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Golf courses need to start charging by the stroke, not the round

Brandon TuckerBy Brandon Tucker,
Managing Editor
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Bad golfers have been raising greens fees for everyone for too long. Tucker offers a new plan that can solve this. (Brandon Tucker/GolfPublisher.com)

Every so often the golfing public is reminded of a statistic, many times from a teaching instructor selling a new DVD: the average golfer - about a 19 handicap - hasn't gotten better in years, despite all the advances the game has made.

After all, haven't we switched from persimmon to space metals for more forgiveness?

Haven't we switched over to soft spikes to make greens roll truer?

Haven't we subscribed to numerous golf magazines that offer three cover stories on "how to cure your slice" each year?

But it's all been in vain.

There is a fundamental reason at the core of why we aren't shooting any better than our persimmon-clad ancestors. It isn't longer courses, poorer instruction advice or the onslaught of Attention Deficit Disorder that has turned all our brains into putty.

Think about the one thing that has remained a constant since almost the beginning of golf as a commercial commodity.

Give up?

It's how we pay for a round of golf.

All this time greens fees have been based on 18 holes, no matter how many shots, 67 or 107, we take on the course.

You pay by the chicken wing at a sports bar. You pay by the song on iTunes.

Golfers should pay by the shot on the golf course.

But it's never been considered - a result of a giant, industry-wide conspiracy. Let me show you how far the rabbit hole goes.

Club manufacturers want you to shoot poorly so you seek the newest technology. Ball makers don't want you to think "course management," so you hit driver when there is water on the right and a gorse-laden abyss on the left. Golf magazines don't want you to score so you keep re-subscribing to their recycled lessons.

But there is no true motivation to go low because we pay for a round no matter what we shoot.

That's doesn't sound like capitalism. "Everyone pays the same, no matter what"? Hey, this is golf, not Canada's health care system.

In my proposed system, courses would charge 50 cents to a dollar per shot on an average course, maybe $2 or $2.50 for Pinehurst or somewhere upscale. Juniors, women and seniors receive a discount.

What if you're one of those players who would rather not keep score, but want to instead just drink beer, smoke stogies and talk on your cell? That's fine. You can pay a flat rate: the equivalent of shooting 120.

This new system will keep duffers off the 7,300-yard tees and the super-stingy will play from the red tees. Rounds will go faster because golfers will be hitting shots they are more confident in and not closing their eyes and whacking 3-woods from high rough. "Inside the leather" is at the discretion of the course.

Low-handicappers are rewarded for their commitment to the game by saving money and sharing the links with fewer hacks. Motivation isn't dropping a tenth of a stroke on your handicap, it's going home with green in your wallet.

The big question of course is enforcement. Surely the honor of keeping your own score will be kaput if each stroke costs hard cash.

The answer is simple: surveillance that would make Las Vegas casinos whimper. Closed-circuit devices in cameras in golf carts, tee markers and flags. Spies hidden in trees. No shot goes uncharted.

I know, this system might get a little ugly at first. There may even be a "revolt at Shady Oaks" report here and there. But just like taxes, in time, we'll all get used to it.

Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Advisor. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonTucker and on Instagram at BrandonTuckerGC.

Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • this system

    Brian wrote on: Mar 23, 2010

    This system is pretty crazy and would never work. It does not seem logical and would never ever be enforced. That was a waste of time.


  • Capitalism... eh... what?

    Doug wrote on: Aug 6, 2009

    If you're in golf paying for all that equipment and all those lost balls I really don't think you are going to force yourself to get better by a couple of shots a round because every shot costs. I think you simply would be too scared to go out there! Imagine water holes, I'd be picking up my ball and moving on!
    The price of golf is expensive enough thankyou especially for those learning the game who are infact the real suffers in this miracle idea! You wouldn't be able to afford to improve!
    This is seriously one of the most stupid articles I've ever read on anything! Daft.


  • golf

    jon wrote on: Jun 5, 2008

    your an idiot!


      • RE: golf

        JohnnySik wrote on: May 24, 2010

        I agree! He is an idiot!
        How the hell did this guy ever become a Senior Writer?
        I propose we ban Brandon Tucker from playing or writing about golf ever again. He probably isn't a very good golfer anyway.
        He definately isn't a very good writer. I understand his point, if we had to pay by the stroke we'd become better golfers. It's a stupid point, and he based his whole article on it. But, he got off topic with some A.D.D. vomit at the end, that probably offended about 75% of all golfers in the world. We understand, we can't all be pro golfers!
        If Brandon had his way, the sport wouldn't exist for much longer. He'd be out of a job (which would be a good thing in my opinion), and then he'd have all the time in the world to work on his ...BINGO game!
        This article was a waste of my time. Why the editors haven't removed it from the site is a mystery. I will never read an article by Brandon Tucker again!
        I have serious resevations about visiting worldgolf.com anymore. With writing like this, I'll be better off and so will my golf game.
        This is bad news for any sponsors on the site that weren't targets in his article, now they won't be able to reach me or anyone else that knows worldgolf.com is a waste of bandwidth!


  • Charge by the hour...

    Tom Swartwood wrote on: May 31, 2007

    Courses could charge by the hour (or the quarter hour) with the rate per fraction of hour increasing, a lot, after four hours, and going through the roof after 4 1/2 hours. On the flip side courses could offer discounts to players who finish or promise to finish in less than 4 1/2 hours. Sheesh, when I was a young caddy, good players routinely finished 18 holes, with a snack and a roll of the dice at the turn in four hours--walking, no yardage markers (except a few buses at 150 yds out, no GPS or range finders. Caddies helped but those guys knew how to play along. Heck even the giggle golfers in the afternoons finished in well under 5 hours. Charge by the hour and offer incentives for fast play.


      • RE: Charge by the hour...

        Chris wrote on: Apr 19, 2009

        Interesting concept...One problem: Why should I pay more because I have to wait for the group in front of me before I can tee off ? I'm a reasonably fast golfer (3-4 Hours), but unless I get a tee time when no one else is on the course, I always end up waiting on someone to get out of range before I can tee off.


  • We need duffers

    Vale wrote on: May 22, 2007

    Sounds like a real plan, except how many courses would be forced to close for lack of customers who can afford to golf any longer. Remove all the duffers and how much will golf now cost the rest of us? It's a good thing I'm a senior now, maybe I'll break even in the costs per stroke department with my discount.


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