fun along the way.
The recent alterations to The Rules of Golf as well as some threats and positioning by The R&A and USGA on other topics seems as good a place as any to start.
I’m happy to report the armchair rules official, the type of person whose “thrilling” dinner conversation is likely to see you nod off before you’ve finished your entree, hit the headlines for possibly the last time in April.
One such busy-body spotted Lexi Thompson improperly re-mark her ball during the ANA Inspiration and pounced. You have to question why s/he found not only the time, but the inclination, to email the LPGA to report the (hardly) horrific crime. Indeed, could it have been a fan, friend or family member of one of Thompson’s nearest rivals?
But setting aside the desire to deride the emailer further, the infraction and resultant email ultimately cost Thompson the first ladies major of the year and once again made golf look unable to police itself. That’s a crime because golfers are, generally, the game’s most noble policemen and women.
In swooped The R&A and the USGA, removing the ability of television viewers to interfere in the game anymore. It was a good call and not before time.
Not long after followed a further statement set to ban green-mapping technology in tournament play. I suspect this will be remembered as the beginning of a move towards a faster game with less outside help.
These decision makers are not professional golfers, nor even professional sports people which is a column for another day. In just about every other multi-million/billion dollar sport, they are and should be.
Ultimately the rulers of our game want us to stand to the side of the ball, club in hand, eyeball the target, hit the ball, find the ball and then hit it again without undue delay. They don’t want us to use lasers, tazers, yardages, GPS trackers, green-maps. Nor do they want us to be lined up or have clubs dangling from our chins (plumb bobbing).
But let’s be honest – golf is too slow at every level and needs to be sped up.
Golf at tour level is particularly snail paced. Like waiting in a waiting room slow. Some will argue the rulers of the game are old-fashioned but I think they might have a vision which makes the game faster and more fun. We talk about the game being athletic, a sport, but maybe we need to play it more like a sport.
On reflection, it is sad that I spend time ‘slowing down’ the really good young players that come through the golf school. I prepare them for the waiting room wait because if they play naturally and quickly, by the time they make the bigger stage they will stall, start thinking too much and fall out of their natural rhythm given the slow pace of tour play.
I hope in time that I will be forced to speed them up again. Finally, slowly, we seem to be heading in the right direction which is a positive step ahead for our great game.
Justin Parsons is the Director of Instruction at the Butch Harmon School of Golf at The Els Club, Dubai. Among his pupils is celebrated Dubai-based Indian amateur No.1 Rayhan Thomas.