Golf Gazette/Jay Dempsey: Ideas for taking the stuffiness out of golf

Some say the sport of golf is stuffy. Don’t tell that to PGA Tour professionals Ben Curtis, Rickie Fowler, Hunter Mahan and Bubba Watson. These guys have formed a group known as “The Golf Boys” and have made a very entertaining musical video called, “Oh Oh Oh.” If you haven’t seen it, take a look. “The Golf Boys” are anything but stuffy.

It’s refreshing that some athletes don’t take themselves too seriously and are having fun with their fame. If golf hopes to attract more players and fans to the game, a little less stodginess such as this may help.

It’s no secret that the participation and popularity of golf are a concern to those in the business. There are good reasons for this.

For instance, lifestyles today make it difficult to commit five or six hours, door to door, for a round of golf. Younger families are transporting their children all over the planet. People are working longer hours. And golf is not the cheapest form of exercise and recreation available.

In today’s “I-can’t-miss-a-message” world, people’s attention spans are shrinking. It’s hard to imagine some folks concentrating on one thing, like playing 18 holes of golf, without feeling the need to constantly check-in with their Blackberry. Have we really become that important?

And also making the list is the fact that the game is pretty darn difficult. I know, the ball just sits there. It doesn’t move. Why then is it so hard to hit it where we want to?

A couple of very important figures in the world of golf are concerned about the future of the game and have some thoughts on the subject.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about playing up, meaning to tee off from tee boxes closer to the green. Barney Adams, founder of Adams Golf Equipment, is a proponent.

Adams has noticed that many of his playing partners play par-4s from tees requiring them to hit woods and hybrids for approach shots. “We want to get the message out that playing shorter courses, with less rough, will increase enjoyment of the game,” he said.

“Moving up will encourage people to think about their shots to the green, rather than just blasting another wood,” he said. “That brings in shot-making and that’s what makes the game interesting.”

The biggest problem with this idea is the male ego. Mr. Macho Man, dollars to donuts, would want to bury his head in the nearest sand trap if one of his buddies saw him teeing off from a forward tee box. Heaven forbid.

People have asked me when they should move up to a different tee box. My answer: “Whenever you want to.”

The game is demanding enough. You still have to put a small ball into a four-and-one-quarter-inch hole. Do what works best for you and forget about what others think. You paid your greens fees, so tee it up from wherever you want. Making birdies and pars is fun.

What do you think about 12-hole golf? Jack Nicklaus, arguably the best golfer ever, thinks it’s a great idea. In fact, at a few of his courses, Nicklaus has had score cards printed up for 12-hole rounds.

“My seniors are loving it,” said Nicklaus.

Spending over four hours on a golf course can be a long time for some people. Cutting that down to two or three hours might make the game more enjoyable and manageable for many. “It’s the health of the game, the growth of the game, keeping people in the game that I’m interested in,” Nicklaus said.

And think about this: You would be able to get to the 19th hole, oops, make that the 13th hole, much sooner.

TEE TIMES Peter Cowan of the North Fork Country Club reported a few holes-in-one at his course. Ray Nemschick, Richard Prieto, Harry Shields and Roger Siejka all had aces at the Cutchogue course.

Also in Cutchogue, at The Cedars, Henry Stasiukiewicz reported holes-in-one made by Tony Citro, Gregg Pettersen, William Villano and Robert Yeomans. Pat Savoca had an ace at The Woods at Cherry Creek in Riverhead.

Congratulations, folks!