Suggest someone wears anything other than golf attire on the course or in the clubhouse and a horde of web warriors will line up to scream it’s only a step removed from thugs smoking crack in bunkers.
So the furore provoked by my colleague Dan Murphy’s stance on dress codes was predictable.
His point, that the game could be more accessible if we stopped obsessing about what we are all wearing, led to some stinging criticism. People, some very angrily, pointed out such ‘folly’ would lead to an eroding of standards threatening the very game as we know it.
Standards? I’ve got news for them. That ship sailed long ago.
I’d like you all to consider the picture above. For me, standards in golf start with courtesy. You repair your pitchmarks. You rake your bunkers.
Just as you wouldn’t walk into someone else’s house and wipe your dirty shoes all over their carpet, so it goes you should also leave the course as you’d hope to find it.
It’s just common decency.
Our culprit here hasn’t just failed to tidy up their sandy footprints – they’ve actually purposefully walked around the rake on their way out.
They’re the first people to moan, though, if the greenkeepers are doing some hollow-tining or the ball isn’t traversing over the putting surface smoothly at lightning speeds.
I’d like to say this is an isolated example, but it isn’t. I’m sure many of you have your own similar gripes.
At a recent committee meeting at my club, we persuaded the course team to reinstate holders to place rakes on. They warned some members just wouldn’t use them. They were right.
I spend a chunk of each round putting the rakes back in place.
One morning earlier this month, the greenkeepers were stunned to find someone had wheeled their trolley right past the flag on a number of the greens.
A few days later, a large divot appeared on the 10th green. It really beggars belief.
I’ve played dozens of different courses this season, I haven’t found many that wouldn’t need to send out another email pleading with members and visitors to basically clean up after themselves.
‘Standards’ are a two-way street. Who is really doing the ‘massive disservice to those who value the game’, as one of our letter writers put it when attacking Dan’s ‘rant’?
I’d argue it’s those who show this sort of lack of respect to the club, and its facilities, that are far more damaging to the sport as a whole.
But all people want to talk about is why wearing a collarless polo shirt is such a crime…
My month in golf
My handicap might not be moving downwards – I’ll go into the winter break right where I started in April – but the season still ended in positive fashion.
I’ve resolved to make this off-season my most intensive, in terms of lessons and practice, so I can return in 2018 and realistically hope to finally reach single figures.
It was great to see the world’s best up close at Close House, where I am a country member, during the British Masters.
Then to meet a childhood hero of mine, Bernhard Langer, at Stuttgart for the MercedesTrophy Final was a huge thrill. You can catch up on my adventures in Germany here.
Out and about
The emails keep coming in with suggestions after I asked you to send in the interesting ways your club livens up competitions, particularly during the winter months.
Sam Jones wrote in with a Ryder Cup-style pairs competition with a difference. A stableford event, the first six holes are played as a betterball. The next six are competed as foursomes and the final six as singles.
Level par comes in at 48 points – with 90 per cent of handicap allowance on the first 12 holes and full allowance on the final sprint.
Indie Bilkoo, meanwhile, highlights the President’s Day competition at his club. It often sees some of the foulest pin positions – never used in actual competitions – in play. He says: “A friend drove a short par 4 and continued to five putt it.”
He also reveals Captain’s Day has an entirely different course layout. Holes are played from the second tee to the first green, for example. Anyone else tried that one? It sounds brilliant.
Keep them coming.
Steve is NCG’s Club Golf editor. He plays off 11 and is captain at Sandburn Hall in York.