Fore!!!! A term used as a means of warning other golfers that you are a hack who finally got one on the short grass but sadly on the wrong hole. Fore in this instance is a warning to golf itself. As I sit here watching the Australian Masters, it is becoming more and more apparent that golf coverage and the game itself needs a significant tweak if it is to survive, let alone regain the lustre it once held when Norman et al walked the fairways. So dramatically has the number of golfing members dropped in the past decade that golf clubs, other than elite private clubs, are on the ropes. Average participants will not continue to prop up poor business models with imposed levies for the sake of appearances and status. Just ask the Abbott government. Golf courses cost the same to maintain whether they have 10 or 10,000 members. The product must change as the ACA is now finding out.

While not suggesting that golf turn into some form of T20 with long bats, I thought I would offer some ideas on how some simple changes might raise interest and subsequent participation in the game.

It takes too long to play: In a time-poor world, devoting 4-5 hours to watching and/or playing a sport is a big ask. Someone very clever once said that golf was a good walked ruined. Then why do pros walk? Get a cart and get rid of caddies, or at least make it illegal for them to talk. I assume they are not there for the health benefits. Imagine the upside. No more speaking of themselves in the first person or as “we.” I’ve never seen a caddie hit a decent shot under pressure. That’s why they are caddies. It would reduce an average round to 2.5 hours, playing in pairs.

Throw away yardage books: There have been GPS trackers available for donkeys yet Pros insist upon relying on notes that may or may not be accurate. At worst, ask the camera bloke or on-course commenter who knows exactly how far it is to the pin. And please don’t show a bloke walking out the yardage. It makes for dull television and too much dead time for spectators.

Shot clocks on the screen: the Pros play under rules that require them to meet certain time guidelines that are devised to prevent slow play. They aren’t short enough, as the last Pro pinged for slow play was actually dead in a bunker after a lightning strike, and his playing partner refused to play out of turn. As anyone who played with a serial time waster will attest, there is nothing worse than watching some hack spend 5 minutes over a putt that you know they will never make in a century of attempts, or making 15 practice swings that look like Adam Scott’s, before actually hitting it like Bluey Wombat from the Dapto social gold club. Therefore, I believe that as soon as the player arrives at their ball, they have 15 seconds to hit the shot or get pinged a stroke for every 10 seconds over that time. Think how much fun it would it have been to see Nick Faldo standing over a 3 ft putt to get into a play-off when the clock shotbuzzer goes off in his back swing. The crowd would cheer as one. “Faldo you F%^@ing dunce.”

Off side rule: No player should ever be allowed to walk past their ball, even on the putting green. Again, it makes for dull television and too much dead time for spectators. All players should walk to their ball and be ready to hit when safe to do so, particularly if your playing partner is stuffing around having a leak. Make the viewing experience more life-like: I take umbrage when commentators say that television doesn’t show how difficult a particular putt or shot is. Why not? Surely camera technology is such that a three dimensional quality can be achieved by lowering the camera to ground level or not showing a green or fairway as a graphic.

Stop the endless embellishment of Pro golfers: Surely the significance of a particular shot is self-evident when you have a scoreboard, albeit a scoreboard that rarely show anyone outside of the top 10. Yes they are good, just as Ernst & Young might be good at numbers. It’s their job. There are no greater grovellers or users of cliches than golf commentators. Thankfully Sandy has been rested this week as he made an art form of blowing smoke up co-commentators. If a player hits a shocker, get stuck into them rather than some wet comment about “he might like that one back”.

Let the player create the drama. Endless graphic slow motion shots with gratuitous background voice overs and dramatic backing music has its place. In ‘Chariots of Fire.’ Show more action and more players. Pros started out in golf clubs who have members and potential sponsors who might more get involved, if they ever saw the young sprog that used to hack up their practice fairway and win all the comps. Believe me, they get as much joy at seeing that kid on the tele as seeing Adam Scott. Case in point being Matt Millar, who learnt his golf at Royal Belconnen, who was not shown on one occasion today, despite getting within 3 shots of the lead earlier. One shot that may be the difference in keeping a sponsor that just wanted to see their logo on national television for their much appreciated support.

Stop the repetition: How often do we have to see a graphic fly over of the hole layout when we could be watching someone actually playing the hole. This also includes crystal balling, something not unique to golf commentators. Will this be the shot that such and such remembers come the end of the day? Why don’t we just wait and see. Is that the shot that might land him the coveted Masters’ jacket? Might be, might not.

Mixed Golf: The idea of having combined tournaments is a no-brainer. I’m not talking about token Michelle Wie invites or end of year novelty events. This would bring a totally new dynamic to what is mostly a game that appeals to old men with ear hair. The Women’s tour is vastly superior in the way it showcases their players. Smiling young athletes (mostly) might just help in bringing out the personalities of the men that have been suppressed by too many hours with sports psychologists. How much better would it be watching Lydia Ko going down the last with Rory than today’s pedestrian affair. Great result for the young bloke but hardly a riveting spectacle that will bring out the crowds next week at the Oz Open in Sydney. A win to Lydia sees 10 inspired young girls at your club’s next junior clinic and a sell out next week.

Stop calling for changes to the golf ball: If you want to watch blokes trying to make pars all day, sure change the ball and ban long sticks. Better still, let’s watch the US Open every week where even par is a miracle. The punters want good scoring and players going for it. Not stifled by law-makers who have already made golf a misery of rules and regulations that provide committee members with a power trip that is obviously not available in their day-to-day lives. In fact, why don’t they have amateur golf committees running pro golf. That would put the upstarts in their place.

Stop making torture chambers: Golf is a bloody hard game so anything that makes it easier for a social golfer should be applauded. Sorry Peter Thompson. Golf should not be a punishment as old Pros of your ilk wish it to be. I’ve yet to meet a Pro that likes your course design other than Mike Clayton and he was such a dynamic presence wasn’t he? Could course designers stop creating monstrous layouts that are unplayable for most golfers? Resort courses should be just that, courses that enhance the holiday experience rather that adding an extra $400 to your bill paying exorbitant green and hire fees and losing 30 golf balls. If you want to design a signature course, do so in a manner that will make people want to come back. Not scar them for life.

Have some fun: How good would it be to have players miked-up. Imagine if they were allowed to sledge like your average mid-week group of duffers. “Hey Tiger! You know how we all used to think you were awesome? Basically you’re a joke now.” “Hey Phil ya space cadet. What’s with the stupid grin?” “Sharky, Remember Augusta! Bet ya $100 you gas it.” Burps in their back swings, that type of stuff. The only exception is for those who insist on yelling out “get in the hole” who should be placed in stocks pelted with tomatoes. This of course will never happen, as the Pros sneer when a butterfly farts. However, like tennis, let us make some noise you protected petals.

Finally, a golf course is no longer the Green Boardroom. Remember, you’re the one who likes golf. Not the poor bastard you are humiliating while trying to sign him up to a 10 year contract that will bankrupt his business. Same goes with company golf days and Christmas golf days. Why would you think that making employees and company suppliers go though 6 hours of utter misery playing some contrived ambrose comp, that you will win anyway, will be great for company morale and good will. You have lost the opportunity to sell the game to the unconverted. Go to Putt Putt to sow the seed, don’t throttle them with a 1 iron.

About Tony Robb

A life long Blues supporter of 49 years who has seen some light at the end of the tunnel that isn't Mick Malthouse driving a train.


  1. Obvious solution to golf boredom. Change the rules so the winner is no longer the player who gets to the hole in the least number of SHOTS, just make it the guy who gets there QUICKEST! Both players tee off simultaneously, run to the ball, hit it as soon as it stops moving. Inaccuracy? No problem, just hit it back on course, who cares how many shots that takes, as long as you’re quick! Like speed chess on steroids. A vast improvement to a dull game, the way T20 has revitalized cricket. Not.

  2. Interesting for a sports based forum that there has been zero commentary on the Australian Masters golf on this site. Not sure whether that is a reflection on the general lack of interest in the sport across the community or just this particular community.

    From a spectator standpoint, my frustration is that, once the flag is removed, it is almost impossible to see the actual hole. Imagine watching live football or cricket without knowing exactly where the goals or stumps are!! Surely in this technological age, someone could come up with a solution. I agree with the basic premise that the game takes too long but there still seem to be plenty willing to spend even longer playing cricket even though for most there is practically nil actual physical involvement for half the time

  3. And how about when the ball is close to the hole, put the bloody thing in there, instead of marking it and wasting more time.

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