What's the best way to attract new golfers to the game? Cheating

 
Alamy

I've added a deceptively simple element to my game that has me playing more, playing faster and enjoying golf the way the USGA wishes more golfers would.

I've begun to cheat.

I improve my lie, will on occasion hit two shots if the first's an absurdity, and if I'm faced with a clearly impossible shot I'll do something in my pre-shot routine that will magically render the chances of a successful outcome quite possible.

This isn't "Tee It Forward." It's more like "Kick it Forward."

It's as heretical as it is liberating.

For the past 10 years I could have been described with a term constitutional lawyers apply to no-nonsense Supreme Court candidates: when it came to golf rules, I was a strict constructionist.

I'd play every shot down, call double hits and OB penalties on myself when no one was looking and eschew gimme golf as an insidious way to keep handicaps pretentious enough to impress.

But hyper-awareness of the rules and slavish attention to them did nothing to improve my game.

On the contrary, the more competitive I became, the worse I played. I'd hit just enough good shots (my best was an 83 at Pete Dye's Carmel Valley Ranch) to coddle hacker aspirations to an occasional round in the 70s.

I was thinking about this recently while I was in the midst of one of the most poignant tasks in the sporting goods circle of life; I was cutting down and re-gripping my late father's clubs so I could teach the game to my 10-year-old daughter.

I feel obliged to teach Josie the game the way he taught me.

I want her to know that golf with friends and loved ones is a spiritual sort of frolic.

I want her to understand that golf is as much about the beauty of what happens between all the shots as it is about the occasional beauty of the shots themselves.

Until she gets good enough to decide if she wants to play competitive golf, rules will be mere suggestions.

Golf is misguided in trying to increase its appeal to already fastidious core golfers. What it needs to be doing is appealing to beginners like 10-year-old girls for whom most rules seem like silly distractions from the fun of giving the ball a really good whack.

So while I applaud the Tee It Forward initiative, I don't think it and other attempts to make the game more accessible are forward-thinking enough. Golf must first hook new generations of beginners before the stroke-and-distance penalties of hooking (or slicing) drive them from the game.

It must emphasize the joy and fellowship rather than the rules.

My new eagerness to overlook the rule book might seem like a sort of surrender to the often confounding game.

I choose to view it more like a cessation of hostilities.

I refuse to engage in competitive money matches. I no longer obsess on which side of the white stakes the balls come to rest. I mulligan until my heart's content.

I am playing golf.

Chris Rodell is a freelance writer in Latrobe, Pa., who provides content for arnoldpalmer.com and contributes travel features for msnbc.com.

 

More From the Web

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN