Following his visit to Brookline for the Ryder Cup Sir Michael Bonallack, newly installed as Captain of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, has decided to dedicate his year in office to recapturing some of the standards which the game has lost.
“When people take up golf the etiquette is there in the Rule book but it is becoming increasingly ignored,” says Bonallack. “Slow golfers very seldom wave through the match behind. People talk and move while others nearby are playing and all these little things begin to multiply – failing to replace divots, rake bunkers and repair pitch marks.
“If these basic courtesies of golf were bred into people you would not get crowd incidents like those at Brookline. It is a minority who start these things but it is contagious in a highly charged situation and it doesn’t take much alcohol for some to get over excited. Incitement of spectators should never be part of any golf event.
“Hopefully the incidents at the Ryder Cup will cause many people to dive the situation a great deal of thought. The players’ reaction at Brookline was out of hand. They should be leading the way, not inciting the crowds with gestures.”
When the young Michael Bonallack first took up the game as a member of Chigwell Golf Club junior section, the youngsters were taught the rules and behaviour of the game. Anyone who transgressed was not allowed to play for several weeks. With more people taking up golf in later life rather than as youngsters, Sir Michael feels that there should be more emphasis on the game’s established code of etiquette.
The protection of amateur status, with strict limits on the value of prizes, is also essential, in Bonallack’s view to the preservation of proper behaviour in golf. “Once you relax the prize structure it all becomes connected with money. You could have gigantic prizes, special hole-in-one events and completely undermine the whole basis of the game,” he says.