Royal St. Luke’s Golf Club (Est. 1603)
From: The Secretary
In Strictest Confidence:
To: The Rt. Hon. the Lord Fanshawe, PC
I see from the Press that the R&A is looking at ‘ways and means to make the Game more attractive to the younger generation.’ Excellent. Well, here’s how to start – and where better to start than with your Premier event.
With the Open at Royal Lytham beginning to loom, I thought I might share with you some ideas for bringing the event securely into the 21st Century – putting some vin nouveau into the old Claret Jug, as it were. The 4-day format of 5-hour endless strokeplay rounds is old hat now, but I suspect you’ll want to keep it. Thus, what you need are innovations to give it some oomph. For a start, there are far, far too few prizes on offer; for the Leading Amateur, there’s a silver medal which he can’t wear, for the Runner-up a Plate (which nobody wants) and for the winner, the Old Jug itself – which they all want.
Innovation should start at the very 1st hole, and the Lytham layout is ideal for what I have in mind. Now, as you may have noticed, their 1st is, unusually for a links course, a 206-yard par three. It is thus ideal for a ‘Nearest the Pin’ competition. Having a marker notice sticking up on the green will show competitors what they’re up against and will encourage accuracy. In the event of a hole-in-one, the notice will replace the flagstick and the player could receive the keys to the Rolls parked discreetly behind the green.
On the back nine, Lytham’s 11th is a 601-yarder (humorously billed as a par five!) but reachable these days by the pros with a drive and a mid-iron. It’s thus ideal for a ‘Longest Drive’ contest, again with a fairway marker notice to encourage total commitment. This could be supplemented with a ‘Shortest Club’ feature, to be won by the player getting home in two shots with the highest-number iron – probably a 9 or even a wedge if the fairways brown up.
You see, the possibilities are endless. You could also have a set of covers as prizes for the longest sunk putt and the closest bunker recovery. Finally, as Lytham has some trees, what about a wildest bend-around-itonto- green prize – for which the man to beat would clearly be Mr Gerry Lester ‘Bubba’ Watson (USA).
Fanny, we all feel sorry for the poor sod who’s leading into the last round and then blows it with 9 at the 17th. All he can do at present is sit in the clubhouse and weep. Surely there should be reward for him and such as he! I don’t see why there shouldn’t be a Stableford Prize for the man with the most points over the four rounds – provided it’s not the Jug Kisser himself. I’m not suggesting that the Open becomes a Stableford competition, but an array of prizes is surely the way ahead?
However, all that aside, your major innovation must deal with slow play. What I have in mind would combat this dreadful wasting disease, while injecting a level of controversy, contention and even combat. You must give the spectating and viewing public something of the buzz they get from the aggression and physical confrontations of rugby or judo.
No-one has yet come up with a satisfactory solution to the glacial pace of play in the Open. The answer is simple – and here it is: Competitors will be timed – to the second – from the moment of impact of their first drive. A stopwatch, carried by their Marker, will then start for each of them. It will automatically stop precisely 4 hours and 15 minutes later. Any scorecard – and this is the key feature – submitted to your officials alongside a stopped watch, will not be accepted. You see the beauty of this? Responsibility for the pace of play thus passes to the pros themselves, releasing your Rules people from the difficulties inherent in ‘having a quiet word,’ putting players ‘on the clock’ etc. Any group being held up and in danger of missing their deadline will be permitted to play through the group in front.
Now, I know that this may cause a degree of tension, perhaps even a noisy reaction, among the group being played through. However, it’s also their job to stay ahead of the clock and indeed they themselves should be pressing the group ahead. This will add a completely new dimension of spectator interest – and let’s not forget the millions watching on TV. The BBC coverage could feature, in a corner of the screen, a small stopwatch with the player’s name against it. You can imagine the drama as a player’s time-display passes from Green to Amber and then into the Red, showing the time to be made up – as he becomes progressively agitated and resorts to increasingly desperate measures to make up the leeway.
None of this is theoretical, by the way. Here at St Lukes we have operated a mandatory timing system at our Monthly Medals for a year now, with spectacular results in terms of speed of play. Viewed from the clubhouse, competitions now have real entertainment value as players approach the 16th green, at which point the Memorial Clock on the roof comes into view and acceleration begins. This causes huge amusement among the crowd at the windows, as a walk at the 16th becomes a trot down the 17th, followed by a sprint to the 18th tee and then a final gallop to the home green, a lightning handshake and a dash to get scorecards checked, signed and posted in the Waterloo Drum.
Anyway, plenty there for you to chew over. Speaking of which, I look forward to seeing you at the Guards golf reunion Dinner at Swinley next month. I’d better warn you that old Buffy Templeton-Patrick won’t be there. Apparently he was picked up by the police one night last week in Shepherd’s Market, this time dressed as a streetwalker…
Maj. RJM Warren- Dawlish MC.