Golf is already a great game. But there’s always room for improvement. Here are nine ways that we can make our game even better.
1. Move on Back. Hey USGA, change the rule on a ball that moves at address. Immediately. We all witnessed the potential disaster that the U.S. Open at Oakmont could have been if Dustin Johnson hadn’t won by four strokes, adjusted to three after a controversial penalty. The new rule: If a ball moves after you address it but your club didn’t touch it, replace it in the original position and play on, no penalty. We don’t care who or what caused it to move, but from now on—check out this radical idea!—we’re only counting strokes that are actual strokes.
2. Separate the Twins. Bifurcate! Golf has been in decline since about the time the USGA instituted speed limits on clubs (moment of inertia; coefficient of restitution). Coincidence? One set of rules for amateurs would allow equipment makers to develop hotter, easier-to-hit clubs and maybe win back customers and generate renewed interest. Meanwhile, another set for the pros would rein in the ball and cut back on the number of Happy Gilmore drives, making 7,200-yard courses relevant again without changing any of the drama in professional golf. (Last year there were more than 1,000 drives of at least 350 yards on the PGA Tour.) It’s a win-win.
3. Get Territorial. The PGA Tour is a business. Why let the amateurs at the USGA, who had to apologize for letting a potential penalty hang over Johnson throughout the U.S. Open’s final seven holes, make the rules for professional golf? The Tour can play by its own rules, which means it could bring back anchored putting and square grooves if it wanted. Shorts for players? Sure. Laser rangefinders? Yes. Better parking for caddies than the media? Hey, no, wait—whose dumb idea is that?
4. Change the World. Few events have less buzz than the World Golf Championships. You can thank corporate suites, smaller fields and no 36-hole cuts. Bump the fields to 132, have a cut and leave the last eight spots available for a Monday qualifier open to any PGA Tour or Web.com tour player who cares to take a crack at it. The tournament can sell one-day tickets and Golf Channel can enjoy a rare Monday with live golf instead of recaps, tips and infomercials.
5. Beat the Buzzer. You’re never going to speed up tournament play until the shot clock quits being subjective. Using a shot clock that begins when an official proclaims it’s a player’s turn to hit eliminates any gray area. You either get the shot off in time or you don’t. Three strikes and you’re out—after three shots played outside the 50-second time limit, a player draws a one-shot penalty for each infraction. You won’t believe how quickly the pace of play will pick up.
6. Open Up. Make the U.S. Open really open. The event has gotten too cozy, and life atop golf has gotten too easy for the multimillionaires. The Open should be even more democratic. This year almost half of the 156-man field was exempt, while nearly 10,000 entrants competed for the remaining spots. That’s just not open enough. So from now on, the defending Open champion is exempt—and everybody else plays in 36-hole qualifying. You want to win a U.S. Open, rich tour pro? You’ve got to earn your spot in the field, just like everybody else.
7. Meet the Parents. The USGA smartly retired its Public Links Championship and replaced it with a Four-Ball Championship for two-person teams, saying it was the one championship missing from its lineup. Wrong! There is still no legit father-son or parent-child national championship. Oh, there’s a made-for TV show annually in Florida for major winners only. Why not hold a national shootout to determine who’s really the best parent-child duo? Because it might not be Lanny and Tucker Wadkins, who won the PNC Father-Son last winter. And one more thing: Everybody plays from the same tees to make it a fair fight.
8. Feel the Draft. Lose the round-robin format that robbed the Dell World Match Play of excitement and go back to the win-or-go-home brackets. When drawing up the bracket, however, the No. 1 player in the world gets to select his first opponent; No. 2 picks his first opponent, and so on. Does Jason Day pick the lowest-ranked player in the field, for example? Or does he want to take out Jordan Spieth early? Or settle an old score with another player? Match play is always personal; now the pairings can be too. It would be a can’t miss pregame show.
9. Do It Yourself. None of the programs designed by golf bureaucrats to increase participation are working in a significant way, and they never are going to work. You want to grow the game? It’s easy. Every one of you 25 million golfers: Find one player to bring into the game. The number of participants will double overnight. So quit reading this drivel, and get on it…