Recently, I was enjoying a coffee in the/bar lounge at a local club, getting ready for an afternoon meeting. The room was empty, apart from another guest who was tucked away in a corner, reading a newspaper. As I sat there quietly, passing the time by reading a news story on my iPhone, a member of the wait staff approached me and informed me that I wasn’t allowed to use my phone in the clubhouse, and that they had a special room set aside for electronic device usage.

I sat there stunned for a moment. I wasn’t talking on the phone, mind you. Just looking at it.

I’m well aware that many clubs have a “No Phone” policy. And for the most part, I agree that someone blabbing on the phone can be distracting and annoying. But it struck me as odd that (in this day and age) the act of simply looking at an electronic device was the modern-day equivalent to, say, lighting up a cigarette (and thus being asked to go to the “Smoking Room”).

In essence, I was doing nothing different to the guy reading the newspaper. In fact, his turning/crinkling of the pages of the newspaper could arguably have created more noise than my (noiseless) scrolling through stories on my iPhone. Yet, here I was, being treated as if I’d started smashing a set of cymbals in the air.

Electronic devices are becoming more and more widely accepted at golf clubs (for checking email, scores, text messages to the wife/husband, handicap look ups, reading Inside Golf, etc). Some clubs are even encouraging members and guests to enjoy free Wi-Fi in the clubhouse and work away on their computers or devices. So for a club to continue to ban them altogether felt like a throwback to a bygone era.

This is just one of the many reasons that golf (as an industry) is stuck in the past. Whether you’re new to the game, or a seasoned veteran you will doubtless have been exposed to the numerous restrictions that surround the sport: “No, you can’t wear those types of socks/shoes/shorts/shirts”… “No, women (or juniors) can’t be on the course this day of the week,”… “No, you can’t use your own buggy, you must hire one from us.”… “No, your son can’t caddy for you on a comp day.”…  “No, you can’t play unless you have an official handicap.”  No, no, no. The list goes on.

By and large, golf is still a game of “No”. If we really want to get the next generation of golfers onto the course (and shed its “elitist” image) then it really needs to become a game of “Yes”.  “Yes! You can wear that on the course, as long as it’s not offensive.”…“Yes! Your wife or son can play today, as long as there is a spot open and it doesn’t disrupt other members” … And “Yes, you can check your email on your phone, as long as it’s quiet.”

I’m not saying we need to throw out all the rules and let chaos reign. But we need to examine where we (as a club, industry, or whatever) can soften the rules in order to be a bit more welcoming.  Golf needs to be less like an “Evil Stepmother”, and more like a “Fun Uncle”.

I’d love to hear any stories/examples from readers about this topic. Do you think golf is overbearing? Or do you think it’s critical to keep the status quo? Let me know! (yes, you can share your opinion!)

See you on the fairways


About Richard Fellner

Winner of multiple Australian Golf Media Awards, including Best Photojournalism and Best Column, Inside Golf Group Editor Richard Fellner is the quintessential Golf Tragic, having played the game for over 50 years (but has never gotten any better!) He has played and reviewed courses all over the world, and has interviewed many of the great players of the game (including Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson and Greg Norman). Richard is a member of both the Australian Golf Writers Association and the Golf Society of Australia, and he is a regular guest on many Australian "sports talk" radio shows and networks, including ABC Grandstand, SEN 1116, Melbourne Talk Radio 1377, 2GB and others. Follow Richard Fellner on Quora


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