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Gary Player

‘I don’t like it, but we want to keep them playing’ – Player says clubhouse etiquette must change

He’s a dyed-in-the-wool traditionalist, but even Gary Player says it's time for golf clubs to be more accepting
 

If Arnold Palmer caught you breaking clubhouse etiquette rules, watch out. Even Gary Player wasn’t exempt from a tongue lashing from the King.

“He was really tough with those guys,” he recalls. “I wore a hat inside Jack Nicklaus’s club the other day, unaware that I was doing it. He said, ‘There’s no sun inside here, you know?'”

“I said, ‘What do you mean?’ He said, ‘You’ve got your hat on.'”

Player likes his traditions. Not wearing a cap during a meal, smartening up with a jacket and tie at Muirfield, he’s a self-confessed “old poop”.

“It’s something so nice and I go back and say, ‘This is how it used to be.'”

The times they are a-changin’, though, and Player, speaking as a Wentworth ambassador, believes golf has got to move along with them.

He may be the man who tells his grandchildren to leave their phones at home when they come to dinner.

But as he stresses that the growth of the sport depends on getting the young to start, and stick with it, Player senses some of the traditions that bonded his generation will need to be set aside.

“Today, you tell a guy he’s got to have a pair of socks and they have to be under his knee high. They’re not prepared to do that. They are not prepared to not have their [mobile] phone.

Gary Player

“They want to have their hat on back to front. I don’t know. I don’t like it. But if we want to keep them playing, we might have to say, ‘Yes guys, go ahead and do it.'”

He adds: “Thank god I don’t make the decisions on that. All I want people to do is to be happy and enjoy your game of golf, and have a good camaraderie in your club and encourage them to come out and keep playing and supporting the club.

“You can’t just have a closed mind and say, ‘I was brought up that way.’ Things will change dramatically. Things are changing in this world at a very rapid pace.

“One has got to realise this world is not going to stay the same. I can only repeat and say thank goodness I don’t have to make the rules.”

Is Gary Player right? Do clubs need to soften their stance on traditional clubhouse etiquette? Let me know in the comments, or tweet me.

Steve Carroll

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 25 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former club captain, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the R&A's prestigious Tournament Administrators and Referees Seminar.

Steve has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying, PGA Fourball Championship, English Men's Senior Amateur, and the North of England Amateur Championship. In 2023, he made his international debut as part of the team that refereed England vs Switzerland U16 girls.

A part of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap. He currently floats at around 11.

Steve plays at Close House, in Newcastle, and York GC, where he is a member of the club's matches and competitions committee and referees the annual 36-hole scratch York Rose Bowl.

Having studied history at Newcastle University, he became a journalist having passed his NTCJ exams at Darlington College of Technology.

What's in Steve's bag: TaylorMade Stealth 2 driver, 3-wood, and hybrids; TaylorMade Stealth 2 irons; TaylorMade Hi-Toe, Ping ChipR, Sik Putter.

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