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Opinion & Analysis

In defense of adult autograph seekers and vendors



Recently, Jordan Spieth put adult autograph seekers at the 2017 Pebble Beach Pro-Am in their place by telling them to “get a job” and to stop profiting from his success. Fair enough. It’s his autograph to either give or not to give.

Here’s his entire rant.

It’s easy to see where he’s coming from, but before we praise Spieth for standing up against these losers, creeps, vultures, or whatever else you want to call them, let’s take a look at the autograph industry and who suffers from Spieth’s stance.

Essentially, you can put autograph seekers into five different buckets. I’ll go through each category with the perceptions and reality of each before ultimately getting to the point.

1) Kids

No one in their right mind is going to argue with kids who want an autograph. In the world of autographs, it really is all about the kids. Have you ever seen a kid get an autograph from their favorite athlete? Then you know what I’m talking about.

2) Adults getting the autograph for their kid

This one is also tough to take a stand against. There’s a number of reasons why a parent is at a sporting event without their child, but still wants to provide them with an awesome souvenir. Let’s say an 8-year-old had school and couldn’t miss, but the father went to the practice round at Pebble Beach and had the opportunity to get a Jordan Spieth autograph for him. Any concerns here? Not from me, but maybe you disagree.

3) Adults who want the autograph for themselves

OK. I see your point. Maybe this is a little weird. Especially when the adult is years, if not decades older than the athlete. But let’s say a middle-aged man wants a John Daly autograph for his man cave, or a middle-aged woman wants an Adam Scott autograph. Still as weird? There are certainly stranger things for adults to collect than autographs, so maybe we shouldn’t judge too heavily.

4) Those seeking autographs to sell at charity events

This one could be sticky for some to rationalize, and easier for others. Let’s say you’re running a charity event to raise money for ALS Research. At the event, you’re giving away a number of different items to raffle off and the profit goes to the research fund. Among those gifts is a Jordan Spieth autograph that was obtained at the AT&T Pebble Beach practice round by an adult. So yes, the autograph was obtained and sold, but the money went to charity. Hmm….

5) Adults with the intent to sell the product on Ebay

This is far and away the easiest group of people at which to point the finger and tell them they’re morons. Specifically, Spieth’s case against this group of people is that they have no intent to give the autograph to a kid or a good cause. They’re simply profiting off of his name…literally, and Spieth has a point. But what if we think about this group in a different light?

Imagine yourself as the parent of a 10-year-old kid who idolizes Jordan Spieth. You can’t afford to fly the family out to Pebble Beach to see Spieth play and hopefully get an autograph, but your child’s birthday is coming up and you really want to give him a signed Pebble Beach golf flag. So what do you do? You go straight to eBay and see if anyone is selling a Jordan Spieth-signed Pebble Beach flag.

You buy it.

It was $125, but hey, not that bad for an awesome gift. It comes in the mail five days later, just in time for the birthday party. And when your child opens up that gift, his eyes light up. He hangs the flag on his wall and looks at it everyday. Maybe he even starts to play golf every weekend because the autograph got him so excited.

Now, is it really that big of a deal that the person who provided the kid with the autograph made a few too many dollars off of it? Would you rather the 10-year-old Jordan Spieth fan never get the autograph?

The point is, there’s a demand for Jordan Spieth autographs. Whether it’s kids, adults, grandparents or dentists who want it for their waiting room, there’s a market. And there’s a short supply. Jordan Spieth is the only person in the world who can provide a Jordan Spieth autograph, and someone somewhere down the line is going to make money off of selling that autograph to the parent of the 10-year-old kid who wants it.

If it wasn’t for the autograph-selling adults, some children would never have access to their idol’s autograph.

What would you do?

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Andrew Tursky is the Editor-in-Chief of GolfWRX. He played on the Hawaii Pacific University Men's Golf team and earned a Masters degree in Communications. He also played college golf at Rutgers University, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism.



  1. JThunder

    Feb 17, 2017 at 2:30 am

    Having something autographed by an athlete (or celebrity) who didn’t autograph it for you is like having a love letter from a beautiful girl (or guy) that wasn’t written to you. As a kid, I didn’t see the point, and I certainly don’t now. That $125 spent on some piece of junk for a kid could surely have been spent better (for one thing, waiting for a chance to obtain a personalized autograph, if that’s the ultimate goal.) The autograph hounding – and the ludicrous high-fiving – is the relatively harmless but still ugly side of our worship of celebrity. The income and adulation they receive is entirely disproportionate to their comparative value. But then, the same is true for most corporate CEOs, and in essence part of that same culture.

    Seriously, though, stop high-fiving players too. I cringe every time – one ill-timed move could end a career, especially with all the drunks at the tournaments.

  2. jc

    Feb 13, 2017 at 7:00 pm

    I get them to sign their book…that way, they know I spent some money that they got…I have Jack, Phil, Leadbetter….Chick Evans…(old golfer)….

  3. Bob

    Feb 13, 2017 at 4:44 pm

    There was only one autograph I ever wanted…Arnie’s. And that was just to get close enough to shake his hand…

  4. KoreanSlumLord

    Feb 13, 2017 at 11:01 am

    Kids only. The athletes should ignore the adults and the problem is fixed. I dont understand a lot of United States culture. The one thing that confuses me is adults who wear NFL/MLB/NHL jerseys with another guys name on it. In Korea and Japan, this is for the guys who have certain feelings for other guys. I think of same thing when I see grown azz men waving a piece of paraphanalia to another man to sign. Maybe they want the sex with that guy. Spieth is right on this one.

  5. Ronald Montesano

    Feb 12, 2017 at 5:34 am

    The sheer number of comments is astonishing…I want Andrew Tursky’s autograph now!

    If a professional athlete sees the same people at multiple events, she/he certainly might suspect that a profit-maker is in attendance. In a case like that, I see no problem with not granting an autograph. If the athlete gets a bad vibe (these are superhumans, after all, with powers of sensitivity beyond my own) from the autograph seeker, again, deny the scribble.

    If Jordan Spieth moves the needle, then his moves need to be considered for an article. This is newsworthy, as it involved an interaction with the gallery and a subsequent, public statement (in an interview.) I like how Tursky laid out a hierarchy of seekers, and gave each a level of ethical justification. I wouldn’t give him a shank on this one, lads.

  6. moses

    Feb 11, 2017 at 12:51 am

    LOL look at the Like to Shank ratio. It’s EPIC.

  7. James Wallace

    Feb 10, 2017 at 11:16 pm

    I forged Jordan’s signature to give to my dad for Father’s Day, when the US Open was at Chambers. All to get revenge for when I was young, I got an “autographed” JT Snow baseball that was done by the guy at the gas station they bought the baseball from.

    Sure, it was 15 years ago, and sure I’m now a grown man, but that taught him.

  8. Someone

    Feb 10, 2017 at 4:05 pm

    Also, you don’t stop people from buying stuff cheap and fixing it up and selling it for more. Just like an autograph seeker, they gotta do the leg work to get that autograph like travel, tickets, and hotel. It’s just ridiculous. You don’t sell your car to someone and then dictate how they are to use it. Payment was made by the seeker in the form of ticket to the event at a minimum, not to mention other costs. Reward is seeing the event and possibly getting an autograph.

  9. Someone

    Feb 10, 2017 at 4:02 pm

    The fans paid to watch and paid to get in. They are ultimately responsible for people becoming famous and making all the money that they do. Arnow signed for adults all the time. Even had conferences where people stood in line and waited. He sat there knowing full well that without them he wouldn’t be who he is or where he is. What’s the difference? You know jordan signed a full beer bottle for a “guy” and everyone posted that he was cool for doing it. That beer isn’t for a kid for sure. And also, you don’t sign and then get to tell people what to do with your autograph. It’s just like giving a homeless person money. You don’t control what they do with it because you have the money to them because they don’t have any. If you want them to buy food or clothes, give them food or clothes instead. Your good deed ends with what you handed off. Celebrities do not need to sign anything, but for their reputation and livelihood, it would behoove them to reconsider any stance against signatures. Regardless of intention, someone paid, watches them, follows them, and does the legwork to wait in line to get that signature. America is the world’s symbol of capitalism, in that people can find almost any way to make money or succeed or be whatever you want to be. A person who puts in the legwork to chase after autographs, can do what they please with their collected autographs, just like how a kid keeps a signed player’s card and may end up selling it in the future for money when it’s of more value. Who are we to judge other people ? It’s ridiculous for a celebrity to think that giving an autograph is unreasonable. Asking for autographs has been a long time way for celebrities to show appreciation to their fans. Doesn’t matter if they plan to sell it or not, that autograph belongs to that fan. They did the legwork to follow and such, why shouldn’t they be rewarded? That’s how you build up a fan base. Tin cup anyone? The other player was a douche…not many douchebags make it far and eventually they lose it all one way or another “no friends, loss of respect in community, loss of status, gambling, bills, etc.”

  10. ooffa

    Feb 10, 2017 at 3:34 pm

    Stop being an entitled doofus and sign the autographs. You should be thrilled to have the opportunity to do so. And BTW speed up the play a bit will ya.

  11. Brian

    Feb 10, 2017 at 1:53 pm

    Great, you can get autographed gifts for your kids on Ebay. However, those profiteers are doing so using someone else’s name/likeness. Just like any other marketed product using someone’s name/likeness, the athlete should get a cut of those proceeds.

    If these leeches want to profit from someone else’s name, they should pay the athlete for the autograph in the first place.

  12. Shanks for the Memories

    Feb 10, 2017 at 12:23 pm

    Whoops. Used a real name instead of the pen name that goes on all the obviously satirical articles that aren’t funny.

  13. Shanks for the Memories

    Feb 10, 2017 at 12:13 pm

    Crap. They accidentally put a real name on this obviously satirical article instead of the pen name for all the other satirical articles that aren’t funny.

  14. Grizz01

    Feb 10, 2017 at 11:29 am

    I wonder what Arnold Palmer would say to Jordan Spieth?

  15. Bwall

    Feb 10, 2017 at 10:07 am

    Unless it’s on a check, there is no need for a grown man to have another grown man’s autograph.

    • Brian

      Feb 10, 2017 at 1:51 pm

      What about a grown man that has another grown man’s autograph….that he still has from when he was a kid?

      Otherwise, I agree. As an adult, I find it incredibly lame to seek autographs, wear sports jerseys or any other clothing with another man’s name/likeness on it.

  16. mr b

    Feb 10, 2017 at 9:51 am

    if you’re truly getting it for a kid that’s okay.
    but I firmly stand by the ideas that NO grown man should EVER 1. wear another grown man’s sports jersey. 2. Ask for another grown man’s autograph.
    i don’t judge others that do this but these are my personal beliefs

    • Ryan

      Feb 10, 2017 at 6:03 pm

      “I don’t judge others that do this, but I’m gonna go ahead and judge others that do this.”

  17. Patricknorm

    Feb 10, 2017 at 9:13 am

    My son played in the NHL, AHL, KHL and on the Canadian national junior team. It’s scary how people are drawn to a relatively famous athlete. What’s off putting at least for a Canadian from a small town, the lengths people will go to get an autograph from an athlete. Often I’ve seen autograph hounds thrust binders in front of my son to sign pages of cards. Seriously?
    He’s good at signing to a point. He always signs for children or fans that want him to sign his jersey. As parents we don’t especially take the time to collect memorabilia about him, just stuff where he’s played in the Worlds or a playoff finals.
    Maybe it’s me but I’ve never felt the urge to get something signed by a famous person. It doesn’t reflect anything expensive to me and besides , if an athlete is signing say 25 autographs it can’t be worth much. What I treasure is the conversation I’ve had with a prominent person. Personally I can’t fathom a person’s zeal to obtain a signature. Besides, it eventually fades.

  18. birdie

    Feb 10, 2017 at 9:10 am

    simple solution….the athlete ONLY signs for kids…and they make it personal. they ask the kids name and they sign it to him. this way, everything he signs is ” to jimmy, from Jordan”. cuts down on resale.

  19. I'mNotTigerWoods

    Feb 10, 2017 at 12:51 am

    Agree completely with Jordan… I’m sure he’s privey to all that stuff going on, which the average person isn’t. It’s his autograph and if he only wants to sign for juniors so be it.

    • cgasucks

      Feb 10, 2017 at 9:28 am

      Yep…if I was in position, I would only sign for kids and people who really appreciate it.

  20. cgasucks

    Feb 9, 2017 at 10:36 pm

    Many many years ago (early 90s) I was an autograph hound chasing hockey players for their signatures not for profit, but for myself. During that time there where a close community of people like me chasing signatures, some like myself were doing it for fun, but some where doing it for profit by selling it to their local sports memorabilia store. The people I knew that did it for profit where mostly respectable to the athletes and some even developed a good relationship with them. If you’re going to chase John Hancocks for profit, be respectful to them and don’t bite the hand that feeds you.

  21. Usher1

    Feb 9, 2017 at 9:50 pm

    I had a first hand account of dealing with the group of individuals collecting autographs for profit. I was an usher for a season while in University for the Blue Jays. I was usually given the seat section that had the visiting team dugout. After batting practice, visiting players would come over and sign for a few minutes. The majority of these individuals are simply ridiculous and would do whatever to get that star players autograph. I dealt with 20 to 30 of these individuals every home game. I could tell you many stories and traits of the autograph seekers but I will sum it up with one incident. The San Francisco Giants were in town…the big autograph was Mr. Barry Bonds. He did not come over and sign the first 2 games of the series. Final game there was about 20 autograph for profit seekers. Everyone went into the dugout so the autograph hounds left. 4 or 5 very young kids were still along the first row seats and Bonds came back out to sign for these few kids. Well the autograph hounds came rushing back. They were crushing, knocking over, and stepping on these children. I was right there and started grabbing these grown men by shirt/jacket collars or their backpack and pulled them over the row of seats and off the kids. Then security staff came and cleared them out of the section. Not sure if they got ejected from the stadium or not.

    My advice like mentioned previously is personalize all your autographs. Then the autograph hounds will not want them but the kid who wants it will be ecstatic or the parent who wants it for their child or the person who wants it for their office or man cave.

  22. Dill Pickleson

    Feb 9, 2017 at 8:56 pm

    from the article link this is my favorite:
    adult males who a) wear professional sports jerseys unironically

    i had a girlfriend where my jersey in high school. but, that’s a little different.

    • Joey5Picks

      Feb 10, 2017 at 12:39 am

      No one over the age of 30 should wear a jersey…and if you do, don’t tuck it in.

  23. RHJazz

    Feb 9, 2017 at 8:55 pm

    The “what if” example about the kid’s cherished memory could just easily be, kids memory is of getting shoved aside by some overgrown man-made child so he can stock his memorabilia “store.”

  24. Mad-Mex

    Feb 9, 2017 at 8:14 pm

    As a former baseball/football card/autograph collector, the simplest way to drop the value of an autograph is to personalize it and sign it something like this “To (name) , Jordan Spieth”.

    A TRUE fan will cherish this, an autograph hound will be quickly disappointed.

  25. RAT

    Feb 9, 2017 at 8:01 pm

    My son played Pro baseball and he always signed for everyone. I got in line for him when he was young because some adults and hounds would push him away not waiting their turn and then by the time he got to the front the STAR would move on or just pass on by. Pros get paid plenty and to give their time to sign things is part of that star package. I would say sign one thing per person and make sure all get what they came after an autograph ! Arnie always did it that way. Besides without fans there would be no BIG MONEY for the stars.

  26. Lob Wedge

    Feb 9, 2017 at 7:12 pm


    So you’re saying that professional athletes don’t sign memorabelia to be sold by businesses agglutinate with them? That the only way we get an autograph without showing up is through autograph stalkers? That autograph stalkers are really doing it for the kids?

    Golly gee..

    • Jack

      Feb 9, 2017 at 10:38 pm

      LOL yeah, good job justifying that. Honestly I’m not sure what an autograph does vs a picture to inspire. I have a few autographed basketballs that I bought, but that’s only cuz I like those players. If it was personalized then it would have been awesome but it was just a generic signature.

  27. Matt

    Feb 9, 2017 at 7:03 pm

    I always applaud Spieth’s honesty but often he comes across as a whiner. I think adults who obtain autographs to sell on eBay or other market is pretty crappy.

  28. Randy

    Feb 9, 2017 at 5:50 pm

    I think Spieth is a crya**, I wouldn’t sell a autograph on ebay but what about the rising cost of golf equipment, largely due to manufacturer’s signing guys like Spieth . We’re spending $1,200 for a set of irons and $500 for drivers!! I don’t think it’s a big deal if someone sells their autograph for a $100

    • The dude

      Feb 9, 2017 at 7:30 pm

      Haha….buy your sticks on eBay

    • Steve

      Feb 9, 2017 at 9:44 pm

      Manufacturers aren’t charging $1,200 for a set of irons and $500 for a driver because they have to pay players like Spieth. They’re able to charge that because we’re willing to pay it. If people stopped spending $1,200 on new irons, prices would drop until people started buying again.

  29. ZQ RascalZ

    Feb 9, 2017 at 5:35 pm

    Completely pointless article. WRX scraping the bin with this one

  30. Philip

    Feb 9, 2017 at 5:27 pm

    Where do you draw the line – I’ve seen these adult autograph hounds plow through children. You give someone an inch and they will take your arm. Total fail for an article!

  31. JustTrying2BAwesome

    Feb 9, 2017 at 5:12 pm

    What would I do? I’d kick the professional autograph-selling adults right square in the balls. That’s what I’d do. Should be perfectly acceptable, and in some cases encouraged, for the kids to kick the professional autograph-selling adults right square in the balls.

    • blake

      Feb 9, 2017 at 7:19 pm

      I think you’re living up to your name, but punches would also be acceptable.

    • Jack

      Feb 9, 2017 at 10:39 pm

      I’d recommend a sharp elbow.

    • Brian

      Feb 10, 2017 at 1:59 pm

      Trying2Hard2BAwesome is more appropriate. When will humanity evolve past the point of prescribing violence as the answer to their slights?

  32. Hans

    Feb 9, 2017 at 5:12 pm

    These autograph hounds are asking players to give up their time (for free!) so that they can make money off the players. What person wouldn’t find that annoying in the same situation? Not to mention some of these hounds the players see can be pretty obnoxious to boot.

    Players don’t mind giving back some attention to fans that come see them. But to give up their own time so someone else can make money off their name and even worse to spoil the atmosphere for the kids – good on Jordan for saying something.

  33. Double Mocha Man

    Feb 9, 2017 at 4:57 pm

    I’d be careful telling someone to “Get a job” if they already have one. Sounds conservative/Republican/Tea Party to me. Did Jordan vet each of those requesting his signature to make sure they were unemployed?

    • Mad-Mex

      Feb 9, 2017 at 6:41 pm

      Seriously? You that brainwashed you cant keep your political views off a golf site? Your a cult leader’s wet dream.

      • Double Mocha Man

        Feb 9, 2017 at 8:10 pm

        Sorry pal, when the issue becomes “Get a job” it does become political. I will be watching Speith closely from now on…

        • Mad-Mex

          Feb 9, 2017 at 8:18 pm

          So, Speith be concerned because your “watching” him? Your not that important “pal”.

    • Tom

      Feb 9, 2017 at 7:42 pm

      Nohny Noct is that you? Poor taste in a post

    • Sheriff

      Feb 9, 2017 at 10:28 pm

      Lol! You’re an idiot

    • not having it

      Feb 10, 2017 at 11:39 am

      So are you inferring that the stereotype of liberals not having jobs is correct? Why else would you immediately label Spieth “conservative/Republican/Tea Party”? Obviously, Spieth’s comment is a common cliche’ used in similar context to phrases like “f*** off”. Also obvious, is the fact that you are just trolling, and if you are going to insist on being a troll then at least try to do so with a more intelligent response than, “Sounds blah, blah, blah, political jab because Trump is POTUS and the world is going to end blah, blah, blah, and more nonsense”…

  34. TR1PTIK

    Feb 9, 2017 at 4:56 pm

    I like that you’re trying to provide a different perspective and your opinion is certainly objective. However, the caveat here is that the adult autograph seeker/eBay seller is still profiting off of someone else’s success. More importantly, they are profiting off of kids. You give a great example wherein a mom or dad wants to do something awesome for their kid and get an autographed collectible from their favorite sports icon. What happens when the kid asks how they got it? Doesn’t that completely cheapen the gift? Meanwhile, the guy who sold it on eBay is back on the course stepping over or on top of more kids to get another autograph. I have zero problem with an adult wanting an autograph from someone they admire. It’s perhaps a little weird in some scenarios, but in most cases nothing to be concerned about as long as they are respectable about it. If I were in Spieth’s shoes, I’d absolutely do the same thing.

  35. Fred

    Feb 9, 2017 at 4:45 pm

    You forgot adult autograph dealers who use kids to get the signatures. Yes, they do this, and it is horrible.

  36. Matt K

    Feb 9, 2017 at 4:39 pm

    Not a big autograph guy. They’re for kids… not dentists or Adam Scott loving soccer moms. If I walk into some dude’s mancave and he’s got a bunch of autographed memorabilia, my opinion of him goes down a few notches. Get a kegerator and some pennants maybe, a Bobby Orr superman photo if you’re a Bruins fan or ‘insert your teams iconic photos’. I had a great time getting a cap signed at the 1997 PGA championship at Winged Foot. I was in Denver earlier in the summer and my Dad brought me over to Cherry Hills, he bought me a hat that I later got all signed up at the PGA. Still have it… few good ones on there Ernie, Duval, Vijay, think JD signed it. Remember I ran into Nick Price – not in the autograph line, he was just walking from point A to B – he gave me the Heisman, said he’d catch me later lol. Didn’t happen, I still like him, it wasn’t the time for him to sign. Anyway… I was 13! It was fun, the hat isn’t in a special place or anything, but I wouldn’t ever discard it, its a great reminder of that trip. I never really did it again, the autograph thing, once was enough. Adults who do… get a job!

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Gary Player joins our 19th Hole podcast, talks past and future of golf



Hall-of-Famer and career Grand Slam winner Gary Player joins host Michael Williams for an exclusive one-on-one interview at the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf tournament and Big Cedar Lodge in Branson, Missouri. Player talks about the past and future of the game, including his take on everything from reigning in the golf ball and golf courses, to advocating for more testing for performance enhancing drugs on the Tour. Steve Friedlander of Big Cedar Lodge also appears.

Listen to the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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Opinion & Analysis

Let’s Retire Old Man Par: A Modest Proposal



In 1729, Jonathan Swift wrote a satirical essay entitled “A modest proposal,” in which he suggested that the Irish eat their own children. As might be expected, the piece drew a great deal of discussion and controversy. He was of course not serious, but simply attempting to make a point. As you will read this piece contains “A Modest Proposal” as well, but it is not intended to be satirical. I am for the record dead serious.

The golf industry is wringing its hands, trying to find a way to bring new players into the game, while at the same time keeping those that are in the game from leaving. They have initiated any number of programs designed for this purpose. How successful have they been? I would venture that they have barely moved the needle.

Barriers to the game

What we do know is that today there are three major barriers that confront the industry. They are first, the time required to play the game; second the costs associated with playing the game; and third the difficulty of the game.

There are among those adults that start the game, three distinct different groups:

  1. Those who would like to start playing golf but for any number of reasons decided not to take up the game.
  2. Those who once played more frequently but have reduced the number of rounds that they play.
  3. Those who started to play the game but then after a short period decided to leave it.

Those who leave the game

Those in the golf industry, the hand-wringers, have developed any number of programs to bring new players to the game. I would ask the question, “What is the point, when almost an equal number of players that start playing the game each year, decide to give it up within a span of a few months.

Does it make any sense to continue to put water into a bucket when there is a hole in the bottom? Of course not, but that is effectively what is being done. The first question to be ask, why do these new players quit the playing after a short time? In my opinion, the number No. 1 reason is the method of scoring being used.

Were an exit poll to be conducted asking these people why they quit playing, I seriously doubt they would answer truthfully. Who would want to admit that they were discouraged by their inability to succeed at any endeavor? The two answers that would be given the most often would be 1) that golf is too expensive to play; or 2) that they simply didn’t have time.  In this case both answers serve to preserve the individual’s dignity. And who could blame them?

The concept of par

Why did these individuals find the game difficult? The short answer is that while golf is a hard game to learn, there  is a more compelling reason.  I would venture, that the underlying reason they quit the game is that it ceased to be fun because of how they viewed their performance. And for one central reason… the concept of par. The idea that an amateur golfer, especially a beginner, should measure their level of success against an imaginary set of numbers that represents what an expert player would score on each hole is on the surface ridiculous.

You might imagine a beginning player scoring an eight on a par-four hole after hitting six good shots and then two putting for an eight. In the context of their ability, they should be ecstatic — but of course they are not (because as their playing partner reminds them) they were four-over par on that hole. The time has come for Old Man Par to retire. And retire permanently. He is killing the game.

Perceived failure

In another scenario, the beginning player scores sixty for nine holes, which is an excellent score given the short amount of time they might have spent playing the game. And yet their nine-hole score was 24-over par. How would that make you feel? Would you be encouraged or discouraged? You might imagine yourself back in school and regardless of the amount of work that you put into a given class you always receive an “F.” At some point, would you give up?

Why should every golfer be judged by the same standard when there is such inequality in their ability? The equivalent would be placing a high school freshman in a graduate-level college course, expecting that they could perform at the same level as the other graduate students. The disparity in knowledge, based on age and experience, is precisely the reason why there are different grades in school. The same disparity exists among golfers. In this case, the difference being the ability to perform on the golf course as opposed to the classroom.

What about the second group of players that now plays less than they did in the past? Could it be that they are no longer having fun playing the game?And then there is the third group, those that consider playing the game but abandon it for another sport. Could it be that they are intimidated by the scoring system, knowing that as a beginner par is an absolute impossibility?

Old man par 

The legendary Bobby Jones was the first to coin, perhaps with the help of his friend O.B. Keillor, the phrase “Old Man Par.” Jones was, of course, the greatest amateur to have ever played the game. He won the Grand Slam in 1930, retiring then at the age of 28.

The time has come to retire “Old Man Par” and devise a new system for measuring a golfer’s progress in the game. I know that those in the USGA. would reject the concept immediately for fear of, and here is a $10 word used primarily by attorneys, “bifurcate” the game. What that word essentially means in this context in having more than one standard. The USGA is responsible for preserving the nature of the game, but at the same time it should be equally concerned with preserving the future of the game.

Personal par

What I would suggest is a system based on the principle of what might be termed “personal par.” This was essentially the system that was used to groom a young Tiger Woods. As a young child, he was not capable of reaching the longer holes in regulation, making par a virtual impossibility. Consequently, his coach wisely devised a system in which par was adjusted upward based on his ability at a given point in time. This served to keep the young child feeling good about his performance and subsequent progress.

This is the type of system that needs to be devised for the health of the game. The system would begin at a nine-hole level using a par of thirty-six as a basis. The actual numbers are not as important as the basic concept. There would be within the nine-hole and the eighteen-hole groups five different levels as follows with assigned par for each hole and eighteen holes roughly equal with the player’s ability.

As players improved, they would graduate from one level to another based on their total score. The handicap system would work in similar fashion as it does now with a single modification. The strokes give from one player to another would depend on the level in which they fall and the par assigned to that level.

The personal par handicap system would not be as exacting as it is presently used, but it would be sufficient to allow players to be reasonable competitive without any significant sacrifice. There would then be two scoring systems then, allowing players to choose which one they wanted to use. Or a recommendation might be given that until they reach a given scoring threshold that they use the personal par scoring system.

There would, of course, be the usual concern with something new being injected into the system, but the proposed change would be no greater than when the system of equitable scoring was introduced or when courses were first assigned a course rating number.

A few years ago, when life-long teacher and educator Dr. Gary Wiren was inducted into the Golf Teacher’s Hall of Fame, he wanted to pass along a single piece of advice to those teachers in the room. “Gentleman,” he started and then paused for emphasis. “We must find a way to make the game more fun for our students.”

I’m in full agreement with Dr. Wiren. The question is, “What is the best way to accomplish that goal?” I believe that that the first step in that direction is to change the scoring system so that golfers experience more satisfaction and accomplishment. That is what makes learning fun.

And so, I would have you consider “The Modest Proposal” that I have put forward. And rather than attempting to find reasons why a revised scoring system couldn’t never work, for the benefit of the game, look for the same number of reason why it could work. The time has come for Old Man Par, as we know him, to retire. He has served us well, but he has become an anarchism. He is as obsolete as the horse and buggy. Let’s hand him his gold watch and let him enjoy his golden years in peace.

And at the same time, let’s welcome the “new kid on the block” who will pave the way for the next generation of golfers pioneering a scoring system that promises to make the game more “fun.”

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TG2: What’s the most annoying breach of golf etiquette?



What’s the one breach of golf etiquette that gets under your skin more than anything else? Equipment expert Brian Knudson and GolfWRX Editor Andrew Tursky discuss what drives them crazy. Also, Knudson talks about his first round with new irons and a new shaft in his driver.

Follow @tg2wrx on Instagram to enter the Bettinardi inovai 5.0 center-shaft putter giveaway.

Listen to the full podcast below on SoundCloud, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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19th Hole