We like choices in golf. We want choices. We demand choices. How boring would it be if all golf courses were exactly the same?
It’s our version of Apple or android, debit or credit, red wine or white.
When you think about it, the choices are everywhere. The next time you’re standing on a tee box waiting for the group in front of you to clear the fairway, here are 10 possible debates:
GRASS OR MATS ON THE RANGE
This is an easy one for me. Hitting off a mat is a complete waste of time. If you’re any good at all, you’re going to hit every shot perfect off the phony stuff. It is by no means a representation of what will happen on the golf course. Of course, hitting off grass requires that the range actually have suitable grass, which isn’t always the case.
START WITH A PAR-4 OR A PAR-5
Most courses open with a par-4, which makes sense. You might need a few shots to get warmed up, and you don’t want to come out of the chute trying to nail one 275 down the middle. But I kind of like starting with a par-5. Even if your drive isn’t in a good spot, you still have time to recover and make par. Give me that over a tough par-4 starting hole anytime.
FAST GREENS OR SLOW GREENS
This is one of the great debates of our great game. Some people just can’t putt on fast greens. It makes them too jumpy. I prefer them – greatly. It’s not close. Slow greens are, in a word, annoying. They usually are a sign of a course that isn’t maintained well. It’s amazing when you think about how much faster greens roll nowadays compared to 30 or 40 years ago, but I think it’s a good thing.
SHORT, TIGHT COURSE OR LONG, OPEN COURSE
This one almost certainly depends on how far you hit the ball, but I often have been surprised to learn that someone who plays a lot like me despises a course that I love – or vice versa. Given a choice, I’ll take long and open every time, especially if there isn’t much out of bounds. Let me swing away.
MORE BUNKERS OR MORE WATER
I’m equally surprised by the number of golfers who are deathly afraid of the sand and actually would choose more water. What’s the big deal, folks? Practice it! The pros usually prefer to be in a bunker next to the green rather than having to chip from what might be an uneven lie; you should learn to think like them.
LOTS OF TREES OR LOTS OF HOUSES
This is one of my pet peeves. I find subdivision golf to be way too restrictive. If my ball hits a tree, no big deal. If my ball hits a window, that could get expensive. Give me trees every time – I’ll work around them. When I have houses on both sides of the fairway, it needs to be a very wide fairway or I’m leaving the driver in the bag.
TAKE CHANCES OR PLAY CONSERVATIVELY
If you get in those trees, you’re usually faced with a tough choice: Do you try to bend a shot in the direction of the green, or do you play sideways and surrender a shot? I tend to go for it every time if I think I have a better than 50-50 chance of getting it through. I’ve gotten burned more times than I care to remember, but I treasure the times I’ve knocked it on the green. You only live once and we’re not pros; why not go for it once in awhile?
TRADITIONAL PUTTING GRIP OR LEFT HAND LOW/CLAW
This wouldn’t have been a debate 10 years ago, but left hand low and the claw grip have become so popular, I wonder if their use has reached the 50 percent level. It certainly seems that way among the pros. The next time you’re watching a tournament, count how many players use left hand low or the claw compared to the traditional grip. I’ll bet it’s more than half.
TITLEIST BALL OR ANYTHING ELSE
Maybe we’ve been brainwashed all these years because so many pros still use Titleist. Maybe it’s just me, but Titleist just feels better. There’s something about seeing that Titleist script on the ball – if they ever changed it, it would really bother me. I’m sure other balls are just fine, but I’ve been playing Titleist for too many years. If I’m playing a round that I care about, that’s what I’m using. Period. But I’ll bet you know people who are sick of hearing about Titleist, Titleist, Titleist. Maybe you’re one of them.
NINE HOLES OR 18
This might be the best debate of all. It always surprises me when I meet someone who would rather play nine. They don’t have time for 18. Playing 18 tires them out. The course is too crowded. Yada, yada, yada. I get it – nine is better than nothing, and the “less is more” movement has gained a lot of traction. But when I play nine holes, it feels getting half a sandwich and leaving the restaurant hungry. However, I applaud playing any number of holes anytime. Any time you spend on the golf course is a good thing.
OK, your turn. Have at it. And there probably are lots of other debates out there, some of them tied to the courses you play regularly. That’s what makes our game great.
Can you do this with tennis? No. Can you do this with bowling? No. I love playing tennis and I love to bowl, but, for me, golf will always be numero uno. There’s no debating that.