In Praise of Feet
I won’t say who, or where, or when, but I recently watched a club championship take place in which the three guys playing in the final group (of a two-day event) were riding in gas carts – three of them, one each. The oldest of the three players was, I’m guessing, about 38. All three guys are in excellent physical and mental shape. There’s absolutely no reason why they couldn’t have walked.
One of the guys I know in the threesome told me he was taking a cart because the other two guys were, and he didn’t want to hold them up, or, conversely, didn’t want to have to rush his shots for fear of holding them up. Fair enough, I guess.
But the spectacle, and the concept, of three able bodies driving individual carts, in a club championship final no less, just struck me as odd, a bit silly, and, I dunno, kinda antithetical to the principle of golf competition. It seems to me that a tournament designed to determine the best golfer in the club should include a component that tests the golfers’ ability to play the round(s) while enduring the physical demand of walking the course. If you get tired during the back nine, and start to mis-hit your shots, then to me, you’re not as good as the guy who doesn’t get tired and shoots a better score.
Playing in carts doesn’t test anyone’s physical stamina. It equalizes the playing field, in a sense. And some might well argue that that’s actually a good thing… it brings the competition down to a level where only the quality of the shots, and the fewest taken, wins the day… not whether one player is in better physical shape than another. Yeah, okay.
But if that were the essence of competition, then why wouldn’t the PGA Tour, or the Champions Tour, or the LPGA, or the USGA, allow the option of carts for the players?
The taking of carts by these three competitors also goes against the principle, or the ideal, that golf is a game of companionship and good sportsmanship. The three players in the club competition mentioned above are all very nice gentlemen, and they enjoyed each others’ company. But they didn’t get a chance to walk down fairways together, and make idle conversation, which they might have done as pedestrians. Pity.
Most clubs that I know do not allow the use of carts in championship matches, and I think that’s a good thing. But maybe I’m just old and out-of-touch.
Of the 60-odd rounds of golf I play each year, I’d say two-thirds are walking, and one-third are in carts. If I could, I’d play every round on foot, but I understand that many newer courses simply can’t be walked; and most charity/corporate event rounds would take days if they were played on foot; and many courses need the revenues that come with a carts-mandatory policy.
Most courses in Florida are carts-mandatory, on the assumption that carts speed up play, and so many of the golfers in Florida are seniors who either can’t physically walk the courses, or can’t walk the courses fast enough to avoid annoying the people behind.
I suppose with a group of players who keep the ball in the fairway, it’s probably true that carts speed up play. But as a walker, I’ve certainly been held up a million times in my life by players in carts who take as much or more time looking for balls as walkers do, or driving their cart-mate over to HIS ball, then back to THEIR ball, and around and around so much that it looks like bears on bikes at the circus.
I’m not so much of a snob or traditionalist that I think carts should be banned. They do serve a useful purpose, and they do allow thousands of people to play – or to continue to play – a game they love, when they otherwise might not be able to.
But I do quite often quietly shake my head in wonder, if not disdain, at seeing people in carts – especially younger ones — who could walk, and should walk, and would undoubtedly enjoy walking for the peace, tranquility, and good exercise it provides.
Sure, call me old and out-of-touch, but I’ll bet you a sleeve of balata balls that I’ll live longer because I walked most of the courses I played.