Golf’s Integrity

The Rules of Golf and how they are presented may change — to clarify their intent — but the principles must remain intact as this is the code that lends order to and defines the game.

The essence or spirit of the game of golf is the foundation of its integrity and it in turn relies on the integrity of those who choose to play it.

Subconsciously we are attracted to this game because it allows us to satisfy an instinctive urge to evaluate ourselves while enjoying some of the other less essential, but gratifying bi-products such as a beautiful environment, socializing with and competing against like-minded people, while gaining the benefits of exercise. This is truly what defines this 500-year old game of golf and it has remained so ever since.

Attempts to address the decline in participation have introduced activities unrelated to the true essence of the game and may therefore be in vain.

The honor and integrity as well as the many traditions golf presents is that which makes it so subconsciously attractive and significant deviation from these must be very carefully considered while keeping the basic principles of the game in mind.

Please share your thoughts by replying below.

Frank and Valerie


11 thoughts on “Golf’s Integrity

  1. First, remember two things: as Frank says, golf should be fun, and the Rules of Golf are only required to be observed in USGA or R&A sanctioned events. That would include rounds of play when it was intended to submit the score for USGA handicap purposes. Friends playing informally are free to make up their own rules and not in any way insult The Golffe.

  2. The number of people playing golf shrinks each year. More people quit the game than take it up each year. It’s a very hard game to play well. It costs way too much for equipment and access to courses. And it takes too long to play (Shout out here to the PGA and LPGA Tours). Other than those things I have no idea why the game is shrinking.

  3. All of the prior posts are well thought out and well presented. To me, there are two games of golf. One is for those of us who are “traditionalists”, the other for those who aren’t. I’ll call them “funners”.

    I’m about 90% traditionalist but most of the friends I play with take a different tack. They have no qualms about grounding clubs in a hazard, ignore the 3 minute rule, and consider anything within about 2’ a “gimme”. That brings me to the conclusion that if we’re are to grow the game, I believe we have to have (shudder) bifurcation of the rules.

    I know most traditional players are absolutely opposed to the concept, but, as was suggested above, the game could “die on the vine” if we can’t bring in new golfers. Let’s face it: newbies don’t follow the rules anyway, so let’s give them some rules they can follow.

    Golf Channel was promoting some practical simplified rules a couple years ago and I agree. For most funners, let them use those rules. Do I care if one of my playing companions moves his ball from a divot, or if he improves his lie from a bare spot? Nope. It doesn’t effect me and it allows him to get more enjoyment from the game.

    Frankly, (no pun intended) we need these people to pay green fees, buy equipment, have a few drinks at the bar and generally keep golf courses afloat so we will continue to have places to play at reasonable rates.

    Have a great 2020.

  4. Frank —

    I, like you, am a traditionalist. I prefer to play the ball down, not take mulligans, and maintain a certain decorum on the course. But if the game is going to grow — indeed, if it’s not going to wilt away — we need not only to tolerate, but to encourage the participation of those who take a different view, and just want to have fun. So long as the conduct of others does not interfere with own enjoyment, let them wear what they want, listen to music, and play by any set of rules that makes them happy.

  5. Don’t really understand why fewer people are playing the great game of golf. I don’t feel it is that expensive at the local level and 3 or 4 hours once or twice a week is certainly not too much time wasted. The problem is the younger generations what everything right now, and if they can’t click and go they don’t want it. As for Top Golf(don’t really know what that is) and Long Drive Contests(stupidest thing I have ever seen) golf is a real test of your skill and abilities.
    Living in Fl. we are starting to see golf course closures on the rise. So many people moving here the real estate is worth more for housing and shopping than what a golf course and earn. Not sure where this will end, but I’m hoping it won’t tank before I’m gone.

  6. Funny thing is…I had a friend that cheated on his wife every chance he got, but he wouldn’t cheat on the golf course, even if someone was holding a gun to his head.

  7. I am director of a golf group of 115 players, almost all are elderly/older. Late last year, a member of my committee shed enough insight to our committee members on these men, that we finally adopted a few relaxed rules to keep some people happy. Despite these changes, some players continually avoid putting the ball in the hole. That just happens to be my pet peeve. Comments when it happens are, “boy are you lucky you are not in the director’s foursome”. Forget the fact that other members of that foursome may have cost themselves $ by not speaking up to that player. I actually avoid partnering players because of this issue. However, some say that is the right of passage with age. I hope they are not schooling their grandchildren about this great game. Enjoy your articles very much !!

  8. Dear Frank and Valerie:
    With respect to your commentary on keeping the essence and spirit of this most wonderful game we love ( which I have played for 69.5 years), I feel very strongly in favor of what you mention .

    Best regards and keep up your good work.


    • As Pia Nilisson and Lynn Marriott have written, if one does not learn the spirit of the game, they will not be able to sustain a high level of play or an abiding interest. One needs the love and backbone that the history and spirit of golf provides to get through the discouraging phases. Otherwise, for the public, golf competes with the other activities that may be easier and offer more attraction, fleeting or otherwise.

      Happy New Year with no three putts

      Hank Holt

  9. As a long standing Rules Official and PGA member in my country, my opinion on the new rules is that they haven’t simplified them but made them more complex and confusing. I realise that there has been an enormous amount of effort put in to try and make this work but maybe the changes should have been introduced gradually so that we could make more sense of them over a longer period of time instead of the sudden total change.
    Some of the changes are an improvement but some make no sense at all.

  10. I have to respectfully disagree with the premise that the foundational elements of the game are what attracts “us”. Are they attractive to you and me? Of course, but the simple fact of the matter is that participation levels seem to be dropping, and the only question is whether they’ll level out at a certain point.

    In addition to learning golf as a child, I was also taught to ski. In those days, skis were long slats of wood, boots were made of leather, wool was the only “performance fabric”, and the only acceptable way to compete on skis were classic racing disciplines of slalom, giant slalom, and downhill. Over time, the sport started to decline similarly to golf…skiiing was seen as elitist, expensive, difficult to learn, and overly time consuming. Sound familiar?

    Then snowboarding burst onto the scene. Initially it was rejected by many in the ski industry traditionalists. Ski areas didn’t want skateboarders and surfers with funny clothing and odd equipment cluttering things up. Over time, however, the need sell lift tickets and stay in business forced ski areas to begrudgingly allow these non-traditionalists to participate. Over time, skiers got used to sharing the slopes with these people. Finally, over time, snowboarding became mainstream and many of skiing’s traditions were blended with this new sport. Today, there are dozens of competitive forms of skiing and snowboarding that go well beyond the traditional racing of yesteryear. Meanwhile, the ski industry is flourishing and more people are participating than ever before.

    I see many non-traditional golf-related activities and changes as necessary to save our game. The advent of Top Golf, long drive competitions, and frisbee and foot golf as all providing entry points to increase participation. I think we should look at these innovations as opportunities to maintain or grow interest in the traditional sport, while providing alternatives to people who see entry into the sport as otherwise too elitist, expensive, difficult to learn, and time consuming to take up. If somebody is more comfortable entering the game by going to Top Golf than taking on 18 holes to learn the game, I’m all for it.

    Just as I can still enjoy a World Cup downhill ski race on a historically significant course, I’m confident that I’ll still be able to watch the Masters in the same format for years to come. The only difference is that I’ll ALSO get to watch long drive competitions, Top Golf-style competitions and potentially other forms of the game that a.) might be fun to watch or participate in, and b.) will help keep the traditional game that you and I love going.

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