by Dave Van Meter
The Dark Side
Remember the line? (talk slowly into a plastic cup) “You have no idea the POWER of the dark side” Cheating in golf is very powerful and addictive. We all want to lower our scores but lowering them by “bending” a little bit of the rule book only cheats you. Unless you are competing in a tournament or gambling nobody else really cares about your score.
Hitting a second shot is fine as long as you aren’t holding anyone up and you don’t run around bragging about your score. Go ahead, play around and have fun but don’t come back and tell everybody you finally broke 80 or 90 or whatever. If you are playing to improve your game then don’t keep score and just concentrate on learning. Trying to convince yourself you are better than you really are is a waste of time. You have joined the dark side my friend.
Learn to Cope With Bad Situations
If you never practice difficult shots or lies how do you expect to get better? Learn all you can about difficult lies (See Scott France’s post on this site http://thegolfwriters.com/hitting-the-ball-from-a-divot ) and troublesome situations. Practice hitting the ball out of deep grass or off hard bare dirt.
The rules have developed over the years to make the game a sport. I’ve said many times the difficulty we face in sport is what makes our individual victories so enjoyable. If your ball ends up in some deep grass you are going to feel like a hero if you can salvage it. If you kick it out into a better lie you are just cheating yourself out of a triumph. If you have a conscience you will feel worse about your good score than you would about a tough shot which didn’t work out so well. That tough shot was an opportunity to learn and your brain uses all information to calculate how to do it better next time.
We need to set a good example. My Son (Wyatt) plays on the varsity squad at his middle school. Last season he was in a tournament and was playing in a foursome with two competitors and one of his team mates. I always walk behind the group and therefore see pretty much everything that happens. His team mate improves a lie on the left side of the fairway then shanks the ball across to the deep rough on the right. The weeds were about a foot tall so the kid grabs a couple handfuls of grass and rips them out of the ground. His Father was watching him from a golf cart and although he had been offering advice quietly along the way, he said nothing about these actions.
I really didn’t care because the kid was at least 7 strokes behind my son so I just shook my head and let it go. When we finally got to the green my son was setting up for his putt and leaned over to move a leaf from his line. He touched his golf ball with his putter, obviously adding a stroke but embarrassing nonetheless. His team mate who had just improved his lie twice on the fairway flipped out and was loudly pointing out that Wyatt had touched the ball and should count an additional stroke.
My kids have all been grilled on the rules and etiquette of golf. I wouldn’t let them on the course if they acted inappropriately. They are kids so they make mistakes but they know shaving strokes is detrimental to them and their progress as players.
Wyatt’s team mate is the type of person I feel sorry for, the one who will shave points off their score merely for the sake of winning what has to be a hollow victory. I do my best to get kids involved in golf. Golf is a different sport, one which requires a high level of dignity and honor to play correctly. You are often in a position where no one is looking and it is easy to cheat. Kids and adults alike need to be taught the game of golf from the standpoint of enjoyment. True enjoyment of the game can’t come from cutting corners.
Get a rule book and keep it with you. They don’t cost much and you can refer to it while you play and encounter situations. The USGA rules can be found at http://www.usga.org/Rules.aspx?id=7788 My kids and I all keep rule books in our bag. We go through and highlight the important bits and even put tabs on the pages for quick reference. As you can see this one has seen some use on the course. This picture reminds me I need to get one for 2012.
Following the rules and hitting out of those tough situations will make you a better golfer. Having fun and being relaxed while golfing will make you a better golfer. Taking shortcuts will make your score card look better but in a real competitive situation you won’t be prepared for those tough shots. May the force be with you.