Golf is quite a popular pastime, but as a sport it could stand some improvements.
Some of golf's more glaring problems, both as a participation and spectator activity, are as follows:
- There is no element of physical competition - quite a problem for what purports to be a sport. At root, every game of golf is really played between the individual and the designer of the course, rather than between two or more players. There exists no legal way for a golfer to affect his opponents game in any way. Any effect your performance may have on your opponent is purely psychological. Golf is almost unique in sport in this lack of direct competition between players (darts is the only other example I can think of...)
- Since the above is true, it is quite common to see people going round golf courses on their own. This is sad, unsociable, and inconvenient for people playing in pairs or fours.
- The game is quite slow to play and to watch. The majority of a player's time is spent walking, and the majority of a spectator's time is spent staring into the sky or the distance.
- The game is often played by people wearing truly horrendous clothing in the honest belief it will make them look good.
- Perfecting a golf swing can take years, and the slightest alteration to it can drastically affect your success at the game.
- Golf is quite an exclusive sport, and has something of a snobbish image.
- Because of all the above features, golf doesn't make great populist television.
On the other hand, golf has the following advantages:
- It gets you out into the fresh air for some exercise, albeit quite gentle exercise.
- It is a thriving industry, as dolts who play it are ever eager to empty their bulging wallets into the pocket of anyone who can come up with a new but entirely pointless gadget which makes great claims to reduce their handicap.
- It represents a good use for all that farmland which won't be needed now we don't have any farmers any more.
So, how (I can hear you ask) can we accentuate the positive aspects of golf, while eliminating the negatives? There is an astoundingly simple solution, and I present it here for the first time. Look into the future, at a world hooked on Full Contact Golf.
Full Contact Golf: the idea
The author was standing on a fairway, waiting the interminable wait while a playing partner lined up a shot, when his gaze strayed to the bag of clubs in front of him. 'Wouldn't this game be improved...' the thought went, '... if, while my opponent was using his clubs to take his shots, I could use my clubs on HIM?' And so the concept of Full Contact Golf was born.
Full Contact Golf: the advantages
The manifold advantages are immediately obvious. Instantly, golf becomes a far more interesting game to watch, and to play. The companies who are currently coining it in making golf clubs, golf balls, golf bags and golf shoes will suddenly have a whole new market for golf helmets, golf shin pads and golf body armour. Lightweight carbon/kevlar protective clothing need not overly interfere with the swing, and the sleek black and chrome accessories would be a sight more fashionable than the sorts of abominations one normally sees on the tees.
Also, a whole new class of golf club is born, intended not for hitting the ball, but for hitting the opponent. Since the strict limit of fourteen clubs to a bag must still be adhered to, club selection becomes a great deal more tactical. A proper balance must be struck between clubs for addressing the ball and clubs for addressing the opponent. A good mix of clubs, some Ping, some Thrud, would be vital to a successful round.
Of course, since you are now able to affect your opponent's performance directly and physically, golf becomes a proper sport, rather than just two people who happen to be playing the same course at the same time. And therein lies another advantage. It would be completely pointless, and in fact impossible, to play Full Contact Golf alone. The game will always be a social event, in that it absolutely requires a partner. It is also much better exercise.
Of course the handicapping system would have to modified to take in weight and reach as well as skill, and gentlemen may have a certain advantage over ladies which wouldn't quite be made up for by shorter tees, but this is a mere detail which could be worked out.
The obsession with achieving the perfect swing would instantly go out of the window. There's no point calming and centring yourself for that Zen moment of windup if your opponent is standing three metres behind you lining up with a four thrud intent on catching you a good one across the shoulders at the crucial moment.
Of course, this also means that every golf course in the world suddenly becomes fantastically more challenging. The average course would be a par 372. The vagaries of combat would mean that no longer would the leaderboards of top golf competitions be separated by single shots, but by dozens.
All of this would make golf less like it is now and more like 'Gladiators', which is sure to bring in the crowds, both to watch and to play. Rugby and boxing clubs around the world would fold were it not for the tendency of the working classes to like assaulting one another according to a set of rules.
Of course, the rules of golf would need to change - but not that much. A legal minimum distance from the ball would be required, both to ensure that the opponent did not interfere more than absolutely necessary and also to ensure he had room for a good swing of his own. Present rules against so much as coughing while your opponents tees off would be replaced by full-throated battle cries. Players may come to be judged on the quality of their kiai. The hundreds of extra rules required to police the combat would be welcomed by golfers everywhere, since they seem obsessed with the minutiae of rules and etiquette already.
Golf in its current form is already enormously popular in Japan. A nation with a proud history of martial arts would surely take Full Contact Golf to its heart readily.
Golf commentary would of course need to change. The current respectfully soporific tones usually accompanying the drive would be replaced by the frantic word-cascade of the boxing commentators. Television coverage would include action replays of particularly savage or effective thruds, as well as impressively deft or skillful evasions. The global profile of the sport would be transformed.
With all the extra equipment, there'd be space for more sponsor's logos and, given that the best players are likely to be on the large side, more space still.
Full Contact Golf - the future is coming. Duck!