Fittingly enough, I read the news while sitting in a golf cart waiting out a tee-box back-up on a course in Hilton Head, South Carolina, after having just effortlessly four-putted the previous hole. Steam still coming out of my ears, visions of tossing my putter into an alligator-infested pond running through my mind, I idly checked my phone and found an interesting email forwarded by a friend who shares my love of golf, if not my putting problems.
It was a link to a story about how some golf courses across North America are starting to replace the traditional four-inch holes on putting greens with... 15-inch holes. That is, gaping holes the size of pizzas. That is, yawning chasms, colossal craters, a virtual Grand Canyon on every green. Why? Excellent question.
Enlarging the hole would naturally make the game considerably easier. Way less challenging. And therefore, more appealing to people who like their gratification immediate, and easy. Enlarging the hole would also make the game faster, which appeals to those who think that golf is not about how well you play, or how much fun you have, or the camaraderie you share on the course, but, rather, how fast you can rip through the experience and move the heck on to other things.
To that end, perhaps they should make the hole 30-inches so you could knock-off 18 holes in under two hours. Better yet, make the entire green the hole and you could get on and off the course and barely even miss an ever-important update on Facebook. Wait. While they're at it, maybe remove all the sand from the course. Clear-cut the trees. Drain the water hazards. Set fire to the fescue. Outlaw wind, to the point of banning stiff breezes. And give everyone unlimited Mulligans...
Ah, but I digress, which, along with four-putting, is my forte. Here's the deal: for years and years the grand game of golf rode a sweet upswing. But in recent times, it's been on sort of a sour downswing. Stats suggest that -- despite the backups encountered on every course that I endeavor to play -- the boom is apparently over, the bloom is off the rose. Estimates say the United States has lost some five-million duffers over the last 10 years and Canada is apparently not immune to this downturn.
It's a problem, to be sure. But I'm not convinced that dumbing down the game and making it easy -- at the risk of alienating traditionalists and those who like to be challenged, so that even the rawest of rookies and the most hopeless hackers can lay claim to par -- is the answer.
Over the years I've gabbed golf with a plethora of people and I've never heard anyone complain about the size of the hole. Conversely, I've had an earful about courses that overcharge -- a king's ransom for a round. I've heard people bitch incessantly about inconsiderate and oblivious golfers -- you know, the fairway texter, or the guy who ventures into a forest to retrieve his errant drive and refuses to play on until that ball is found. And I've heard people moan about frustrating backups (yeah, fairway texter and forest forager, thanks for that).
Furthermore, I've heard about courses that are too fusty and fastidious with their antiquated rules. Courses that spend an inordinate amount of time ensuring that everyone on the course has their shirt neatly tucked in, making a golfer feel like he's back in high school with the course's fashion police playing the role of hall monitors. So, yeah, maybe the game could lighten up a little.
But bigger holes? To attract the inexperienced and to appease the inept?
I dunno. Even though my putting game could dramatically improve by having a Grand Canyon on every green, I think huge holes would simply suck the fun -- and certainly the challenge -- out of the game. All akin to saying you took a basketball and dunked -- granted, it was a Nerf ball, on a four-foot-high hoop.
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