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Senior Golfer - On The Green

ON THE GREEN is courtesy of the Senior Connection Newspaper, visit their web site. The author is Jerry Koncel, a free-lance writer who lives in Schaumburg, IL.

Put the fun back into golf

The Putting Green

Over the course of the summer, I have been asking my fellow golfers why they play the game of golf, what they enjoy most about the game, and if they have any suggestions to improve the game. As might be expected, the answers to the first two questions were not all that different, while the answer to the third questions brought myriad responses.

Golfers who play on a weekly basis have a common refrain about the problems with the game. They believe that it takes too long to play the game, the courses are getting too long for the average golfer, and the pros are the ones who benefit most from the technology advancements in golf clubs. I will address the latter two issues in future columns, but for now I would like to address the questions of slow play.

A recent survey by one of the national golf magazines said that the number of people playing golf is down, and the game itself is facing a serious problem of attracting new players, primarily because it is such a difficult game to learn and it takes too long to play. On Labor Day weekend, a respected golfer of some renown, Jack Nicklaus, said that the game of golf was facing serious problems in attracting new players and keeping existing ones. To combat long rounds, Nicklaus was launching an experiment. He was holding 12-hole golf tournaments at his course in Dublin, OH. To speed up play, he was making the holes eight inches in diameter, which is about double the current size. Moreover, he told participants that they had to finish in 2.5 hours or face one stroke penalties for each five minutes over the time limit.

A lot of people criticized Nicklaus for his efforts, but I applaud him. He reminded me that that golf is not designed to be a drag or a walk in the park ruined by that little white ball. Golf is supposed to be fun.

When I asked golfers what the reason is that they played golf, there was almost universal agreement that it was to have fun by being outside, enjoying the fresh air with a couple of friends, and facing the challenges of playing consistent golf. The reason for playing golf is not to hit 300-yard drives, but rather to do your best, and then share the results with your friends.

When it comes to making golf more fun, the PGA came up with the "Play it Forward" promotion during July. The PGA asked golfers to move up a tee and see if they started enjoying their rounds. The PGA found through studies that most players were playing the wrong set of tees, and as a result, they were becoming frustrated. Maybe it was a "macho" thing, but golfers were playing from the tips no matter what their handicaps were and were scoring higher than normal, losing more golf balls, and becoming less enthusiastic about the game.

I decided to take the PGA up on their challenge, and three other players joined me in playing from the up tees at Cog Hill. We actually found that it made the round play quicker and it was more enjoyable. There was not an appreciable difference in our scores, but at least we had more opportunities for birdies. In short, golf was more fun.

So, as we enter the fall golf season, put the "fun" back in golf. Play the "leaf rule" on courses with a lot of trees. This unwritten rule states: "If your ball rolls or hits into a pile of leaves, and you can't find it after one or two minutes, drop another ball as close to where the original ball would end up and do not take a stroke penalty."

Because courses do not have the same maintenance requirements in the fall as in the summer, play "winter" rules. These rules allow you to "tee" the ball in the fairway if it is needed, but not if your ball is in the rough.

Finally, have "fun" visiting courses you wouldn't normally play during the summer because of either distance or money. You can find some really low prices on golf rounds in the fall, and they are very enjoyable to play.

ON THE GREEN is courtesy of the Senior Connection Newspaper, visit their web site. The author is Jerry Koncel, a free-lance writer who lives in Schaumburg, IL.

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