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Golf Entertainment Article

My Take
How About Some Style Points?


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My last few editorials have, perhaps, had a tendency toward a faint hint of snobbishness. smile I would never have believed myself capable of such a thing had I not seen it with my own eyes. But, moving forward here, instead of toning it down I think I'll go ahead and embrace it.

If you feel, as I sometimes do, that the spirit of the game of golf is being besmirched and befouled, that it is no longer a "gentleman's game" or "the game it was meant to be," etc., I have a proposal: Let us introduce judging into the game of professional golf—like in gymnastics or ice skating—so that an Artistic Impression score is combined with a Raw score (the raw score being the number of strokes taken to complete regulation play) in order to arrive at a final, overall or Total score.

One of the uninteresting things about how golf is scored is its rawness. There are no style points. So, as the scoring is now, somebody with ugly, jerky, tortured-looking technique can "win" simply by getting the ball in the hole in the fewest strokes. How absurd, how... unrefined.

Let's look at a how it might be otherwise. What if Player A did indeed have the lowest number of total strokes at the end of play, but when combined with a style score Player B, who had more strokes, actually won the event by combining an excellent raw score with style and elegance? To me, that sounds like an improvement on the way things are now. Especially given the fact that luck is an undeniable factor in the game. We don't want it to be like rolling dice, do we? I mean, if Player A can "win ugly" I'd rather not suffer the psychic damage from watching it.

Think about it for a moment: if professional golf were like any of the judged sports (diving, ice skating, gymnastics, etc.) some players who have won professional golf tournaments would never even have qualified for the event in the first place. It would surely be the case that the game's top golfers would still win most of the time based on the combination of both scores; but some players who have won (particularly the most glaringly uncouth cases) would not have.

To take our scenario a bit further, consider for example that Artistic Impression (AI) could influence the total score by 10 points per round (i.e., plus or minus up to 5 strokes). Player A shoots 72, but their AI score is -4 out of a possible best -5 for the round, meaning that their total score for the round is 68. Conversely, let's say Player B takes 62 total strokes to complete the round, but their AI score is +5 (the worst possible AI score in our hypothetical example). Player B's total score for the round would be 67. Player B therefore finishes ahead of Player A because Player B's spectacularly low raw score more than makes up for their poor AI score. But for Player B to succeed over time it would require spectacularly low raw scores (total strokes) consistently. So winning ugly could still happen, but it would be very difficult and, therefore—one would hope—vanishingly rare.

Of course the precise mechanics of the AI system would have to be worked out, but the essence of the idea is clear: in order to succeed in professional golf you would have to not only "shoot low," but also have some class and display some taste and refinement doing it.

Components of the AI score might be things like swing aesthetics, demeanor and comportment on the course during the round (obviously, what a player does outside of a golf competition is irrelevant to an AI score), cumulative comportment (a player's historical demeanor and comportment on the course), observance of etiquette, or other things. And to combat Goody Two-shoes overacting, wheedling and fakery—like folding your hands on top of your desk, affecting an angelic facial expression and keeping your eyes locked forward when the teacher approached in grade school, in order to get a gold star by your name, or some equally meaningless doggy treat... sorry, where was I... oh, right—there would have to be a component of "credibility" woven into the system somewhere too. (That might be a subcategory of the cumulative comportment component—say that three times in a row really fast.)

As just a made-up-off-the-top-of-my-head example of how AI might work, if you were some guy, let's say, on the Senior Tour with a blatantly sourpuss attitude, a scruffy face (the wretched old billy goat type, not the well-manicured type), goofy clothes that didn't fit, a doofus-looking little pony tail sticking out of the back of your cap like a tomboy, and an ugly-but-effective swing; you would certainly have to be penalized to the maximum extent of the system (a negative bonus points allowance may even have to be considered, for particularly noxious presentations). But, just to make things clear, if Arnold Palmer showed up at an event with the scruffy face (including and probably especially the billy goat type in his case) and the pony tail, etc., with his swashbuckling gotta-love-him demeanor he would most likely be rewarded for many of the same things. (And wouldn't you LOVE to see The King do that? Jack could easily pull it off, too.)

Of course the AI score would be subjective, but that is inevitable in judged sports. If the judging were done by a panel—say, for example, Feherty, McCord, Faldo, Miller and me (notice how I managed to include myself amongst those illustrious people)—rather than by just one individual, that would at least eliminate the possibility of prejudice or favoritism to a reasonable degree.

Administering a system of Artistic Impression in professional golf scoring may simply be too cumbersome or problematic (and it would probably not be feasible on the amateur level, let alone the recreational level). But the spirit of the proposal is plain. For professional golf to remain the refined and sophisticated game that it has come to be known as, for it not to degrade into a brouhaha for the unwashed (hoping that it's not too late), I believe that one possible solution is augmentation of the scoring system by the inclusion of Artistic Impression. After all, to me, "being good at golf" is more about the grace and style of a player than it is about just the number of strokes. To wit, one can accidentally ricochet the ball off the comfort facilities and make a hole-in-one. Of course, if that was done intentionally it would receive the maximum number of style points... a bonus points system may even have to be considered...

What do you think?

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