by Jeff Skinner
There are a few things you don’t do in life. As Jim Croce would say, “you don’t tug on Superman’s cape, you don’t spit into the wind.” Disagreeing with Jack Nicklaus is probably on that list of things we should avoid but here I have to take a stand against The Golden Bear.
Now this isn’t easy for me as I have had major man crush on Nicklaus for decades. I admire him for everything he has done in golf and respect him for the way he lives his life away from the course. But for once I have to disagree with the most powerful man in golf.
Jack is one of the few forces in golf that if actively trying to deal with the decline in participation and he recently hosted a pair of twelve hole tournaments at his beloved Muirfield Village and his Florida home The Bear’s Club. He has a new format that he hopes will attract and keep new golfers in the game.
The tournament consists of only twelve holes and players are asked to move up one tee from their normal playing length. There is a time limit of two and one half hours and a one stroke penalty for every five minutes that a player is over the time limit. The standard 4.25 inch wide cup has also been widened to eight inches. Nicklaus is making a valiant try to attract new players to the game.
“I think the game is a great game and in no way am I trying to change it. There are few bigger traditionalists than me, but I realize we need to start thinking out of the box. So I ask all the traditionalists to be tolerant while we try something new, something fun to hopefully help us grow the game. It’s too important for us not to try. With so many sports and activities fighting for the time and attention of families, we need to think of ways to make our game more attractive and thus more inviting, especially to children and young adults. Perhaps what Muirfield Village is trying over Labor Day can help open a few eyes and a few minds.”
I agree with Jack, we need to make golf more inviting. Shorter courses? Absolutely. Fewer holes? I’ll buy it. Penalties for slow play? Sign me up. Eight inch golf hole? Are you kidding me? Absolutely not!
Everything but the absurd cup size is an no brainer. Playing fewer holes is easy and plenty of golfers enjoy a quick nine all the time. Some of my best memories are teeing it up in the glow of a late afternoon and walking nine or often enough twelve holes. I never have an issue with playing from shorter tees. It’s fun playing a wedge into a green instead of a five iron. I normally play 18 holes in three hours so I doubt I would ever incur a slow play penalty.
These are all valid ways to get players on the course and let them enjoy the game without the pressure of a long, difficult course and the pain of a five and a half hour round. But more importantly, these changes don’t change the game. An eight inch hole changes the game. I don’t know what you call that but it isn’t golf.
Putting is the one facet of the game where an amateur or hacker can play like a scratch golfer. If you can physically swing a golf club you have all the skill needed to swing a putter. Now maybe on a course like Muirfield where the greens are slick and contoured a beginner may struggle but doubling the hole is too drastic a measure. Putting into a salad bowl isn’t golf.
I am all for quicker rounds and any variation of holes whether it’s six, nine, twelve the standard eighteen or anything in between is fine but the hole has to remain the same. It’s one of the few time I’ll ever disagree with Jack.