So I’m out playing golf on a recent sunny Sunday, and it’s a cool one by South Florida standards – temps in the low 50s, steady breeze of 10-15 mph.
The venue is the Village Golf Club, one of the few public courses in the area to allow walking any time, any day. It’s busy but not crowded, with plenty of space between groups.
Put it together: A lovely afternoon but quite chilly if you’re riding a cart… A course with no major hills and relatively short green-to-tee traverses… No worries about slowing down the folks behind you… In other words, a perfect day to bypass the Club Car and get your walk on.
Naturally, I’m the only player on foot.
And that bugs the hell out of me.
I recognize that some golfers, due to age or injury, need motorized assistance. I’d never begrudge them a cart. If you’re a single trying to squeeze 18 holes into a couple of hours, I’ll hand you the keys to the nearest E-Z-GO and bid you Godspeed.
But what about everyone else? What about the guys my age (early 40s) and younger? Or the reasonably fit 60-somethings? How about those golfers for whom a little exercise would go a long way? Or the parents out for nine holes with their kids?
What’s their excuse for hopping a cart on a day made for hoofing it?
I can think of one, though it’s not very convincing: South Floridians – and American golfers in general – are conditioned to ride because most courses require it. The idea of walking never crosses their minds.
Sorry, but that’s unacceptable.
It’s not like walking is some surreptitious activity practiced only by members of a secret society. (Though there is a public society dedicated to it – with no fees or bizarre initiation rituals!) Everyone knows the pros play sans cart, and most golfers have witnessed weirdos like me hauling a bag on their back.
Perhaps inveterate riders have bought into the myths about walking. You know, how it takes longer to play, it’s bad for your back, it’ll hurt your game…
False, false and (debatably) false.
Carts are only faster if: 1) You can drive straight to your ball (e.g. no cart-path-only or 90-degree rules); 2) each cart partner walks or drives to his/her own ball (no sitting in the cart while one partner hits, then driving to the second ball); and 3) there are no groups in front of you preventing progress. Otherwise, walking is at least as fast.
If you’ve got back problems – or even if you don’t – a pull cart could be the answer. They’re reasonably cheap to buy or rent.
As for your score, sure, you may tire down the stretch and lose a shot or two. But walking is better for your swing tempo and overall feel for the course. Many walkers believe they play their best on foot.
To reiterate, I realize that walking isn’t always viable, even when the course allows it. I myself surrender to the heat and opt for a cart from roughly May – September. Beyond South Florida, there are plenty of tracks whose hills are just too, well, hilly. Likewise, long green-to-tee treks around condos or swamps are a walker’s nightmare.
Aside from these barriers, however, there’s no good reason to ride.
Anyone who’s ever argued that golf is an athletic endeavor should be ashamed for choosing the lazy way. So, too, should those who complain that golf is too expensive – you can typically save $12-20 by skipping the cart.
As for golfers who fashion themselves traditionalists – playing forged blades, quoting Bobby Jones, hanging portraits of St. Andrews in the office – I have one question: How do you think Old Tom Morris got around?
Fact is, golf is better when played on foot. Get yourself a great pair of walking shoes and a nice pull cart. Tell your buddies you’re ditching the cart like the bad habit it is – then welcome them to either join you or try to keep up.
And start playing the game the way the golf gods intended.
Daniel Mitchell is a golf writer and Golf-Newz.com contributor who lives in Jupiter, Fla., a few miles from Tiger Woods as the crow flies but worlds away in every other respect. An avid golfer since age 12, Mitchell carries a (shaky) single-digit handicap, investing far more time in his dogs than his swing.
You can read his regular musings at a-gamegolfblog.blogspot.com