What would you do to improve golf?
How would you improve the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing?
I asked the questions randomly around the Harbour Town Golf Links during the Heritage.
The answer depends on who you ask, how old they are, what their role is in the game of golf — and how much they’ve had to drink.
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Let’s start with the drinkers, loosening up Saturday afternoon on the Heritage Lawn at the 18th tee. Here’s how they said to improve the game:
“If the golfers could play with no shirts on.”
“Free water. Somebody’s going to die out here.”
“Less expensive drinks. Or some kind of deal.”
“Nudity. Any form of nudity.”
“If girls could get free booze.”
About improving the overall game, one said, “Have free beer at all golf courses.”
“Make sure the temperature’s warm and it’s always sunny.”
In a tent nearby, Hap Lathrop, executive director of the S.C. Golf Association, said, “We want a club in every crib. We’re all about junior golf.”
Golf is improving by getting rid of some rules and speeding up the game, he said.
“We’re putting more emphasis on 9-hole play,” he said. “We want people to know it’s OK if you get to play nine holes.”
Kris Wilson of Savannah stood in his green shorts with a crab and lobster motif and said in unison with his wife and children what golf needs:
“Start younger, play longer.”
That’s the slogan of their business, called The Littlest Golfer. It specializes in tiny golf clothes and tiny golf equipment.
“We have what my pro calls ‘sideline kids’ who hang out while their big brothers and big sisters learn golf,” he said. “Kids that age swim, play tennis, soccer, tee-ball, but golf isn’t doing it. It tends to start when they’re 6, after kids have already been introduced to 30 other sports.”
Billy Hough of Spartanburg and Hilton Head stood watching the PGA Tour players practicing their putting. He looks at it from a course owner’s perspective, having a hand in The Creek Golf Club and the former Lan-Yair Country Club in Spartanburg. He can talk all day about what makes golf tick but concludes that what the game really needs is a change in American lifestyles.
“The last year golf made any money was 1991,” he said, “and it’s all because of technology.”
People no longer take half a day off Wednesday, they no longer get unplugged on the golf course, and nobody has any time anymore because everybody expects everybody else to be accessible 24/7.
And as we walked together on the 18th fairway at Harbour Town, I asked William H. “Bill” Goodwin Jr., what the game needs.
He owns Harbour Town and the Ocean Course on Kiawah Island. He’s a close friend of Pete Dye. And he’s still pounding away at golf balls as his children run the family businesses and he heads the Board of Visitors at the University of Virginia, one of America’s top 10 public universities.
He said letting people play closer to the hole would make the game faster.
Goodwin said: “If I was the golf god, I would try to get people to play up a little bit and let them enjoy the game a little more. I don’t know if men are ever going to do that.”
Which brings us back to things we might actually do: Mist sprayers and nudity. Any form of nudity.