Thanks to those of you who supported the idea. Thanks also to those who offered additional suggestions.
Thanks even to Glenn Clark, who ended his e-mail this way: Rebates...silly. Go somewhere else or take up another sport. Before that, Mr. Clark said he prefers to play at a reasonable pace that keeps his swing in sync. (I think I played behind Glenn once.)
To which I say, with no disrespect intended to Mr. Clark, that modern golf is like flying on commercial airlines. Its a communal activity, but everyone seems to think everyone else on the plane (or course) should cater to him or her. Golf is the same way. The other golfers on the course care no more about whether your swing is in sync, Glenn, than you do about theirs. But they do care about your pace, Im pretty sure.
Many of you came up with a concern that, I must admit, never crossed my mind. Heres what Jim Williamson had to say:
I see a problem with your strategy. Golf is suffering not only from slow play, but also from an influx of people who simply don't know the meaning of common courtesy. Like society in general, golf is forgetting its manners. Add to that the incentive to push the people in front of you and you have a potentially lethal combination. Simply put, the way most people will apply peer pressure is by hitting into the slower group in front of them. That's not just bad manners, but dangerous.
Thats not the kind of peer pressure I had in mind, but Jim and those of you who echoed his concerns are right. Ive seen it happen. I hope reason would prevail and post-round conversations would be the pressure of choice. A lot of you suggested better marshalling, which would be good for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it would prevent the kind of problems Jim and others of you so wisely noted.
Speaking of wisdom, some of you told me that at some courses, the financial incentive isnt the plum it appears to be. An e-mail correspondent identified only as PDoctorlaw chimed in thusly:
I admire your Admiral Farragut, 'damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead' approach, but where I play (at a semi private club in rural Virginia), offense is taken when a few have tried peer pressure. Of course, if everyone applied the pressure, it might work, but I doubt that will happen. Money talks but here the cart fee is $12 and the green fee is only $16 ' getting $2 or $4 back as a reward would not mean much.
Well, if the course is that cheap, no wonder its so crowded.
Golf writer Geoff Shackelford improved on my suggestions, correctly noting that course owners could overcome their reluctance to open the cash register by offering food and beverage or pro shop credit to fast groups. For the course owner, this could lead to that holy grail of mixed retail/service businesses: incremental spending increases. But we digress.
Thanks to all of you who sent suggestions about course design (tees closer to greens as in the Old School of design; and cart paths on the right, where most amateurs err, instead of on the left; abolition of paths-only policies), and to others who put in their two tees worth. I read em all, and Ill respond to as many as I can.
One of the best questions I got was, Have I put the issue before the National Golf Course Owners Association? The answer is no, but I plan to do so now. Ill send a copy of the column to that organization and report its response to you.
IN MEMORIAM: The world of golf communications lost two of its finest over the past week. John Morris, the PGA Tours vice president of communications, died June 21 while waiting for a heart transplant at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. And Peter Farricker, the longtime equipment writer for Golf Digest, died June 28 after a two-year struggle with ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrigs Disease.
Morris was a thorough and capable press officer who kept the Tours interests at heart while approaching and understanding reporters as colleagues, not antagonists. Thats no small feat. He was a proud Penn State grad who loved golf and treated all he met with respect.
Farricker, who leaves a wife and young son, was known among colleagues and sources as one of the most knowledgeable people in his field. As a reporter, he got the job done issue after issue, year after year, always putting himself in the readers spot and writing accordingly. He was a big man with a big golf swing and an engaging smile that appeared often on a face framed with bright red hair.
Godspeed to both men.