Last year we brought you our 13 Dumbest Things in Golf—a collection of egregious traditions, decisions and products that cause golfers to raise their collective eyebrows, snicker or in some cases, get fired up about. Of course, golf being what it is, there’s no way that our original 13 things covered the entire landscape of the absurd and ridiculous. With that in mind, we’re back with another Baker’s Dozen of the foolish, laughable and downright preposterous aspects of the game that might just make our great game better.
1. The new double-hit rule
For those not aware, the new rule on a double hit is that it counts as only one stroke. Our question is this: Why on earth is the USGA letting Chopper McGee not only get off scot free for a terrible shot, but in many instances allow them to benefit from it? Fact is, the second hit often moves the ball closer to the hole—sometimes much closer. Go look at the video of T.C. Chen and tell us he’s not better off after the second strike. Hey, the freebie is a bonus for those who experience grief around the greens. But if you’re on the other side of such a shot in a tight match, you’d be steaming mad. And we couldn’t blame you one bit.
2. Iron covers
Google “Golf Iron Covers” and 126,000 results pop up. C'mon guys. Forget the lunacy of trying to coddle instruments that regularly plow into the turf and strike a golf ball at full force (although we all have a difficult time doing that sometimes). But good god, man, think of the people playing behind you. It’s bad enough you take forever to put the driver headcover back on because you wrestle with it like you’re auditioning for the WWE. But when you start searching for your plastic or neoprene iron headcover after every shot, you’re just asking for one of those nasty on-course altercations over slow play. And we can't have your back on this one.
3. Starter spiels
“Hey golfers, ever play this course before?” If a starter asks you that seemingly innocent question and you haven’t, here’s a little advice—lie. Otherwise get ready for the follow-up, “Well, let me tell you a little about our facility.” A “little” meaning a three-minute run-on sentence about which tees you should play, where the divot mix is on the cart (gee, couldn’t figure that one out for ourselves), the code to get into the bathrooms on the course, which for some yet-to-be-understood reason need to be locked, and how the GPS will give you yardage to the middle of the green. If you’re really unlucky you might even get his driving lines off every tee, and a bad joke about how the starter shot 68 . . . and then played the back nine. The starter spiel should be confined to asking you if you need a scorecard and a pencil and then one more line, “The tee is yours.”
4. $100 Leather Headcovers
How did this ever become a thing? Sure, they look amazing and probably have people thinking you’re a better player than you are. However, unless you have an affinity for lighting money on fire, there’s no reason on earth to dole out a Benjamin for a headcover, regardless of the logo on it. If you must have a souvenir, opt for a hat instead at a quarter of the price. Exception: If you’re using shop credit and are trying to help your home pro get rid of these abominations, then you have our full support.
5. Poker chip ball-markers
These might be a nice, inexpensive souvenir that lets your buddies know you played at Pebble Beach or some other swanky course, but please, show them off on the first tee and then stick them back in your golf bag. To use something the size of a Ritz cracker as a ball-marker is, to say the least, inconsiderate. Not only is it far more likely to get in the way of another player’s line of putt, but the ensuing request for you to move it not one, but likely two putterheads off that line brings play on the greens to a crawl. Go with something no larger than a quarter (preferably non-reflective) and we’ll get along just fine.
6. Mandatory carts
Golf carts are a critical aspect of golf. They allow many physically unable to walk to enjoy this great game, not to be discredited. But they should never, ever be mandatory. If a golfer wants to hoof it, more power to them. And we’re not buying the pace of play argument against that. As for those facilities that need the revenue, we understand. Simply institute a trail fee for those who walk to offset the cart revenue loss. It at least provides the option to pack your own bag and get in a little extra exercise, and having that option is all we ask.
7. Never adjusting your adjustable driver
The USGA can be wrapped on the knuckles for a number of things, but they did give golfers a massive gift in 2008 by allowing greater flexibility in the area of golf club adjustability. Unfortunately, most golfers fail to take full advantage of it, feeling once their driver is set, it’s good to go. That could be true. Or not. Either way, what’s the harm in taking a bucket of balls and trying your driver in a variety of loft and face-angle settings? You might find one that’s even better than what you have now. Plus, if you don’t find anything better you can always set it back where you had it before.
8. Clubhandling at the bag drop
Perhaps the biggest drawback to the high-end daily fee facility is the prevalence of bag-drop attendants that descend on you the moment your car is within eyesight. With equal parts efficiency and annoyance, they give you no option both on the way in or on the way out to let them handle your clubs and, of course, try to vulture a tip from you. And heaven forbid you actually try to bring your clubs from the parking lot or to your car at the end of play. Far too often you’ll have a cart coming at you at Indy 500 speed with an eager employee saying, “I got that for you!” Sure, it’s part of the experience, but once is more than enough and getting hit coming and going is more than irritating. Unless we ask you, we’re perfectly capable of lifting our bag into the trunk of the car, thank you.
9. A major tournament risking running out of daylight
If a regular PGA Tour event finishes on Monday, so be it. A major championship is a different animal. Golf fans are far more invested in the majors, spend much more time watching or reading about them and as such, deserve a Sunday finish. Still, there are times the folks running these tournaments play Russian Roulette with the clock (2014 PGA at Valhalla, anyone?) by refusing to move up the start time when it is almost certain weather will be a factor. At this year’s Masters, Augusta National endeared itself to all by moving the tee times up and finishing without incident. Not only didn’t the world come to an end, it was one of the most talked-about events of the year. When it comes to the majors, we’ll watch whenever you have it on—except Monday morning.
10. Ball retrievers
We know, we know . . . golf balls aren’t cheap. But what kind of price tag do you place on your self respect? Having a ball retriever in the bag is golf’s equivalent of the scarlet letter—there’s no escaping the fact you have one and the stigma will stick with you long after you fish that Pro V1 out of the drink. In other words, choose your dignity over a few dollars.
11. Having to pay full boat for green fees on punched greens
One of the best lines in the film “Happy Gilmore” is when Shooter McGavin shouts, “Damn you, people, this is golf!” Except it’s not really golf when the greens have so many holes in them they appear to be more air than grass. Aeration is a necessary step to make sure the putting surfaces remain healthy and have a good root structure. However, facilities that charge full rate when the greens are punched deserve to be punched themselves.
12. Cut-down clubs for juniors
You’re such a good parent. Getting your youngster into golf is an awesome job on your part. But if you try to save a few bucks by cutting down your old clubs and slapping grips on them to get your little lad or lass started, you might as well just take them fishing instead. The reason: cutting down clubs entirely changes the playing characteristics of them and it’s almost always exactly what youngsters don’t need. They are too heavy, too stiff, and likely the wrong length and lie angle. Other than that they’re perfect. There are a number of junior options available and if you don’t want to pay full price (which is perfectly understandable), seek out a used set at a fraction of the cost.
13. Training aids that claim to solve all your problems
It’s not that we’re above people making a buck or even thinking outside the box. We can ever hear Peter Kessler’s voice uttering, “It’s the most perfect club ever made . . .” about the Perfect Club, which actually made the Golf Digest Hot List in 2004. What we can’t stomach, however, are the cheesy infomercials for such products featuring a lineup of washed-up former tour pros hawking sticks and devices that look more like garden weasels than golf clubs, complete with video of “everyday golfers” miraculously holing out chips or driving it on a string. If all of these products worked as well as they claimed, we'd all be on tour.