I understand that television viewership for the Masters golf tournament was up 50 percent, since Tiger Woods decided to participate. Maybe fans thought he would be chased down the fairway by galleries of persistent process servers. But the crowds at Augusta care far less if you cheat on your wife than if you cheat on your
scorecard. That would be unforgivable. So, the drama was minimal, and the right lefty won without a whole lot of suspense. In fact, the final round was so lacking in leader-board thrills that all the new tabloid golf aficionados might have gotten bored, which got me thinking of ways to make the game more exciting for its future survival.
First, let's get some helmets and a few strategic pads on these guys and have a different golfer tee off every 45 seconds. This forces the athlete to sprint after his shot and hit it again, lest he be struck from behind. Someone slow, like John Daly, can make up for it by out-driving the players in front of him. And none of this "who's away" stuff either. Everybody hits all at once and races to the hole, while the gallery holds out cups of cold water. And we get rid of both the bulky golf bag and the caddy. Every player gets four clubs: a wood, an iron, a wedge, and a putter, which they must carry in a quiver strapped across their backs. Let them use their skills like my high school teacher, who was a Christian Brother. Because his vows of poverty prevented him from owning a set of expensive clubs, he had one club with a five-way adjustable club-face. By restricting the number of clubs, the need for poofy woods covers with tassels will be eliminated. (What kind of man puts pom poms on his wood, anyway?) Instead of an all-day affair, we could wrap this thing up by lunchtime. The winner will be determined by the combined low score and fastest time, with the least severe injuries.
Because our world is an unruly place, we need to relax the rules on crowd noise. If a pitcher has to throw a strike or a basketball player has to sink a free throw with 60,000 people screaming obscenities at them, let these boys swing away to the sounds of a howling mob and the occasional blast of an air-horn. To be fair, the golfer should receive extra points for striking spectators. And for hitting anyone yelling "You the man," an instant cash bonus is awarded.
Golfers deserve to get as dirty as rugby players, so we'll replace the illogically conceived sand traps with the more natural mud trap and let them hack around barefoot in there for a while. The good thing is you don't need to rake when you're finished. The surface will just ooze back to level on its own. The rough can be made far more challenging. Rather than merely hitting from tall grass, the rough will be stocked with various rodents and reptiles to really test the courage of the wayward golfer, and rather than fairway trees, we'll build a few tire fires to obscure the view of the flag. And since obstacles are a treasured feature of miniature golf, there's no reason a few windmills can't be erected, along with some giant clown heads with gaping mouths for marksmanship.
Today's tournament professionals are just not dressing as flamboyantly as their predecessors, who often resembled rental party clowns. As with every other sport, the uniform should be uniform for all. I recall the late Payne Stewart making a fashion statement in his throwback "plus fours," knee socks, and cat hat, cutting a dashing Gatsbyesque figure. All golfers will therefore be required to wear 1930s attire in tribute to the legendary Bobby Jones, with knickers, argyle stockings, and a proper sweater vest. Then no one in the locker room can object if someone yells, "Where my knickers at?"
There will be no more rain delays. Helmeted men sloshing through a thunderstorm carrying metal sticks only adds to the excitement. And if they wish to call a fairway hazard a "bunker," allow mercenaries from Blackwater to defend them from the club-wielding hordes. Golf courses take up entirely too much land, so future links will consist of only nine holes while retaining the ability to play 18. The competitors will simply play the front nine from tee to green, then turn around and play the back nine from green to tee. The arrangement becomes particularly exciting when the rounds overlap and the golfers are actually hitting at each other. This way, a player going into the final hole down by four strokes can still win if the leader is disabled and can't complete the competition.
The presently confusing descriptions of scoring need simplification. The terms ace, eagle, and birdie will remain the same, but, staying with the avian theme, the new word for par is "duck." A bogey will now be known as a "turkey," followed by a "buzzard." Anything over double-bogey is a "grackle." Finally, under the new rules there will be no more golf jokes, because non-golfers don't understand the references. They think a mixed foursome is a night with Tiger Woods at the Las Vegas House of Blues. Which reminds me: A mixed foursome has just reached the first green, and while one of the men stood over his putt, his partner noticed something out of place. He rushed to his side and whispered urgently, "The ladies are watching and you must have forgotten your underwear because your testicles are hanging down out of your shorts."
"I know," the golfer replied. "It keeps the gnats out of my eyes when I putt."
See, a non-golfer would find no humor in a joke like that.
Finally, henceforth, anyone winning a green jacket must wear it everywhere he goes, just like Bruce Pearl and his orange sportcoat. If these changes don't enliven the game, we can always build new public courses inside failing shopping malls. It's called a "win-win."
Randy Haspel writes the blog "Born-Again Hippies," where a version of this column first appeared.