Golf

Fore! Pros go off course with basics

 Scott Hend of Australia in action during day four of the Avantha Masters
An errant shot by Scott Hend holds up play on the European Tour on Sunday.
GolfWeek Alistair Tait
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Bifurcation is the big word on everyone’s lips these days. I’m not sure why. A bifurcation of one part of the rulebook already seems to exist. An example of that was obvious in the closing stages of the Avantha Masters in Delhi.

Once again, we saw that professional golf doesn’t always conform to the simple laws of etiquette most ordinary club golfers obey.

South Africa’s Thomas Aiken triumphed in India on Sunday to win his second European Tour title. However, he waited longer to record that victory than he should have done.

Playing in the last group along with China’s Wenchong Liang and Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand, Aiken faced an interminable wait on the 18th tee while Scott Hend in the group ahead consulted a rules official after hitting his tee shot into a pond.

The Aiken trio spent nearly 15 minutes waiting back on the tee while Hend discussed where to take a drop along with playing companion David Drysdale and the official. Of course, any club handicapper knows the correct procedure in this situation. It’s obvious from the rulebook — simply let the group behind play through.

Page 19 of my rulebook makes it pretty clear that faster players always have priority: “It is a group’s responsibility to keep up with the group in front. If it loses a clear hole and it is delaying the group behind, it should invite the group behind to play through, irrespective of the number of players in that group.”

Most club golfers adhere to this simple tenet in the etiquette section of the rulebook. Tour professionals seem to ignore it on a regular basis. It’s amazing how often a rules situation crops up that delays play, and the group behind isn’t called through.

Given the influence tournament professionals have on amateurs, it’s no wonder some ordinary golfers refuse to let groups behind play through. Why should they let groups play through when it doesn’t happen on the professional tours?

Of course, the above dynamic does nothing to speed the game up. Just the opposite. When this basic law of etiquette isn’t adhered to, it’s no wonder pace of play becomes snail-like.

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It’s not just the refusal to let fast players play through that differentiates the professional game from amateur golf. There’s also the basic courtesy of shouting “fore!” It doesn’t seem to happen too often in the professional game.

How many times have you seen a tournament professional hit a wayward shot and then hold out an arm rather than shout "Fore!"? Spectators can’t hear a raised arm.

If you or I were to hit a wayward tee shot towards another group and didn’t call fore, we’d soon hear about it.

Golf has been played in India for a long time. However, previously it was a game only for the elite. It’s only in recent years that professional tournaments have been held in the world’s second-most populated country.

The European Tour first visited India in 2008, while the Professional Golf Tour of India began two years earlier. As a result of these endeavors, the game is being opened up to a huge market.

Professionals have to set the best example possible for ordinary golfers. The least they can do is stand aside to speed up play, and shout "Fore!" when they hit a poor shot.

It isn’t too much to ask for. Is it?

Tagged: Thomas Aiken

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