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Is it legal to take a “breakfast ball” on the first tee? Here’s what the Rules of Golf say

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A mulligan is allowed at the first hole. That is a fact…at least according to a participant at a recent rules evening I conducted. Let me tell you what happened, because, shockingly, he might be right.

As always, I explained to the participants what a mulligan is. I have done this for many years, and it is probably the one “rule” most people tend to know. This is surprising, since it is the only rule we talk about that is not found in the rule book!

When I told the participants that evening that a mulligan is never allowed, a person raised his hand. I think there were around 100 of us. He told me very calmly about a recent episode he was involved in.

Person: “Brian, that was not what I did.”

Me: “What do you mean?”

Person: “I did not take a free ‘reload.”‘

Me (with a smile): “OK. So then what did you do?”

Person: “Brian this is what happened. Listen carefully. I played a very poor shot from the teeing ground on the first tee. It made me really sad. I therefore decided to stop the round. I didn’t want to play anymore. But you know what? 10 seconds later I realized I wanted to play again! I love golf! So therefore I placed a ball on a tee, and I started a new round of golf . I then played my first stroke in that new round of golf. Therefore, it was not a mulligan, rather it was a completely new round of golf!”

How would you answer this person? Any idea? Well let me tell you what my answer was:

“Well…ehh…you cannot…I mean…it is not fair…eeeeh…if you really want to play…eeh…“

Not really a great answer! Of course, I desperately began to read the rules book to find out what it says about when you are allowed to stop a round. But it does not say. So, as far as I’ve seen in the rules book, there is no answer.

The only help seems to be in Rule 1-4, that states

“If any point a dispute is not covered by the Rules, the decision should be made in accordance with equity”.

Well that does not give you much help. Maybe you could argue, that under Rule 1-4 it would be most fair, that — in the situation mentioned above — the player was playing under stroke and distance, and therefore was playing his third stroke from the teeing ground.

But I don’t know for sure.

What do you think?

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I am founder of "The Oswald Academy", which has only one purpose: To teach in the Rules of Golf. My hope is to make the Rules of Golf interesting and easy to understand. I am publishing Rules Books, conducting seminars, letterboxes, writing blogs, publishing "The Oswald Rules School" (videos) and much more. I live in New York, but I was born in Denmark. I am a former lawyer, and have two kids - and one wife.

58 Comments

58 Comments

  1. mark

    Oct 15, 2018 at 3:24 pm

    A Mulligan is only an issue if you are competing for score or plaing for money. A Mulligan is a free stroke. I am not inclined to play a Mulligan, but I don’t begrudge a playing partner or opponent his, as long as he is willing to give me one in my pocket. So the way I prefer to play is: 4 players hit their balls off the first tee. Anyone can take a first tee Mulligan, but if anyone takes a Mulligan, everyone who doesn’t take a Mulligan on the first tee has one in his pocket, which can be used anytime during the round, but only on a tee box. If no one takes a Mulligan on the first tee box, then that ends use of Mulligans by anyone. On the other hand, if we are not competing or betting, then you can re-hit whenever you want, take gimmes or re-putt whenever you want and card any score you want, as long as you aren’t slowing anyone down.

  2. pete

    Oct 1, 2018 at 7:13 pm

    I can see the logic of taking a mulligan on the first hole. For most of us, we show up to the course 10 minutes before a tee time, barely have a chance to get loose, before they announce us to be on the tee 5 minutes early. Theres a reason why professionals spend 30 minutes on the range before they tee off. Not that I’m in any way comparing myself to a professional golfer, but it is very unfair to ones body to walk up to the first tee, without first having eased into your full swing during a warmup and expect to pipe one down the middle without either a. injuring yourself, or b. hitting a very poor shot. And for many of us, the first tee jitters are too much to overcome and we need to get that awful shot out of the way before we can relax. I havent taken a mulligan since I was a kid, but I can see why people do it. If I didn’t have another group waiting behind me, I would consider it, on the first tee only.

  3. brett

    Sep 29, 2018 at 2:49 pm

    Men love golf….. women hate men….

  4. Shep

    Sep 24, 2018 at 4:55 pm

    Why is the value of a tee shot on the first hole different than any other hole? Either take a mulligan on any hole or don’t take one at all. Personally, I don’t like mulligans. It’s no different than getting an extra strike in baseball or an extra shot in basketball. I’m not sure why a bad shot on the first hole warrants a redo but not other holes. Just play golf. It’s fun regardless of whether you hit a good shot on the first tee.

  5. Jalan

    Sep 21, 2018 at 11:07 pm

    I think that is one of the dumbest comments I’ve heard in golf. What happens if he doesn’t like the first shot on the second round? Quit and start a new round? Keep quitting and starting new rounds ’til he hits one he likes?

    What if he happens to hit another bad shot on the 2nd tee? Quit and go back to the first tee to start over. We’ll be here all day. Any civilized club would kill this idiot.

  6. Lovejoy

    Sep 20, 2018 at 10:59 am

    How can you teach golf rules when you display such shameful ignorance?

  7. Paul

    Sep 19, 2018 at 11:45 pm

    No range practice before? Yep, don’t care, hitting two shots.

  8. Stixman

    Sep 19, 2018 at 5:18 am

    Do you expect influence to operate from the public upwards, or from the ‘leadership’ downwards? The Rules of Golf should operate from the Players upwards and the Leadership should be reflecting what is acceptable and expected by the majority.
    What seems to be coming out of America generally is just this. The Public morality isn’t what it was and this is reflected in golf leadership and elsewhere. Shame, but ‘it is what it is’.

  9. ChipNRun

    Sep 17, 2018 at 8:10 pm

    Strange occurrence.

    My group was playing a course with a difficult, watery Par 5 for the first hole.It was a semi-crowded Friday morning. I popped up a high, sub-200 yard drive that hit the center of the fairway. Partner 1 found the first cut of rough in the open. Two other guys, however, found trouble. Partner 2 sliced a ball deep into the treeline, and Partner 3 hit a low pull into the bullrushes near the water hazard.

    The starter jumped up and said, “You and you, hit again no penalty. And doan’ even look for those first shots… You need to get movin'”.

    Does golf have a special rule on Mulligans Against Your Will? Just wondering.

    • James

      Sep 18, 2018 at 5:06 pm

      Funny. I just know those guys looked for their balls. Did you see if they followed the starter’s advice?

      • ChipNRun

        Sep 19, 2018 at 5:02 pm

        Sorry. I was so happy to be in the fairway I didn’t notice.

  10. A. Commoner

    Sep 17, 2018 at 2:19 pm

    Legal? Are we in a court room?

    • James

      Sep 17, 2018 at 5:30 pm

      I can see this issue going before the Supreme Court. But what do they know? None of them play golf.

  11. Halu

    Sep 12, 2018 at 12:19 pm

    If you have some sort of match/stroke play game with your buddies it’s fine as long as it is discussed prior to the 1st person to tee off.

    At the end of the day…. “Johnny Short Ball” is still going to tee-up another ball on the 1st tee just because he ‘usually doesn’t do that’. If you’re out there to have fun and have a few pops, do whatever you want to do… just don’t hold me up.

  12. Arthy

    Sep 10, 2018 at 5:23 am

    Doesn’t meet the conditions of Rule 6.8.

  13. Mike

    Sep 9, 2018 at 6:24 pm

    As long as you don’t hold me up at all (& I’m serious…at all), I don’t care if you redo that 3 footer you missed. Or that drive in the woods. But please…enter your score w/ ALL the “muilligans / retries”. I’m a 16 index, & there’s NOTHING I love more than playing a $ match getting strokes from a 10 index who really a 16 (like me).

    However, the cool thing about golf is that among your buds you can adjust the rules any way you see fit. In my league there’s no OB (stroke & distance) but everyone plays by that same rule. But in our annual course championship, all USGA rules are applied & everything is putted out. That’s the beauty of the game, the flexibility.

  14. Travis

    Sep 9, 2018 at 2:41 pm

    Who cares? All these people talking about going in and paying for another round… seriously? You people are in no way shape or form anyone I would want to play with. I bet you’d make him putt out that 6-inch putt too, right?

    It’s golf, it’s a GAME, none of us will every be Touring Professionals. Take a breakfast ball, I don’t care, just have fun and enjoy. As long as you’re keeping up with the pace of play then just enjoy yourself.

    People need to get their sticks out of their a**.

    • Tiger Noods

      Sep 10, 2018 at 3:23 am

      You’re missing the point. No one cares if they take a breakfast ball. It’s the idea that it’s somehow ok’d in the rulebook that’s asinine.

  15. Pete McGill

    Sep 7, 2018 at 1:18 am

    You want to start a new round? No worries. Just wait until the rest of finish this round…

    • Benny

      Sep 29, 2018 at 11:18 am

      Hahahahaha, awesome!
      Oh and BTW pay ip to for losing that first round…
      Now how about a press?

  16. Dave r

    Sep 6, 2018 at 8:55 pm

    Whole lot of nothing about nothing.

  17. DIG

    Sep 6, 2018 at 12:04 pm

    Practice on the course before the game is allowed in match-play, so the first drive could be called a practice shot, and the mulligan the first shot of the match. No practice during the round of course. So only applicable on the first tee. And this would not apply in stroke play.
    Just a thought.

    • JP

      Sep 6, 2018 at 2:34 pm

      Shouldn’t it be announced prior to hitting the ball if it’s going to be a practice shot?

      If not, you can end your round, that’s fine. Go pay for your next round and get the next available tee time. And hopefully, it’s not with my group.

    • Nigel Kent

      Sep 6, 2018 at 2:57 pm

      In Matchplay , a poor tee-shot towards trouble ( water or O/B )can either be allowed to stand , or cancelled . Both by the opponent , not the player who hit the shot .

  18. Darrin

    Sep 6, 2018 at 10:44 am

    Playing with buddies. No warm up at range prior to round. We all look at each other on first tee. Low ball/low total? Sure. Indiviual games? Skins? sure/yes. Greenies, sandys? Yep.. Two off of #1. Yep. Is that a new driver? yeah it’s awesome. Did your wife pick out those shorts? “F” you.

    Good luck.

  19. CG

    Sep 5, 2018 at 6:39 am

    I’m sure this has nothing to do with a golf tournament using the official rules of golf to govern play so, this is much ado about nothing. All groups agree to their own set of rules.

  20. Julio da Cal

    Sep 5, 2018 at 4:19 am

    I didnt read all coments but here is mine.

    I would accept that… if he would pay another fee.

    • JP

      Sep 6, 2018 at 2:37 pm

      And go back to the pro shop and get the next available tee time.

      • kevin

        Sep 10, 2018 at 3:38 pm

        so if the tee sheet is open and you are playing at the club where you are a member….

        the entire point of the article is to point out the rules don’t specify how to handle this situation for handicap reporting purposes.

    • namthanh

      Sep 12, 2018 at 2:52 am

      Well, this might be one of those clubs that does not fit for everyone, I might be lucky enough to be in the general targeted audience. Although it may not be the greatest club, but it’s not too bad either.

  21. CJ

    Sep 5, 2018 at 12:55 am

    Abandon the round after one shot? Sure, just pay off the Nasau then start the next round, same wager.

  22. MF

    Sep 5, 2018 at 12:26 am

    If you are going to use the 1st tee as your warm up then make sure you announce whether or not the next shot will count or not before you hit it. You don’t get to hit the shot and then decide. If you want to make up excuses to cheat then you are only hurting yourself. You might sound like a better golfer but you’re not and everyone knows it.

  23. Tommy

    Sep 4, 2018 at 11:30 pm

    This is really great news for me!

  24. Law Prof

    Sep 4, 2018 at 9:31 pm

    I have a friend who’s a former D1 tennis player and still competes in pro-ams, he has a rule he calls “First one in” for tennis; that is, the first service at the start of the game, the server gets to keep trying until he/she gets the ball in, then play has begun. While it may not technically be legal in golf, I think that’s a great rule–multiple mulligans on the first tee until you get one you like, then the round commences. That seems in keeping with “equity” in Rule 1-4, taking into consideration you’re usually going cold off the first tee. And for those prigs who say “Well that’s what driving ranges are for, warm up there!”, I say, for those of us who have families and jobs and wives who start looking mighty hard at you for taking time off to play even 9 holes in the first place, you can stick that driving range in your ear, I don’t have time .

    • Iain Laing

      Sep 5, 2018 at 2:33 am

      That really is going to speed up play,,, for goodness sake imagine the backlog

      • Harry

        Sep 6, 2018 at 3:22 pm

        How many shots are we talking about? One? Or all of them? No difference in time than hitting a provisional. If the group agrees then who cares?

  25. John

    Sep 4, 2018 at 8:56 pm

    If he didn’t leave the course then can’t see how he can stop his round on the first tee…..then restart it again.
    (By his standards, he could stop his round after every bad shot, then restart a new round…) I.e. 2 or 20 rounds into one…
    What then is the definition of stopping and/or leaving a course..?
    The plot thickens ..

    • Joe

      Sep 6, 2018 at 1:16 pm

      Just playing the other side. But if you “quit” on say hole 6 then to restart you would need to go back and start at the first tee. So by this “ruling” it really only works on the first tee ball. As stated above from others I’m fine with it if you pay off any bets from the first match you just forfeited.

  26. Paul

    Sep 4, 2018 at 8:33 pm

    I always say “2 off the 1st.” As has been mentioned, most of the time I show up with zero time to spare before the tee time. Therefore I can’t hit balls on the range, and many of the courses I play don’t even have a range (small munis). So if your first tee shot sucks, tee it up and go again. I don’t play for $, just for fun.

  27. nyguy

    Sep 4, 2018 at 7:00 pm

    unless your playing a tournament, who cares… you probably just showed up with no range time, or days of playing the course. I’d like to see pros or anyone playing a tournament, show up and have there first swing be at the 1 tee box…

    • Nihonsei

      Sep 6, 2018 at 11:46 am

      John Daly has often, according to legend…straight from the bar to the first tee!

  28. Al

    Sep 4, 2018 at 4:12 pm

    Dont put money on the outcome, and then who cares, give putts fron 3 feet give mulligans, move balls from under trees bushes, shrubs, etc. however, put money, something, on the outcome,and that all changes. If you quit after your 1st bad tee shot you lose the round and pay up. You can still play, but dont expect to win, when you quit earlier.

  29. Malcolm MacLaren

    Sep 4, 2018 at 3:57 pm

    As long as you declare the first ball a “breakfast ball” prior to hitting it. If not, your second off the tee should be your second shot provided the first ball didn’t go out of bounds. This should only apply to the first tee though and not later in the round.

  30. Iutodd

    Sep 4, 2018 at 3:39 pm

    If there is no range for a proper warmup I don’t see what the big deal is as long as it’s agreed upon by your group and you don’t make a big deal out of it or take a long time.

    Also if there is no warmup – club down and move up a tee on the first one.

  31. jt

    Sep 4, 2018 at 3:34 pm

    There are times I’d like to play a “Lunch ball” and a “Dinner ball”. Anyone up for a “Dessert ball”?

    • od

      Sep 4, 2018 at 7:42 pm

      No but I’d be up for a highball!

      • Benny

        Sep 29, 2018 at 11:26 am

        I ised to be up for an 8 ball…. then most times another after a long night…. but those days are well behind me. Lets play golf!

  32. Rich

    Sep 4, 2018 at 1:22 pm

    It’s a very unsportsmanlike move. 1-4 should cover it, along with “The Spirit of the Game” in the Etiquette section.

  33. Matt

    Sep 4, 2018 at 1:16 pm

    So did the guy go and pay another greens fee?

  34. JT

    Sep 4, 2018 at 12:39 pm

    Yeah, I once saw Phil Mickelson take a breakfast ball on the first hole at Pebble Beach.

  35. TwoLegsMcManus

    Sep 4, 2018 at 12:03 pm

    I believe the PGA Tour has a condition of competition that a player can’t play a round of golf on the same day as a competition round. (Not positive, but I think I read that somewhere).

    If any competition had that rule, the first hole mulligan / abandoned round would be easily ruled upon.

    Aside from competition, first-hole mulligans are understandable. We presume competitors visit the range before a round. With busy schedules, we can’t always do that before recreational rounds and hit the first tee cold – often after a long drive in traffic…

  36. Acemandrake

    Sep 4, 2018 at 12:01 pm

    “Spirit of the game”, anyone? Or how about “intent”?

    “If it feels like cheating then it probably is”?

    • Relaxalittle

      Sep 12, 2018 at 10:53 am

      “Maybe not everyone plays strict to the rules because in the end it doesn’t really matter”
      “Spend more time playing golf and less time dictating how others should play golf”

      • SelahVi

        Sep 12, 2018 at 7:08 pm

        He is answering a question about the rules. If someone doesn’t care what the rules say about this scenario, I am not sure why they would care about the contents of this article or the comments.

  37. JS

    Sep 4, 2018 at 12:00 pm

    I think your participant should read the rules again:

    2-1. General
    A match consists of one side playing against another over a stipulated
    round unless otherwise decreed by the Committee.

    3-1. General; Winner
    A stroke-play competition consists of competitors completing each
    hole of a stipulated round or rounds and, for each round, returning
    a score card on which there is a gross score for each hole. Each
    competitor is playing against every other competitor in the competition.

    Stipulated Round
    The “stipulated round’’ consists of playing the holes of the course in their
    correct sequence, unless otherwise authorized by the Committee. The
    number of holes in a stipulated round is 18 unless a smaller number is
    authorized by the Committee. As to extension of stipulated round in match
    play, see Rule 2-3.

    33-1. Conditions; Waiving Rule
    The Committee must establish the conditions under which a
    competition is to be played.
    The Committee has no power to waive a Rule of Golf.
    The number of holes of a stipulated round must not be reduced once
    play has commenced for that round.

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Opinion & Analysis

The endangered state of Scottish golf

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Florida. May 1993. That is the moment I really got into golf. Sure, like most youngsters of that time, I’d had my dad’s old clubs, shafts cut down with insulating tape acting as the grip, and I belted balls around the back garden with no thought of what I was doing. But that family vacation really made it sink in how good this game is. Round-the-clock coverage on cable, golf shops everywhere, and sunshine–what more can you ask for?

My parents bought me my first set of clubs, we had a couple of trips to the range, a quick nine holes, and a lifelong golfer was born. So why did it take a trip to the United States for a nine-year-old from the home of golf, from the relative golfing mecca of Ayrshire, to take notice of this great sport?

It wasn’t as if it wasn’t booming in the UK at that time. Troon and Turnberry, 15 minutes in either direction, had hosted the Open within five years of each other around that time. Englishman Nick Faldo had won 2 Open Championships in ‘90 and ‘92. He successfully defended the Masters in 1990–Ian Woosnam from Wales succeeded him. And more importantly a Scot, Sandy Lyle, had collected his second major in just three years at Augusta in 1988–after becoming the first Scot since the 1920s to win the Open in 1985.  Golf in the UK was in a great place, and Scotland had its fair share of success at the time with Torrance and Montgomerie joining Lyle at golf’s top table.

If it took that family intervention for me during that period of golfing supremacy, what hope do the children of today have 25 years on?

I imagine the vast majority that play the game took it up in similar fashion to myself. A push from a playing family member or close friend. Different circumstances or timing perhaps, but similar nonetheless. Some will have looked at Montgomerie, Lyle et al and have taken inspiration from them.

So with participation numbers dwindling and clubs struggling, are the kids now having less influence from within the family to take up the game? Is the drop in adult participation affecting the influx from the juniors? That’s worrying, as it’s never been easier, or more affordable (relatively speaking) to get into a golf club. 25 years ago there was waiting lists and huge joining fees. Not now. You can pretty much join up anywhere with little or no joining fee. This trend looks like continuing with the variety of alternatives out there – with little or no encouragement, what incentive is there for a junior to go out in the wind and rain to learn a game that it is deemed expensive and time consuming, and one that takes years to learn when you know you’ll never master it?

Hopefully some of Scotland’s youngsters could take inspiration from the Scots at the elite level of the game – but who exactly would that be? At the time of writing there is ONE Scot in the top 100 of the official golf world rankings. Russell Knox at 59. The next best placed is Martin Laird who isn’t even in the top 150 at present. Both of these guys are based in the US but their skills were honed in Inverness and Glasgow respectively. In the cold and wet. Like the Lyle’s, Torrance’s and Montgomerie’s before them. We invented this game and that is what we have to show for it?

Can you imagine the outcry if the United States stopped producing football players, the Canadians gave up on their ice hockey, or heaven forbid, the All Blacks became an also ran in the Rugby world? So why do we accept it?

Our best golfing achievement of recent times was Paul Lawrie’s Open Championship at Carnoustie in 1999–recent being 19 years ago–an indication of how far we have fallen. In the period between then and now, only two Scots have even made a top 10 in a major–Montgomerie on three occasions and Alastair Forsyth in the 2008 PGA. Four top 10s in 53 events since Lawrie’s success. Majors are hard. Only a select few can win one, or even contend in one, but four in 53 is poor when countries such as Sweden, Germany, New Zealand, Canada and Fiji–none of which have the history and tradition in the game as Scotland–have produced winners. Take nothing away from those guys, but we must produce more players with better quality to compete again at that level.

We haven’t even fared well as a nation in regular events on the European or PGA Tours in that time. Only 13 players since Carnoustie ‘99 have even been in the winner’s circle, combining for 34 wins in total over the two main tours – Montgomerie claiming a third of those himself. 34 wins in 1,686 events (including co-sanctioned events) since Lawrie lifted the Claret Jug.

The home of golf, the country that has given this wonderful sport to the world has combined to win one in every 50 events, or worse, just two percent of the tournaments played on the two main tours. To further highlight the issue, Only Montgomerie since Lyle has reached the OWGR top 10, peaking at No. 2. Russell Knox is the only other to even breach the top 20, briefly hitting 18th.

Kudos to all of these guys who have got the job done. They’ve achieved what we all dream of. But we need to do more. We have a duty to do more. So how do we achieve that?

We hosted the first ever Open Championship at Prestwick Golf Club and we currently have five of the ten Open Championship courses on the rota. We have staged two of the best Open Championships in recent memory in our country–the Tom Watson story, albeit without the fairytale ending in 2009 and the epic Stenson/Mickelson duel at Troon in 2016. Between them, we’ve hosted a successful Ryder Cup and despite all the buzz around these events, our participation levels haven’t dramatically risen.

That’s the first step–getting more people, primarily juniors, started in the game. Golf is the most frustrating game in the world. Can you imagine trying to start playing now, as an adult? How much more frustrated you would be if you were picking up a club for the first time? The vast majority of people, myself included, would give up not long after starting. As a kid you don’t. It’s enjoyable, you’re more patient and you’re playing with kids of similar ages and skill sets. By the time that youngster develops into a teenager or a young adult, they know the basics, they can understand the game and all its quirks, and they can get round the course with their friends. Simple when you put it like that. How does it work in practice?

Every child in primary school should have free access to golf. It’s that easy. We invented a game which has developed into a multi-billion dollar industry, why can’t we find ways to encourage our own to have the chance to play? Why are we not immensely proud of what we have given to the world? And why as a nation are we not embarrassed about our lack of success at the top in recent times?

According to the Scottish Government, there are 2,056 primary schools in the country, teaching 377,382 kids. Every single one of them should have the chance to play. Many will simply not like it–that’s not surprising, but as the saying goes, you won’t know until you try it. So if even one percent of them continue in the game, that’s nearly 4,000 extra participants. It can be included as part of the curriculum, used as an after school or holiday club negating or at least reducing the childcare commitments and at the very least it keeps kids active–aren’t we always hearing about our obesity and health problems? As they progress, secondary school golf can become a fixture the way soccer or rugby are, local and national competitions can become the norm as it is in other countries. Why can’t we even go even further and include university courses within the golf industry, the way Burnley Football Club are doing within the soccer industry. After all, there is more to golf than teeing it up.

Practically, it needs buy in from the key bodies. Scottish Golf are and should be key. They have appointed a new CEO this year in Andrew McKinlay. Unfortunately their achievements have been tarnished due to previous appointments, and Andrew’s past in the Scottish Football Association will not do much to raise optimism with the average Scottish golf enthusiast. While not trying to decry the new man before he’s finished his first year in office, appointing another executive, rather than someone with imagination and innovation seems counterproductive to the goals we should look to achieve.

There must be enough “executives” within the organization (and generally across the golfing industry in all national programs) to cover executive roles and allow the opportunity for someone younger with fresh, achievable goals in driving forward ideas from the golfing majority which benefit the golfing majority–not the elite level few. Regardless who that person is, engagement should be sought with the Local and National Government on how to best promote it. Local governments should be included to represent their schools, as should great programmes such as Clubgolf who do so much good work with youngsters in Scotland.

A prevalent media marketing campaign wouldn’t go a miss either, perhaps some endorsements and appraisals from the countries golfing legends would help make some noise. At least engage those professionals who’ve risen to the top of the game and seek advice on how to begin addressing the issue. Colin Montgomery and Paul Lawrie in particular have raised this exact issue recently in the media. These guys have traveled the world, competed against and beaten the best of the best and have seen how developing markets, particularly in Asia, are growing the game. It would be foolish not to tap into their experiences.

As with everything, it comes down to who pays the bills. Supply of equipment and facilities would be the main issue. UK Sport is committed to spending £340 million plus ahead of the Olympics in Tokyo. This includes £10 million for Taekwondo, £15 million for equestrian and £84 million on rowing, sailing and canoeing combined – can anyone name more than two participants in each discipline? If Team GB comes back with a similar medal haul (67) than those won in Rio–which included Justin Rose’s golfing gold–that works out as around £5 million per medal. Staggering. Add in the £30m for this years’ Winter Olympics where Team GB won five medals: £6m per medal. What’s the legacy for the outlay here? There aren’t thousands lining up around the local swimming pools or the nearest ski slope.

London 2012 is enough evidence that the effect is short term and for the elite few. This money is earmarked for Olympic sports, that’s fine, but surely a discussion should be had with how this pot of money, dedicated for sport in the whole of the UK, is better spent amongst those who’ve helped raise it? Scottish Government spending on sport this year is increasing to £30m–or to put it into perspective, the equivalent of an Olympic rowing budget. Increased participation and being active should be the key goals in all sport funded schemes, not paying for a handful of elite athletes to bring home a couple of medals.

Taxes imposed on manufacturers selling products on these shores could be ring-fenced to return to the grass roots of the game, and advertising is always a way of adding revenue to the pot. Local and national club makers could be approached to look at ways to introduce to this gap in the market–it can’t hurt these small businesses get a foothold in a market that they will never conquer against the major brands. And it can’t hurt the major brands to be involved in promoting and sponsoring these schemes – it’s small potato for the biggest brands in the world. Think of the visitors alone who flock to Scotland to play and the advertising for these brands would more than pay for any outlay to provide equipment for juniors. Sponsorship of the scheme from a number of sources can be investigated. There are huge companies all over the country sponsoring events and individuals. Approach some of these to see if they wish to be involved in a national scheme – the worst they can say is no. And think how many sets of clubs are lying around the country in garages, closets, lockers and the like: a donation scheme could be investigated.

The benefits are endless. Fitter, more engaged pupils–this goes someway to addressing the health problem we keep hearing of in this country. Kids from a more deprived background have an opportunity to play a game they may never have had previously. And lifelong friendships are formed on the course. It can even be argued that discipline and focus for some children that golf provides is exactly the outlet they need. Additional jobs will be created as a result. Teachers, greenskeepers, course marshals, catering staff–that’s just the start. Approach teaching pros or assistant pros looking to gain some teaching experience–these pupils may be their future. Driving ranges and municipal courses up and down the country are quiet for large periods of the day–make them available for school use, even just for a few hours and you may just have increased your future customer base. It’s not like many of the council run courses (or even private clubs) are thriving at the minute so what is there to lose? Clever marketing, which has started in a few courses, increases interest–free adult with a child, two season tickets for the price of one, there’s plenty that can be done. Again, this isn’t a scheme that can be limited to Scotland–participation around the vast majority of the world needs addressed.

And for children wishing to progress beyond the school programs: give them incentives to make it affordable. If we don’t, some of the good work this scheme could bring will be undone, and these kids will be lost to the game forever. There is a real opportunity here to make a difference, and while all the answers aren’t immediately available, the right people with right attitude will soon come up with them. What a legacy that could be to our game.

We are already at a watershed moment for Scottish golf, with decreasing numbers, clubs closing or fighting for their existence, and elite level Scottish golfers at a premium. Where will be in another 10 years time? Other countries, are thriving off the back of our game; it’s time we at least tried catch up–before it’s forgotten where golf came from.

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Opinion & Analysis

Don’t know the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics? Here’s why you should

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Let’s start with a little college golf quiz: Name the college golfer who, in 2017, won the Nicklaus Award, played a PGA Tour event, won five times and earned a spot on the Palmer Cup? Hint: it’s not Braden Thornberry, Justin Suh or Norman Xiong. The answer is Dalton State’s outstanding freshman S.M. Lee (pictured in the featured image).

For many reading this article, you may be confused. Who’s S.M. Lee and even more importantly, where is Dalton State? If that’s your reaction, great! This article is written to help introduce you to the emerging world of National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics,  golfers, including players like S.M. Lee, and schools, like Oklahoma City, Texas Wesleyan, Coastal Georgia, Wayland Baptist, Marymount University (California), Keiser University, University of South Carolina Beaufort, Ottawa University Arizona and Dalton State.

Oklahoma City University

When discussing NAIA golf, it is important to note the success of one person: Kyle Blaser. Blaser, the coach of the 2018 NAIA National Champion Oklahoma City University Stars, is a 21-year veteran of the NAIA. During his career, he has won 11 national championships, 11 regional championships, 19 conference championships, and 107 tournament titles.

However, maybe the most important contribution Blaser has made is setting a high bar for other coaches — this year, his team shot net under par for three of nine events including 9 under at the national championship, a team low round of 263, and a team individual scoring average of 71.64 per player or 286.5 per team round.

The standard set by Blaser has resulted in a fiercely competitive group of teams. According to GolfStat, seven teams in the NAIA finished the season with team scoring averages of 73 or better. According to my data, this would put them among approximately the top 60 teams in Division I Golf. This is demonstrated by several schools including Keiser University and Dalton State. Overall, in 2018 Keiser had a 16-3 record vs. NCAA DI teams and 18-3 record vs. NCAA DII. Similarly, when Dalton State had the opportunity to compete in the prestigious Carpet Capital hosted by Georgia Tech in the fall, they finished 12th out of 15 teams, beating Virginia, UT-Chattanooga, and Troy.

NAIA golf is also starting to attract younger, professional coaches. Recently, Johnson and Wales University hired Danny Randolph to lead their men’s team. Randolph’s resume includes time in the Big 12 at Texas Christian University, as well as two team national championships during his time at Lynn University. Randolph follows in the footsteps of individuals like Ben Rickett, who left University of Tennessee Chattanooga to start Dalton State after helping Steven Fox win the 2012 U.S. Amateur at Cherry Hills on the 37th hole.

Danny Randolph, the head coach at Johnson and Wales, came to the program from Lynn University where his team won back to back NCAA Division II titles. According to Randolph,

“I grew up in the NAIA, first watching and then playing at Bethel College. There are very good athletes and programs at the NAIA level in all sports but especially golf. Many teams travel the country competing on tour level golf courses against very good competition, often NCAA DI and DII schools. Universities invest time and resources, so the student-athletes have a tremendous college experience.”

The players

In 2017, the NAIA also featured 13 players in Golfstat Cup, each with an adjusted stroke average below par. The highest player ranked is S.M. Lee of Dalton State at six. He is also No. 103 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings, a two-time Nickulas Award Winner who played in the 2017 Barbasol Championship and will represented the United States in the 2018 Palmer Cup.

Another player of note is Rowan Lester of Texas Wesleyan. A review I did after the fall semester demonstrated his tournament handicap to be +4.5. Pretty impressive, however the NAIA has a tradition of attracting talented players: Jim Renner and Tyrone Van Aswegen are a couple examples of individuals who used NAIA golf as a path to the PGA Tour.

Like teams from other divisions, NAIA coaches spend countless hours searching out the world’s best talent. As a result, a review of rosters demonstrated that many teams have both significant diversity and skill. For example, Keiser University features players from eight countries and seven states and have inked No. 197 on NJGS, Kritchayapol Sinchai and four other players with WAGR rankings for 2018.

According to Keiser Coach Brandon Miller, “the NAIA has been getting stronger and deeper every year. The talent pool of players in our fields and the depth of school’s with talented players are impressive. We are at the point where our NAIA tournaments are deeper and more competitive than the mid-major NCAA D1 events we play. I think many NAIA school’s can offer the same if not more to the student-athlete’s development as a golfer, student, and person in terms of facilities, tournament schedule, academics, and support. NAIA golf is on the rise; it’s exciting to see where we’ll be in a few years.”

The facilities

Beyond the quality of the play, maybe the most impressive (and overlooked) aspect of NAIA golf is the quality facilities. For example, Keiser University has an on-campus practice facility, as well as access to PGA National, host of the Honda Classic. Likewise, according to Ben Rickett, the head men’s coach Dalton State,

“We have access to so many good golf courses that allows us to draw some quality golfers to the school including The Farm and Dalton Golf and Country Club. We also have The Honors Course (2010 NCAA venue), Barnsley Gardens and Council Fire within an hour.”

I saw the nature of these facilities first hand, as I recently visited Ottawa University Arizona and head coach Clayton Sikorski in Phoenix, Arizona. Between touring campus and learning more about this dynamic new university, we had the opportunity to play rounds at Wigwam and Quintero. I quickly fell in love with Quintero, not only because I won, but because of the immaculate condition and breath-taking change of evaluation. Simply spectacular.

Why not NAIA?

Based on this the question is, “Why not NAIA?” At the root, it’s about stigma: People want the cache of dropping terms like “Division I” and “full scholarship.” However, I hope that readers will consider a different paradox: Schools should not be characterized by division, but instead by funding — either funded or not funded. A student athlete who is serious about pursuing golf should be less worried about the “division” and more about the school’s commitment to funding the program. By having this perspective, student athletes will find a school, coach, and team that is more likely to meet their golf expectations and enhance the experience of college golf.

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Podcasts

TG2: Tursky’s big announcement; Bob and Sam Bettinardi on new 2019 putters

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Tursky’s HUGE announcement (yes, another!), Knudson has a great conversation with Bob and Sam Bettinardi of Bettinardi Putters. Bob and Sam fill us in on why they love producing putters in the USA and how face milling influences sound and feel.

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

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