The Good, Bad & Ugly of 2014For a change, let’s begin the 2014 season on a mixed note: rumors of my involuntary termination from NEGM have been exaggerated. After spending the last few weeks shopping my resume to the big boys – Golf Digest, Golfweek and Golf Magazine – the answer is the same as it’s always been, “Thanks, but no thanks.”

If you’re reading this now, like it or not, I’m back. Not by popular demand but rather due to lack of talent to work for a national publication, and still offering readers another year of stimulating debate with resident golf-dope, Timothy Geary. Also, golf aficionados, be warned, I’m as cranky and cynical as ever, and, there’s a long list of people and places on my radar screen I can’t wait to vent about. They don’t call me Mr. Negative for nothing!

Who would have thought that after being on the losing end of six punishing seasons of debate that Timmy G would return for more crossfire. Isn’t it time for him to hang up his keyboard or seek out another sparring partner? As an equal opportunity golf critic nothing is sacred in 2014. My new mission statement is to call out the phonies, the spin meisters, the greedy golf manufacturers and other golf officials guilty of dereliction of duty or gouging public golfers.

If a golf company tries to sell me another “revolutionary new product” then pass the puke bucket please. No one I know is getting any better because of new golf clubs. They buy new equipment and strike the ball better but their handicap remains the same. Why does that happen? Because golf has a dirty, little secret. The game is loaded with cheaters; players who intentionally maintain handicaps that are higher than their average scores. Sandbaggers are cheaters, and they are ruining the game, and clubs are not taking action to fix this problem. You want ugly, then sandbagging is the No. 1 sin. stands at 14,565. Golf industry consultant James Koppenhaver, Pellucid Corp said, “The number of rounds in 2013 totaled 462 million, which is down five per cent, from the record year of 2012. Avid golfers, who play more than 40-plus rounds, have declined 25 percent in the last decade.

Golfers are like farmers, when the weather is good we are out, when weather is bad our participation rate is down.” Koppenhaver predicts that the sports’ 25 million participants will remain steady through 2020, contrary to the PGA of America’s wild estimate to grow the game to 40 million. Another sign the golf industry is in a slump is the fact that the Arnold Palmer Golf Course Design Company, which once employed 25 fulltime staff, has been downsized to two employees. And, the Greg Norman Golf Course Design Company laid off half its staff. Good golf headlines in 2014 include Jim Renner, James Driscoll, Megan Khang, GolfNow.com, Ouimet Fund, Junior Golf and, of course, the greatest player of all time, Tiger.

Controversy swirls over long putters, slow play, rules, expensive green fees, the golf ball,distance measuring devices, excessive chatter watching televised golf, out-of-state amateurs playing in the Mass Amateur and USGA buffoonery, like setting up the back nine at the U.S. Amateur at The Country Club to measure 3,960-yards. To their credit, last summer the USGA rolled out one the best public service advertisement’s ever involving slow play. We can only hope the “While We’re Young” message is connecting with slow players!

Tom Gorman, a golf writer since 1992, is an AAA golfer: avid, angry, awful.