EGO is defined as a person’s sense of self-esteem, their self-importance, their self-worth or self-image. Ego is a vital part of who we are and is key to our existence as human beings. Most times, an ego – or our ego, is a positive thing, however, on occasion, we can all be reminded of the dangers when ego and golf collide.
We see ego and golf collide many times in the normal play of our game. They collide, when everyone seems to say and think they drive the ball 300 yards off the tee. They collide when golfers won’t play a course from the correct set of tees for their game because they are labeled “senior” or “ladies” by others. And by the way, hitting a drive 300 yards – once – and saying you hit it 300 yards every time, is the same as being able to play a riff on the guitar, and telling others you play the guitar . . . but I digress.
Ego and its relationship with golf have been around since the invention of the game. I’m sure Scotsman bragged, boasted, and skirted the truth about golf from the beginning – just like all of us do now. The latest ego and golf collision occurred recently as the Golf Channel shook up the masses by releasing their “Relaxed Rules of Golf” to the public.
The Golf Channel’s Relaxed Rules of Golf is a simple listing of seven suggested rules on how to make the game easier to understand, play, and also hopefully improve golfers’ enjoyment while on the course. The relaxed rules aren’t meant to replace the USGA or R&A rules. They are meant to lesson the complexity of the rules for most golfers. The introduction of the “Relaxed Rules” brought with it some praise – but standby – also hit a nerve with many golfers who find a relaxed set of anything (especially rules), well . . . not relaxing.
In the midst of the rules going public, the Golf Channel asked golfers how often they played by the Rules of Golf. The standard answer by nearly all who were asked was “always.” Interestingly, when asked how to play under common golf rules like; out-of-bounds, water hazards, etc., most of those same “always” golfers, couldn’t explain how to proceed under the rules or were confused about some of the differences in the rules (yellow stake/red stake/white stake). One golfer even went as far as to say he only plays relaxed rules “10% of the time,” which really means he’s better than me, you, and everyone else 90% of the time . . . man, egos are amusing.
However, the answer of “always” didn’t surprise me and neither did the misunderstanding of how to proceed under the rules of golf by the same group. It’s not surprising to me, because almost all of us (including myself) play under the rules of golf, but not strictly within the rules of golf most of the time . . . let me explain.
I’ve played golf for almost 30 years. I know the rules well, but also give and accept gimme putts during normal rounds. Under most conditions, triple bogey is enough in the groups I play in; not because we understand Equitable Stroke Control, but because it’s slow and painful to score more than double par on a hole. Gimme putts and max scores are just two examples of these common rule alterations. Mulligans, adjusting clubs mid-round, and using different balls on the green, are some of the others. Most rule alterations have come about over time as a way to speed up play and enhance the enjoyment of the game a little bit more.
I’m confident one or two of you just thought, “Not me!” when it comes to not playing by the Official Rules of Golf. Before you go too crazy, know that I’m a very serious golfer also at times. I have played in many formal tournaments (including a USGA qualifier) and within the seriousness of those tournament rounds; I play strictly by the USGA Rules of Golf.
And Yes, I know the MetLife, Inc. commercial, which shows a professional golfer getting yardage information from his caddie using a two-way radio and weather information from the blimp – prior to selecting a club, is outside the rules of golf.
And Yes, I know it’s “illegal” under the rules of golf when Rory McIlroy put those Bose® headsets in his ear to eliminate noise and outside distractions on the course.
Geez, I get it, rules ARE rules! But, just for the sake of argument, what if I did play by a relaxed set rules all the time? What if I took OB drops nearest the point to where I went OB (vice hitting a provisional)? What if I decided to take 1-mulligan on the front, and 1-mulligan on the back, and roll the ball everywhere – including the fairway? Would I still be a “Golfer” . . . or would I be someone who just “plays golf?”
This type of judgment of others is where the ego of golf comes into conflict for many who play the game. If I play strictly by the rules, am I somehow better than those who don’t – perhaps on a number of levels? If I play using relaxed rules, am I better than the “uppity” guy/gal who can’t seem to get over himself/herself?
Whether you’re a golfer who plays relaxed, strict, or something in between golf, it really doesn’t matter, because everyone is welcome in golf. Golf is an every person’s game, which teases us with the promise of always getting better. It’s why golf, unlike any other sport, lets everyone who plays the game share in the dreams of grandeur. In golf, we can play the same courses and make eagles, birdies, or pars on the same holes as Rory does. We can seemingly hit the ball the same distances as Bubba. We can play the same equipment, wear the same clothes, and use the same ball as the greatest golfers in the world.
Other sports squash our dreams quickly. We give up on our NFL dreams when we realize we’re not fast, strong, or big enough. We give up on MLB dreams when we discover we can’t hit a home run or throw a major league fastball, but golf . . . that’s another story.
When we put together a great round, our golf ego says “maybe.” When we really catch fire, we may even allow ourselves to dream of the possibility of, “Standing in the Hall of Fame” (sorry, that commercial is burned into my mind). However, the problem is when we judge others as not “real” golfers because they don’t play like us, we lose out on the opportunity to grow our game.
The next time you find yourself judging the “relaxed” guy/gal, the “strict” guy/gal, or the “in-between’r” like me, think about how you can enhance their enjoyment and love of the game by understanding where they’re coming from and maybe even including them in your next round – no matter which set of rules they play by.
Congratulations to the Golf Channel for their development of the Relaxed Rules of Golf. Thank you for your continuance and dedication to make the game better. Let’s keep the conversation going! #GOLFISFUN
Editor’s Note: What do you think about the ego in golf? What do you think about the new “Relaxed Rules” introduced by the Golf Channel? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments section. We would love to hear from you.
BIO: Keith Cook is a Writer and Contributing Editor for localgolfer.com. He is a retired 29-year US Military Veteran and Ashford University Alumnus living in Michigan. Follow Keith and Local Golfer on Twitter @_KeithCook and @LocalGolfer
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