For the second year in a row, the LPGA deemed it necessary to allow players to ride in carts during the MasterCard Classic. The primary reason for this decision, stated at last year’s event but apparently not reiterated this year, was to speed up play. The first Classic at Bosque Real in 2005 featured rounds that often took six hours to complete. I have seen a few comments around the web blasting this decision, and feel compelled to throw in my two cents.
Golfers probably hang onto traditional practices longer than any other subset of humans. “Since it’s always been this way, that’s the way it’ll always be.” That line of thinking has given us those wonderful golfing stories of players taking hours to complete their round by refusing to play “ready golf”, PGA Tour players sweltering in long pants, women and minorities being excluded from Augusta National, and physically impaired players being denied the use of a cart to compete on the PGA Tour. It is true Casey Martin’s case was hindered by the prospect of him having an unfair advantage, but the controversy was rooted in the tradition of Tour players walking the entire course.
Perhaps having the physical stamina to walk the entire course (any course) should be a major factor in a player’s overall ability. 200 years ago, every golfer walked the whole course. I imagine many golfers of the early 19th century also walked or rode a horse TO the golf course and then walked or rode that horse back home afterwards. The ones that couldn’t afford a caddy also carried their own clubs, until one of them devised a contraption with two wheels to pull the bag behind him. I’m certain the first person to try this was browbeaten to death by his tradition-bound competitors. Until they realized that it was an intelligent thing to do and began copying him.
Every time yours truly ventures out on the public links, the club requires that he ride in a cart for the very same reason the LPGA required it last weekend. As a result, tee times can be scheduled closer together and more paying customers can be accommodated. It wasn’t always this way, but in the interests of satisfying customers and increasing revenue (from cart rentals and more tee times), tradition lost out to good sense.
And “good sense” is what the LPGA used in Mexico City. Bosque Real is the longest course the ladies play, and it is among the hilliest with ravines crossing several fairways that the players would normally walk down. At several events last year, the Tour used carts to shuttle players from green to tee where necessary – again, to keep the rounds moving along. I don’t recall reading any complaints about those carts. A post on Waggle Room the other day suggested that it’s ok for players to ride carts between holes but not while playing them. The supporters of walking the course really lose me with that one.
I don’t advocate the use of carts at every event – although I fail to see any apocalyptical ramifications if they did. I do advocate the notion that different circumstances often require a different means and when the circumstances dictate, let ‘em ride.