Ready, steady, golf! Hang on – do you want to play or are you waiting for me?
I played in a scratch event where, to their credit, the organisers were using the new ‘ready golf’ directive from the R&A. The rule change is designed principally to speed up play.
So what’s not to like? Well. First of all, it changed the whole atmosphere. Usual form at scratch events is all about much stuffiness and standing on ceremony.
We respect the honour, we measure out how far putts are away to make sure we are doing this absolutely correctly, we respect through-lines, we declare provisionals as if announcing something sombre on the news, we fuss over drops by scattering tees around like we are marking out a crime scene and we try and make sure everything is as just so as possible.
Now, though, there is anarchy: we can play when we want and our little game of pretending to be tour pros has been thrown into chaos.
It feels like we are playing for, you know, fun and it is definitely quicker. So far, so why-didn’t-we-do-this-ages-ago?
The only problem was, I was the only one doing it. I could feel my playing partners glaring at me as I marched on to the 2nd tee and let fly (necking one into the left semi) despite making the third-best, or in other words, worst, score on the 1st. I thought I was going to get lynched on the 3rd green when I hit my putt from 10 feet while the others were still eyeing up theirs from twice the length.
On the 4th tee one of my partners did some passive-aggressive stating of his score and the implied right to the honour.
This allowed us to address the issue and once we had discussed it and agreed I was right then we were all playing the game under the new rules.
Well, kind of. On the 6th where we were all chipping from the high side of a long par 3. What followed was some kind of Chuckle Brothers to-me-to-you mash-up.
We had all realised that watching the others chip first would help us out a lot with landing spots and reading break on the green.
“You go if you’re ready,” we all chimed. So what happens now? We are all ‘ready’ but we would all like to go last, thank you very much.
Seizing the moral high ground, I went first, took three to get down and resentment turned to anger as the others both saved par having ‘gone to school’ on my chip.
On the next hole, the exact opposite happened. Both my playing partners were in the trees right and I was in the fairway about 30 yards ahead. Our slowest player was furthest away and had factors like rough and trees to think about. He seemed to enjoy factoring things in.
I reasoned he would be ages and got on with my shot. Just as I pulled the trigger (on a fat pull), his ball whistled past. We had both played at the same time. We can’t have this, can we? Lives will be lost and excessive divots will be taken.
Maybe I am over-stating it but this beautifully simple idea of ‘ready golf’, something that I was all in favour of, feels like it needs some refinement if it is going to work at all levels of the game.
The R&A have introduced it for all their amateur events so, in theory, a spot in The Masters could be at stake. Maybe, just maybe, we need the rules. Maybe they are an essential part of the parameters of play. Maybe secretly, while pretending we enjoy the freedom and the modern thinking, we actually quite like knowing where we stand.
Maybe I have Stockholm Syndrome when it comes to the honour, but I think I preferred it the way it was.
You can read more about Ready Golf here.