Gary Player: Making courses easier won’t speed game

Now that the dust has settled on the introduction of the new Rules of Golf, and golfers are gradually getting used them, it seems that there is a certain faction who would willingly do away with the whole tradition of the game in the name of ‘Speedy Golf.’ It’s true that the Rules changes are not going to make a significant difference to the speed of the game, but some proposals are simply absurd.

When Phil Mickelson opened with a 12-under par round of 60 at the Desert Classic in La Quinta, California last month many pundits suggested that the absence of rough contributed to the remarkably low scores. Mickelson finished on 25-under par to share second place with Adam Hadwin, while Adam Long took the victory on the Stadium course on 26-under. Course set-ups are normally decided by the conditions but, overall, they are designed to present a tough but fair challenge for the players. If the course is not so much a challenge as a walk in the park, that’s not the way it has to be but it’s certainly not the way to speed up the game. Talk of removing greenside bunkers and grassing them and perhaps removing the bunkers altogether is simply sacrilege. If that had been the case in Ben Hogan’s hey-day, he would have won every event he played in.

To make a championship golf course a true test of skill it has to have fairway sand traps, deep greenside bunkers, Out of Bounds areas, and rough parts of the course that present a tough challenge for golfers to deal with. The way to avoid this from happening is to hit the ball straight and stay on the fairways, away from the hazards. This was demonstrated at The Ryder Cup last September when the European Team produced a winning performance in defeating the United States team emphatically to claim back the famous Cup. European golf courses demand that to win, you have to stay out of trouble. The European team were better equipped to get the best out of the Le Golf National course near Paris by simply playing it straight and staying out of the rough. So, I’m a believer in rough, just as I’m a believer in traditional golf courses where skill and expertise wins the day. Accuracy is all-important.

In my book the only way to seriously speed up the game is to adopt ‘Ready Golf’ where a player plays his shot and immediately moves on to prepare for his next shot. Shorter courses without penal rough may be worthwhile for juniors, high handicappers and the elderly, but not for championship golf on the professional tours.

Gary Player Invitational – UAE

I was delighted and gratified to be in Abu Dhabi in the UAE last month to host and play the fourth instalment of our Gary Player Invitational series at Saadiyat Golf Beach Club, a spectacular course I designed alongside the breathtaking Persian Gulf. I’m proud to say that our Invitational is the world’s leading charity golf series and the proceeds of the event for the 2019 Union of Golf and Giving for The Player Foundation with the Abu Dhabi funds going to the Zayed Higher Organisation for Humanitarian Care and Special Needs. The Abu Dhabi Sports Council is a tremendous sponsor of our event in Abu Dhabi, we held a fantastic and elegant reception at The Louvre Abu Dhabi the night before the golf. European Tour up and comer, Eddie Pepperell’s team was the winner of the Gary Player Invitational, and Charley Hull took the Ladies European Tour title, which concluded the day before at Saadiyat Beach Golf Club.

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