With 2023 well underway, BRENDAN BARRATT lists a few things he’d love to see changed in both the professional and amateur games.
Let’s stop putting up big prizes for amateur club competitions. All it does is bring out the prize hunters (those with the inflated handicaps who always seem to win the big competitions) and chase all the honest players away. I remember Compleat Golfer once ran a tournament where the grand prize was to represent South Africa abroad.
One of the country’s known sandbaggers phoned me up to check on the date of the world finals. He was genuinely concerned it might clash with another overseas trip he had won. This was before he had teed off!
While we’re at it, please can we just stop all fourball alliance competitions? With nobody to watch or mark the scorecard, it leaves too much room for cheats.
Not exactly a new gripe but it’s time to move them around the world. It doesn’t make sense that the USA hosts six and Europe three out of the nine combine men’s and women’s Majors. What about the rest of the world? There are so many worthy courses in Australia, South Africa, Asia, Canada and even South America.
If we truly want to grow the game, let’s take it to the people. The PGA Championship is the obvious one. This could – and should – be moved around the world, with the rotation serving to highlight just how much of a global organisation the PGA truly is.
The World Ranking system
Let’s face it, this needs to be sorted out, and soon. At the moment it is too heavily biased towards the PGA Tour. For example, in the same week that the RSM Classic was played on the PGA Tour – an event featuring not one top-20 player in the world – the best of Europe were battling it out in the DPWorld Tour Championship.
With seven of the world’s top 25 playing in Dubai, you might have expected the event to have more points on offer, but since it was a limited-field event, the US tournament was awarded more. Doesn’t make much sense to me.
The bigwigs at the PGA Tour and LIV Golf need to sit around a table and talk things out. Sure, some oversized egos are getting in the way, but it’s clear that LIV is not going away (or running out of cash), so the sooner they thrash things out the better.
And invite the World Ranking system guys along too, please. When players like Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka are teetering on falling out of the world’s top 50, something simply isn’t right.
With LIV players sliding down the ranking, if they aren’t recent Major champions, most will fall out of the top 50 and risk missing out on playing Majors. This dilutes the field and, to a certain extent, the result.
That old chestnut! Bifurcation refers to introducing two differing equipment rules into the game; one for the professionals and elite amateurs, and then another for us hackers.
It would allow the powers that be to dial the ball back for the pros – while keeping things the same for amateurs – so that some of the great old courses can become relevant again. Professional golfers hit the ball so far these days that most older courses have become obsolete.
On top of that, maintenance costs are through the roof to cater for the lengthening of holes, creating new tee boxes that only a minority of golfers will ever play.
Do we really need to see The Old Course brought to its knees before we finally do something? Mark my words, a 59 there is not far off.
We need more matchplay events. As the purest form of the game, it makes for great viewing.
Sure, organisers don’t much like them because the top seeds have a nasty habit of getting knocked out early, but can we try something other than 72 holes of strokeplay on the same types of courses, week in and week out, please?
Come on guys, it’s 2023 – women should be earning as much as men. Sure, you argue, more people watch the men’s game – but that is a chicken and egg scenario.
Invest in the women’s game and there’s no reason they won’t be as interesting. Let’s face it, they play a game that is more recognisable to the average golfer anyway.
It’s time for a radical change because it’s getting boring watching the US romp to yet another massive win. The obvious solution, and one that has been touted many times before, is to introduce women to the event.
With the strength of Asian, Australian, Canadian and, lately, South African golf, it’s a surefire way to level things up. They could even tweak the format to have men and women playing foursomes – wouldn’t that be something great to watch?
Stroke and distance
A personal grumble is the old ‘stroke and distance’ punishment for hitting a ball out of bounds. It makes sense on old, traditional courses where you have limited OB, but these days we regularly play estate courses where houses line both sides of the fairway.
Replaying the shot should be punishment enough – no need for this ‘three off the tee’ lark that can only lead to massive numbers.
– This column first appeared in the February 2023 issue of Compleat Golfer magazine.