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Morri: Call Me A Traditionalist (But Only If You Mean It)

Loving golf's traditions doesn't mean you think everyone should use hickory and featheries (Picture: State Library of NSW)
It will come as no surprise to learn that I have been called my fair share of less than flattering names over the years.

It comes with the turf, particularly when one is called upon to offer their opinion in columns like this one.

Also not surprising is that few of those insults are fit for publication. Profanity and vehement disagreement tend to come as a package deal.

But for all the four-letter names I’ve been called it is a term considered perfectly acceptable in polite society that I find a bit galling.

To be labelled a ‘traditionalist’ (or ‘purist’) in golf in 2018 is the equivalent of being branded a backward thinking elitist whose only goal in life is to ensure the game is anything but fun.

Far too often a story about the state of the game will begin with a sentence like: “The traditionalists won’t like this, but…”

Such pieces invariably go on to sprout some nonsense about golf needing to be dragged into the 21st century in some way, be it via bigger holes or unregulated equipment or internet connected carts or first tee music or any one of the other multitude of misguided concepts that have been put forward to ‘grow the game.’

In these pieces the ‘traditionalist’ is always the villain, the grumpy old man whose only interest in golf is to insist that shirts be tucked in and socks be ‘acceptable’.

The traditionalist is often painted as the type who is intent on taking the game backwards, to the ‘good old days’ when players used hickory shafts and featherie balls. (An era, incidentally, in which the game not only survived but thrived proving it must have had something going for it!)

Traditionalists are the monsters who insist on young people being seen and not heard, or preferably not even seen.

They’re the ones who won’t allow you to use your mobile phone on the course or listen to music while you practise or play in a group of five even if it makes perfect sense to do so.

All of which, not surprisingly, misses the point completely. I am indeed in favour of the traditions of the game, but not the stupid and exclusionary ones like collared shirts and knee length socks and being a member at an expensive private club.

Those constructs, like big holes and music on the tee, actually have nothing to do with golf.

I like the fun parts of the game, the interesting and challenging shots to be played and the spirited interaction with fellow players.

I like to explore new courses and meet new people, men and women and even young people, and hear what it is that they like about the game.

I even like to play with old persimmon clubs sometimes because it's.....fun!

Golf has existed and survived for centuries because the essence of the game – the challenge of getting a ball into a distant hole using a stick or sticks – is inherently appealing to humans.

That, to me, is the tradition of the game and it’s one I’ll happily argue for.


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