Q: Why are the Europeans better than the Amercians? A: Golf carts.

Steve O Speak

A Guest Blog By Fanspeak Contributing Writer Pedro Dewey:

Since anyone who has played golf with me even just one time is painfully aware of my disdain for themotorized golf cart, I will come clean right up front and admit that I am indeed the poster boy for thewalking golfer. It is my opinion that golf carts have no place in the game – which, without them, mightbe more often referred to as a “sport” – because they take most of the athleticism out of the activity, damage the golf course, and require evil concrete or asphalt paths that WAY too often kick a marginally poor shot into the crap and cost us penalty strokes and expensive golf balls. But enough about me.

The fact that Americans need fewer cart paths and more exercise probably has no bearing on the outcome of the Ryder Cup. What does matter is that golf carts have replaced the golfer’s best friend –his caddy – and removed the best part from the game – walking the course.
Walking the course and using caddies is a way of life in the British Isles and much of Europe. Carts paths are very rare and “buggies” are generally for the handicapped or extremely elderly. If a Scotsman even saw an artist’s rendition of carts paths snaking around the Old Course he’d lose his fish-n-chips. Besides, the opportunity to drink as many beers at as many pubs as you can in a week or two, one of the mostenjoyable pieces to a golf trip across the pond is having a caddy. I ended up the only girl caddy at theOld Head of Kinsale, so of course I asked her why she worked there. She answered a question with a question: “Wouldn’t you like to be the only man at your job?” She had an excellent point, though shewas too young to understand that were I in that complementary position I’d need 12 weeks of vacationso I could take off the last week of every month. But I digress.

Sure the golf cart can carry your clubs and give you the yardage to the pin. But when is the last time your golf cart found your ball in the long grass? When has it cleaned your ball for you, read a putt for you, or distracted you with a funny anecdote after you just shanked your chip into the bunker? More to the point, when do you think the money you paid for it helped put that golf cart through college? Do you think that golf cart makes good use of the free golf it may get late in the day or on Mondays? Would that golf cart be spending its time somewhere less expensive than a golf course if you weren’t paying for its services?

Without the past predominance of caddies, we probably wouldn’t have had several greats of American golf like Lee Trevino or Ben Hogan. Harvey Penick likely wouldn’t have given us his “Little Red Book”or the great Gentle Ben Crenshaw and his tears of triumph and mourning at Augusta in 1995. And we certainly wouldn’t have the great story of Frances Ouimet at the 1913 U.S. Open.

There are plenty of kids who, like I did, play golf regularly in the summertime at an inexpensive municipal course. When I was in high school, we could play Hains Point all day for $8 during the week. Some of us played a lot and developed enough skills to be decent recreational players as adults. But apart time obsession with golf for a few weeks every summer isn’t NEARLY enough to develop the skills needed to be a champion golfer. You need to spend pretty much ALL your spare time at the golf club –especially if you aren’t privileged enough to have a swing coach, a sports psychologist, and a personal trainer helping you develop game, mind, and body. As a caddy, you might not always be playing or practicing, but you will always be learning about golf by being around the game and around those who love the game. Nowadays, if you don’t have parents belong to the club, you won’t be spending much of your first 18 years there unless you are a golf cart.

Now I’m not saying that all of our top professionals would be former caddies were they still the standard for the last 20 years. There is certainly a TREMENDOUS advantage in growing up with a wealthy family or sponsor who provide you the benefits mentioned above. But how could having dozens of kids working as caddies at each of the thousands of public and private golf courses in this country not provide us with more diamonds in the rough?

Obviously you can make the argument that golf carts have greatly increased the popularity of the game in this country. So say there would only be half of the courses we have now in existence without thehelp of these demonic machines. If all of these clubs used caddies we’d still have MANY THOUSANDS more kids spending their time on the golf course learning things like “etiquette” rather than sitting at home playing video games and learning how to kill cartoon aliens. Forget the Ryder Cup, it honestly makes me sad to think about this. But this is not a crusade against the PS3. I admit it’s really fun to playRock Band with my drunk friends as we make frozen pizza after the bars close.

Where was I? Oh yeah, golf carts.

So what about all the Americans that golf carts have brought to the game, you say? Seriously, is someone who is only enticed to play the game because they don’t have to casually stroll a few miles even interested in becoming a professional golfer? You’ve got to be kidding. I assert that it’s quite the opposite. With so many courses that REQUIRE you to ride, I think playing golf in this country turns many potential great golfers into golf-cart-riding sissies.

Now I admit that along with beating a little plastic ball around the back yard with a cut-down golf club, my earliest golf memories include the fun of driving my Dad’s golf cart during an occasional Saturday morning round. But once I was old enough to pay for my own golf, the cost-effectiveness of skipping the golf cart turned into a love for walking the course. In a golf cart, you are disconnected from the groundwhich you are trying to navigate. How the heck are you going to learn about the nuances of each typeof grass, hazard, and undulation if you are willing to pay extra money to avoid traversing as much of it as possible?

Along with the oversized drivers and forward tee-boxes, golf-cart-riding Americans are by and large focused on making golf easier instead of challenging themselves. How could golfers like this ever improve to the point of being the best in the world? Do you think any hitter would ever make the major leagues if he never swung a weighted bat? Has any back made it to the NFL without running bleachers?I seriously doubt it.
Even if anyone actually reads this, I know my words will appear before blind eyes. Golf carts will remaina big money maker for golf courses and Americans will still be lazy and use them for over 95% of their rounds. I just hope they aren’t too patriotic when it comes to golf – because they are the reason that we ‘mer’cans are going to lose more often than not.

Don’t even get me STARTED on the LPGA…

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