I have witnessed, on many occasions, some Olympian hurling of golf clubs. I will admit that I have participated in this frowned upon, but largely universally shared aspect of the game. Somewhere is an instructional video on how to properly launch a driver into the stratosphere (probably Jimmy Ballard) with proper weight shift.
Anyone who claims never to have heaved a club in the course of playing the course, is either a liar, Mother Theresa or the greatest golfer to ever live. Actually the two greatest golfers to ever live, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods have been seen tossing their utensils during fits of pique, although in Jack’s case he simply said, “I was just getting it back to my caddy as quickly as possible.”
Our debate this month does not revolve around whether people throw clubs, but whether should there be a rule implemented that punishes such behavior? The idea for this discourse lies with one of the most legendary of Irish hurlers, Mr. Tom Gorman, who has done more for the club replacement business than any other single person on the planet. While I will admit to having tossed a few shafted projectiles in my golfing life, I am a rank amateur compared to Tossing Tom. So naturally Gorman is arguing that no, you should not be assessed a stroke penalty for every throwing infraction, while I, by default, will defend the more prudent position of yes, there should be a penalty for acting like a baboon.
Gorman’s position is understandable. As it is he can’t break 90 on any course that doesn’t have windmills and clown’s mouths. Put in a stroke penalty for every toss of the club and he’s looking at the kind of scores that say “genius” on an I.Q. Test. Golf is supposed to be a gentleman’s game. Of course now that the ladies have joined the fray (and I have yet to see a woman fire a club away in anger) we should rephrase and refer to it as a gentle person’s game.
The game of golf is one of the most frustrating of all human endeavors and when the instruments by which we attack a golf course betray us, mainly because we don’t have the swing necessary to produce the desired results, we have an overwhelming urge to punish them. It’s a totally irrational reaction and a very expensive one as well, but golfers are seldom a rational bunch about how much they spend on the game and it’s equipment. But if one were to lose a shot every time one violently discarded one’s 4-iron or it’s accompanying siblings, I seriously doubt we’d see the skies filled with true temper steel.
The problem is just what would constitute a penalty? If a player just drops the club or flips it away in disgust at yet another in a series of snap hooks, should they be be penalized as much as somebody who whirls around like a discus thrower and sends a club 35 yards down the fairway? And should players be penalized for imitating Tiger and attacking the turf after a shot misbehaves? Hacking up the superintendent’s pride and joy could be considered worse than whirlybirding a driver.
Still, there should be some kind of penalty for doing something that is not only bad form but downright dangerous. I once threw a club into the air and it nearly decapitated one of my playing partners. And there was once an incident where a man threw his club at a tree, had it break in two and ricochet back to impale him.
So I am all in favor of adding one stroke to the scorecard for every time a club is sent flying. Frequent fliers should be restricted to the airline business and kept off the fairways.
(Tim Geary is a R.I. based freelance writer. He once got poison ivy after climbing a tree to retrieve his driver, which obviously had slipped out of his grasp).WHAT'S YOUR REACTION?