Tom Murray 2Back in June I penned a post entitled 'The Next Generation', in which I spoke about the relatively ailing fortunes of some of this country’s established Tour Players, such as Luke Donald and Lee Westwood, and asked if it was time for a ‘changing of the guard’. One of the ‘young pretenders’ I mentioned was the as yet little known Tom Murray, a member at Headingley Golf Club, who had just broken his home course record, carding a superb 63. I listed him as being one to keep an eye out for in the next few years.

Harry GoddardWell another ‘young lion’ to look out for could well be 15-year-old Harry Goddard from Chesunt. The Hanbury Manor player is in the form of his life having recently carded a four-under par final round of 68 to win the North of England U16 Championship at Heswall Golf Club and consign Charlie Wilkinson (Cheshunt Park) and Archie Palmer (Bramhall GC) to share the runner’s up spot.

"I'm still U15, so this was a good win for me, I was chuffed," said Goddard, who finished on 287, one-under par for the 72 holes.

What I particularly liked about his win was that young Harry had to force his way back into contention after a disappointing opening round of 75 had left him 6 shots behind the early front-runner, Yorkshire's Barclay Brown, who opened with a 3-under par 69.

"I didn't get off to a great start, I went par, par, quadruple. But I didn't let it get to me, I just knuckled down to see what I could do and finished the round three-over," said Goddard. He followed that up with a much improved one-under par 71 in the second round, but still found himself six shots down on Brown.

The Cheshunt School pupil, who had watched his hero, Justin Rose, climb through the leaderboard from T11 after the first round at the recent USPGA Championship at Whistling Straits, said: "Going into the last 36 holes I just decided to see how many I could pull back. The weather wasn't great in the morning so one-over was a good score and then I played really well in the last round."

Harry Goddard 2Goddard trains with the England Golf U16 squad and is coached by Rob Watts at his Performance Academy in Reading, Berkshire. To date, 2015 has been a memorable season for him. He was sixth in the South Eastern Junior Championship, T13 at the prestigious Sir Henry Cooper Junior Masters and earlier this month, he finished a hugely creditable third to Denmark’s Marcus Helligkilde in the RB German Junior Masters at Heidelberg-Lobenfeld, when he also scored 68 in the last round.

Speaking of that final round in Heidelberg, he said: "It gave me a bit more confidence to know that I could shoot that much under." So, couple that with the extra boost he will surely derive from yet another great finish, this time much closer to home in The Wirral, and what can we expect of him in the future, I wonder?

His putting stats for the four rounds at Heswall averaged out at +0.816 – which compares very favourably with PGA professional putting standards – and his sister, Lucy, herself a professional golfer attached to Hanbury Manor, commented: "That proves his putting stats are tour standard. Without a doubt he is one to watch out for. I've known it for years, since he started golf, but the stats are now proving it."


We continue our exploration of the many, and sometimes surprising, variations on the theme of golf that exist nowadays with a look at Disc Golf.

The first recorded instance of people playing ‘golf’ with an aerodynamic disc rather than with club and ball, took place in Vancouver British Columbia in 1926. It appears that a group of schoolchildren regularly played the game with tin lids on a course they set out in their school grounds. They called it ‘Tin Lid Golf.’

Numerous accounts exist of various forms of ‘Disc Golf’ being played throughout the next four decades until, in 1960, the Chicago-based company, Copar Plastics, attempted to market a commercially packaged game called ‘Sky Golf’. However, the Frisbee culture was little more than embryonic at that time and the game failed to catch on.

Ed HeadrickDisc Golf BasketIn 1965, while playing a round of golf during his summer holidays, a college recreation counsellor by the name of George Sappenfeld realized that his students could play a version of the game on the playground using Frisbee discs. When, 3 years later, he became a Parks and Recreation supervisor, George contacted the manufacturers of the Frisbee, the Wham-O MFG Company, and requested that it help him with his plans to hold a Frisbee golf contest. By way of response, the company sent him a batch of Frisbees along with Hula Hoops to use as targets. The following year, he talked “Steady-Ed” Headrick, the inventor of both the Frisbee and the Disc Pole Hole catching device (destined to become the equivalent to the hole in traditional golf) into including a Frisbee golf event in the All-Comers Frisbee meet being held at Pasadena's Rose Bowl fields. It seemed as if George’s concept was destined to catch on.

Surprisingly however, nothing more was heard of Frisbee golf for the next seven years. Indeed, even the 1972 Official Frisbee Handbook, which listed all the games that could be played with a Frisbee, made no mention of golf.

However, in the meantime in Rochester, New York, a group of people began regularly playing a form of disc golf as a competitive sport. Within a year of starting (in August 1970) they were organising The Annual City of Rochester Disc Golf Championship.

Amazingly, it wasn’t until 1973 that these avid disc golfers discovered, via an International Frisbee Association newsletter, that unbeknown to them an entire Frisbee culture had been born. Eager to learn just how many people would be interested in participating, they decided to make their City of Rochester Disc Golf Championship a national tournament, which they named The American Flying Disc Open.

Dan RoddickThe success of the tournament, which took place in 1974, persuaded “Steady-Ed” to take another look at disc golf. He hired the winner Dan Roddick, to head up Wham-O's new Sports Promotion Department and decided to include Disc Golf as an event in his 1975 World Frisbee Championships.

Ed became so convinced that disc golf could be big, he resigned from his position at the Wham-O MFG Company and started up the Disc Golf Association Company in 1976 – a move that introduced disc golf to thousands of Frisbee players. Properly organized play and national tournaments quickly became a shared goal. Players got together and formed the Professional Disc Golf Association to help oversee and guide the rapid growth of their sport.

The popularity of disc golf grew rapidly and exponentially. Each new course spawned yet more courses in nearby towns and cities and Ed, having designed the first bespoke course at Oak Grove Park in La Cañada Flintridge, California, was soon designing and selling disc golf courses country-wide.

The PDGA is now a worldwide force. There are thousands of disc golf courses around the world and its growth shows little sign of abating. The sport of disc golf is fast becoming as professional as its traditional ancestor.

Hugely popular in the USA, it is currently a minority, but growing sport in the UK. There are already 35 disc golf courses up and down the country and, under the auspices of British Disc Golf Association, professional disc golfers now take part in an organised Tour.

Disc Golf Tee ShotThere are, as you might expect, many similarities with the traditional form of the game. The object of disc golf is likewise to complete each hole in as few shots/throws as possible. The main difference is that instead of selecting the appropriate club with which to hit your golf ball, given the type of shot you want to play, you  select an appropriate disc, similar to, but not the same as, a Frisbee.Disc Golf Approach

A professional disc golfer will carry about a dozen different golf discs including a range of 'drivers', 'approaches', and 'putters'. Not all discs fly straight. Some are designed to curve in their flight (similar to the way in which the ‘bias’ in a Crown Green bowl affects its roll).

As in golf, there is a teeing area where you make your first throw or 'drive'. Wherever your disc lands, that's the spot from where you make your next throw or 'approach shot' to the basket. Then, hopefully, you are close enough to make your 'putt' for a par.

Disc Golf puttThere is no ‘green’ as such and no hole in the ground. Instead, you ‘sink your putt’ by throwing your disc into an elevated metal basket, the Disc Pole Hole device designed by “Steady-Ed”.

Disc Golf JuniorDisc Golf is an ideal family activity. It can be enjoyed equally by all age groups, from schoolchildren to pensioners, making it an excellent life-time sport. It's easy to play at a basic level, so you can enjoy it from day one, without the need to take lessons. [Beginners are advised to start by just using an 'approach' disc or 'putter' which flies straight!] Although generally considered to be a 'niche' sport, it nonetheless has more 'street cred' than its more tradition-bound ancestor, which may well widen its appeal.

It's relatively easy on the pocket too, so you can still play even if you have a very limited budget at your disposal. The number of courses available to play on is growing at an ever increasing rate, so the chances are you won't have to travel too far to play either. Early signs suggest that it might not be too long before its popularity here in the UK soars, just as it has done elsewhere.


Each year players from around the USA gather in the Atlanta area for the annual One-Club Golf World Championship.  Dating back to 1980, the 18-hole stroke-play event at Bridge Mill Athletic Club welcomes both professionals and amateurs.

Thad"It's the most fun you can have on a course," says Thad Daber, a four-times winner who, in October 1987 at Lochmere Golf Club in North Carolina,  shot a hugely impressive round of 70 using only a Titleist 6-iron to set the Guinness World Record for the lowest competitive round by a one-club golfer. More than 27 years later, no other one-club golfer has managed to go lower.

The advantages of playing with only one club are manifold: no headaches over club selection; rounds lasting three instead of four hours; no heavy bags to carry; no caddie fees and (the biggest benefit of all according to CBS golf analyst Bobby Clampett) it's one of the best ways to find your feel.

Bobby"I'm old-school when it comes to shaping shots,” says Clampett. “You have to make the club do what you want. Practicing and playing with one club teaches you lots of shots. You can shut [the clubface] for a hook, open it for a high fade, hit it high, low. It makes you think strategy, where you want to place your next shot. It's fun, and it pays dividends with your other clubs. Every golfer should try it."

Thad Daber agrees. "Playing with one club does a lot of great things. First, it makes you play defensively… And it makes you manage your game. You have to play two, three shots ahead and ask, 'What yardage do I want to leave myself to the green?' It's a different game.”Seve Ballesteros

Seve Ballesteros grew up playing golf with just a 3-iron. Not having a selection of clubs, purpose-built  to accommodate different on-course situations, improved his creativity and made him one of the game's most inventive players. In the 1970s and '80s, he would team up with fellow shot-making legend Lee Trevino for improvised one-club mini-tournaments before the British Open.

The so-called ‘big three’ – Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player – all sing the praises of playing one-club practice rounds and Fred Couples passes range time by hitting full-swing, half-speed drivers 150 yards.


Solheim CupAs we eagerly await the 25th of this month to learn the names of the four women golfers whom Carin Koch will name as her captain’s picks for next month’s contest at St. Leon-Rot Golf Club in Germany, the excitement surrounding the event has been further increased by news that last year's Ryder Cup venue Gleneagles could host the 2019 contest after a bid was submitted to bring the tournament back to Scotland.

It is 15 years since the match play event between Europe and United States, often talked about as the women’s equivalent of The Ryder Cup, was last held in Scotland, when Scots golfer Dale Reid captained Europe to a 14½-11½ victory at the Loch Lomond Golf Club.

Bernard Murphy, managing director at Gleneagles, commented: "We would be truly honoured to welcome the Solheim Cup to Gleneagles."

GleneaglesScotland's top female golfer Catriona Matthew who has played in seven Solheim Cups described the tournament as "a special event, which is growing in profile and stature." She added, "I have no doubt that a Solheim Cup in 2019 at Gleneagles would be the biggest and best yet and further help to enhance the stature of the event and women's golf as a whole. Golf in Scotland is a national past-time and the Scottish crowds would come out to support The Solheim Cup in droves. Equally, both players and media love coming to golf events in Scotland. It is the Home of Golf and there is always that something extra every time you tee it up in a competition here."


Have you ever heard of the World Ice Golf Championships? If you thought the 967 bunkers at Whistling Straits constituted ‘hazard hell’ then think again! Try swinging on sheet ice with a freezing wind cutting you in two and polar bears prowling on the fairway!Ice Golf Green

Ice golf is not a recent phenomenon. It dates back to the seventeenth century. A few Dutch golfers were so passionate about the game that they decided they couldn’t wait for spring to arrive and so began playing through the winter. Since that time ice golf has developed into a recognised winter sport with fans all across the globe.

A 36 hole-stroke-play competition played over two days, the first World Ice Golf Championship was played in 1997 with the front 9 holes being played in the morning and the back 9 in the afternoon on both days. The field was limited to 20 and the maximum handicap allowed was 36.

The venue for that inaugural event and for subsequent championships was Uummannaq in Greenland, six hundred kilometres north of the Arctic Circle. The course was designed on the fjord winter ice and stretched over huge icebergs. Golfers not only had to combat each other, but temperatures between -20° and -50° as well. Despite these extreme temperatures, every year, in the spring thaw, the course melted away completely, so although the venue remained constant, the course was totally different each year. It was somewhat shorter than a standard course and the hole was slightly larger. Most of the course was white, including the greens, so orange balls were used. Apart from these obvious differences, the rules themselves were basically the same as those laid down by the R&A.

Unfortunately, climate change has meant the ice has become too thin to play on and the last time the Championship was held was back in 2006.

However, that has not meant the death of the sport. Indeed it is very much alive and kicking in the USA and the invitation to play in the 2016 tournament to be held on Lake Inguadona, Minnesota in January, described as "a 2-person team scramble" is currently open.


3735752973_0b6eba37c9_mWe might be tempted to think that today’s populist adaptations of the traditional game of golf, such as those that I have featured in previous posts [StreetGolf, SpeedGolf, FootGolf and BeachGolf] are ground-breaking and original in their conception, but actually a trip to the British Golf Museum is all that is needed to put the record straight!

It appears that in 15th-century Scotland there were two distinct versions of golf: one played by the nobles and elites, and a second played by the commoners, not on areas of land designed specifically for the purpose, but within churchyards and out on the streets.

Assimilating the fascinating information and exhibits on display, one quickly realises that this 15th-century shorter, less ruly version had much in common with some of the ‘modern alternatives’ on offer today. All of them are attempts to make the game appealing to ‘the man in the street’, to ordinary folk who may well feel excluded by the traditional longer version of the game.

Short golf was usually played on Sundays and festival days when country folk converged on the towns. The precise rules are unknown and were probably something of a movable feast! Players used a single club, and the consumption of alcohol was commonplace, so behaviour was often spirited!

A perusal of the rules of StreetGolf makes this similarity, in terms of fluid rules, quickly apparent. Here are a few just to prove the point: respect the urban environment and the public; do not disturb traffic on the roadway; use soft balls; always look around you before swinging your club (we recommend playing in groups); the player who has already hit his ball must go to the reception area (green or fairway) to make sure the area is safe before the second player plays; the first hole is decided jointly by all players; the target of the second hole is set by the winning team.

Back in the 15th century, ‘long golf’ (the ancestor of our modern game, played on lengthy courses in accordance with an extensive set of rules) prevailed – mainly owing to the fact that, over a period of time, Scottish kings and Parliament issued various edicts banning short golf. They considered it to be a nuisance and thought that it distracted the common man from practicing his archery, which they felt was vital for the nation's defence. The Protestant church also played its part by condemning any kind of fun on the Sabbath!

The privileged gentry continued to play ‘long golf’ in parkland fields and on links land near the sea. The fact that long golf required a player to use multiple clubs and expensive balls placed it beyond the pocket of the common man. However, as Scotland’s economy prospered, tradesmen began playing long golf alongside their superiors. This was made possible in Scotland because most links land was common land, which no one could own, and to which all had equal access.

It is very illuminating that well into the 18th century a different variety of short golf coexisted with long golf. Less wealthy golfers couldn’t afford the expensive hand-crafted clubs and balls required to threaten the longest holes, and for this reason many courses maintained shorter golf loops for the more miserly equipped.

Trump NationalPersonally speaking, I think it is vitally important that we continue this process of making golf accessible to all, irrespective of gender or background, and that the influence of people like Donald Trump is to be resisted. Ever a controversial figure, he is on record as saying: ‘Maybe golf doesn’t need to be for everyone; it’s an aspirational sport, something you aspire to play someday if you get rich enough.’ and his Trump National Golf Club in New Jersey is intentionally and unashamedly elitist.

The divide between long golf and short golf continues to stem, at least in part, from the kind of equipment issues previously mentioned. Modern equipment is scientifically engineered with great precision and custom fitted so that, not only is it expensive (and out of reach for many), it has enabled players to hit the ball further and further. Consequently, many courses, have spent vast sums of money lengthening holes, relocating fairway bunkers and the like. These adaptations, along with the ever more stringent standards being demanded of course maintenance, are raising the cost of golf and contributing to yet another drop in the numbers of working people playing the traditional ‘long’ version of the game.

It is ‘short golf’, the game of the people, that is being revived by today's golf alternatives, and I would include the increasingly popular indoor golf facilities, like the one shown below, offering driving ranges with electronic scoring, analytical feedback and the opportunity to play a host of virtual courses, all with a lounge-like atmosphere. So, this new breed of short golf formats that some people are hailing as the future of golf are, in a sense, little more than a re-branding exercise that stems from roots firmly planted in the past.

TopGolfThe latest breed of driving ranges with concentric-ring targets and automatic electronic scoring, may be seen as a modern counterpart to 15th century short golf. They don’t require much space, just like the street and churchyard golf back then, and alcohol is usually part of the deal. I have spent many an enjoyable couple of hours or so at just such an indoor facility. Sometimes I play a ‘virtual round’ on a top Championship course and sometimes I just practice.

The Topgolf UK website describes its product as “the premier golf entertainment complex where the competition of sport meets your favourite local bar. You can challenge your friends and family to addictive point-scoring golf games that anyone from the hopeful pro golfer to your 7-year-old cousin can play all year-round.”

“Just picture a 240-yard outfield with dartboard-like targets in the ground. The closer to the centre or “bull’s-eye” you get and the further you hit your microchipped balls, the more points you get. Score even bigger with Topgolf’s extensive food and drink menu, served to you by one of our bayhosts.”

In my experience, the targets Topgolf incorporate focus your concentration far better than the normal ranges do. Also, the scoring system not only creates a fun, competitive atmosphere, it brings a sense of pressure as you try to beat your best score (valuable 8199133433_3071dbe996_m4922320119_4c79d079c3_mfor the more serious golfer). Topgolf is proving to be a good family activity, but, just as importantly, it is emerging as a young person’s entertainment, both sporting and social. “One more round” is as likely to mean more drinks as more balls!

My brother-in-law is fast becoming a FootGolf fan, in which one brings the skills of football to an adapted golf course that is shorter than a standard golf course, with some being not unlike the ‘short golf” alternative loops at courses like Leith and Musselburgh all those years ago.

How all this will pan out is anybody’s guess. Can we learn anything from post-Packer cricket? Cricket has successfully spawned two distinct versions of the game: Test Match and T20 formats, each with its own distinctive appeal. Might we one day see a brand of competitive golf played over 9 holes? Or might golf take a lead from tennis and introduce competitive mixed foursomes/fourballs?

The ultimate “short golf” game may yet prove to be simulator golf, which is increasingly realistic and already wildly popular in countries where space is at a premium, like South Korea and Japan and which allows us to ‘virtually play’ the world’s top courses for a tiny fraction of what, in reality, it would cost us. [Interestingly, part of Jordan Spieth’s preparation for this year’s Open Championship was getting to know the Old Course by playing it on a simulator in Dallas!]

Whatever the future of the sport holds, historically golf has always kept a place at its table for the common man and it must remain ever thus. Golf is a game that everyone can enjoy, irrespective of age and gender, and its handicap system means that any pairing can experience a truly competitive round. Put simply, it is too good a game for it ever to become the sole preserve of the privileged few.



Seve BallesterosGolf is a game not a pure art form – although admittedly artistry can play its part, as Seve Ballesteros (see right) illustrates perfectly!

You are seeking lower scores not ‘the perfect swing’.

Your first step is to understand the current status of your game - its strengths and weaknesses. Play a minimum of 5 rounds in which you record your key statistics. [See my July post.]

Make sure that you understand the biomechanical demands of what you are trying to achieve and your body’s capacity for performing them. [Use our free-to-download Self-Assessment Tests in order to identify shortfall and then use the relevant conditioning programme(s). Again, see my previous post.]

2015 CalendarPlan your practice programme in consultation with your teaching professional, so that it properly dovetails with your technical skills lessons. The ideal interval between lessons is two weeks (so a typical 12 week programme should contain 5-6 lessons).

Plan the first ‘cycle’ of your programme [which should include an integration of lessons, practice and play]. Make sure that you take account of other commitments and, once formulated, diarise your sessions and set reminders on your phone etc. to help you commit to the programme.

Every practice session should be specific and deliberate. You should have a single objective and a clear idea of what you are trying to achieve and why. (Relevance and purpose.)

Make a clear distinction between practice sessions that are geared towards making game improvement changes to your swing technique and those that are improving execution/performance. In fact there are 4 distinct types of practice:

  1. Technical practice: (working on swing mechanics). This type of practice requires a lot of correct repetitions to ‘bed in’ a specific position or movement pattern. It can be done at home: indoors in front of a mirror, or outdoors in front of patio doors (always without a ball). Work on one move at a time and break the movement pattern down into a series of positions. Practice ‘hitting each of these positions separately, but in sequence, until you can ‘hit’ each one accurately and ‘instinctively’. If you hold positions for 30 seconds to get ‘feedback feel’, it trains the body to ‘hit’ the position and enhances recognition when you ‘miss’ it. Then progress to moving between positions in super-slow motion [building up to a maximum of half-speed.] If you possess one, use a video camera when swinging at higher speeds and then make use of the slow motion playback and freeze-frame facilities to check for technical accuracy [feel v real]. Only use drills provided by, or approved by, your instructor to ensure that they will actively accelerate your progress toward your goal.
  2. Game practice: this involves playing game-type challenges with measurable results in order to test and improve your skills and provide feedback on your progress. Re-create game situational challenges, which you should perform with minimal technical thoughts and ‘a target focus’. On the range hit to different targets and use different clubs. Make sure that you pick a ‘micro’ target to aim for and always remember to incorporate your full pre-shot routine for every shot you hit. [Remember that you’re not practising to hit good shots on the range, but in a round of golf when the pressure is on. This is when your dominant habits will re-surface, so make sure they are good ones.] Play an imaginary hole that you have problems with, or an entire round by visualising your course. Discuss appropriate possibilities with your instructor, who should have plenty of alternatives for you to experiment with.
  3. Skill practice: developing different skills that will further enhance your ability to control the ball and help with by visualising different on-course situations and future competitions in your arm-chair at home; then, on the range, try mentally recreating them by way of practical preparation.
  4. Rehearsal practice: begin by visualising successful negotiation of different on-course situations and then prepare for them practically by mentally recreating them on the range.

The ideal duration of both a lesson and a practice session is one hour. [After that time, you will lose a degree of focus, which means that you run the risk of rehearsing imperfect technique and ingraining flawed habits.]

The optimal amount of practice between lessons is somewhere between 6-8 hours. [Any more than that increases the danger of you losing focus and regressing to old habits, with no teacher there to correct you.]

Make sure that you schedule a monthly ‘set-up MOT’ – this is best done at the start of every alternate lesson, so that your teaching pro can check it properly. [Doing it yourself in front of a mirror is less than exact – especially in the early stages.]

Schedule in the odd week off. (You need to avoid getting stale and maintain high levels of enthusiasm.)

Actually playing golf must form part of your programme. Remember the quest is not for perfect technique (if there is such a thing), but for lower scores. BUT when playing, you must be in ‘trust mode’ with no thought given to swing mechanics. Your focus must be totally target oriented as you learn to trust your swing to get the ball there.

Avoid match-play and stick to a stroke-play format, where every stroke counts and has a consequence.

At the end of each ‘cycle’ chart a couple of rounds. [This will not only provide feedback on progress made, but also indicate areas for future improvement.]


Why are the R&A and the PGA still failing to comply with World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Standards? What are they afraid of?

Thomas BachThomas Bach, 2016 Olympic President, has been openly critical of the PGA for a lack of transparency in its anti-doping policy, and insisted that all golfers competing in the Olympics will have to be WADA compliant. To date, the response from golf’s governing body has been muted, to say the least!

The PGA does have an anti-doping programme, but in most people’s eyes it is not as stringent as the world code. Ten classes of drugs are banned (including anabolic steroids, hormones, narcotics and beta blockers) but two substances in the WADA list (glucocorticosteroids and Beta-2-Agonists) are not included because executives don’t believe that they enhance a golfer's performance.

Thirteen weeks before the 2016 Games in Rio, participating Olympic players will automatically be required to comply with that world code, because the tournament in Brazil – the first Olympic golf competition since 1904 – will operate under the International Golf Federation’s (IGF) anti-doping policy, which is WADA compliant.

The IOC President said: “They will have the same conditions like all the athletes. There will be random testing. There will be target testing. With regard to the anti-doping programme, it is clear that the athletes will have to accept the Olympic standards during the next year prior to the Games, and of course during the Games.” That means, for instance, that during the Games the top five finishers will be tested in addition to the random testing and targeted testing during the Games.

Bach went on to say: “Prior to the Games and from now on, I can only encourage the PGA Tour to follow the WADA code, and finally to accept the WADA code and to be compliant with this, so that you have a harmonised anti-doping regime for all the golf players and that you have an equal level of playing field.”

In practical terms, that would mean that all golfers would need to give details of their whereabouts at all times and consent to being blood-tested, with any positive samples being made public. The PGA Tour’s current policy is only to disclose details of any decision-making following drug infringements, if the infringement is regarded as performance-enhancing. Bans for recreational drug use are not made public and only three Tour players have been sanctioned for use of performance-enhancing drugs since 2008.

Tim FinchemDespite these discrepancies, Tim Finchem, the commissioner of the PGA Tour, seems unmoved and still insists: “The doping programme we have is the best in our sport globally.” He has persistently denied there has been any evidence that professional golfers have taken any performance-enhancing drugs. Recently, however, he has faced mounting pressure from other world organisations – and a number of players (including Tiger Woods) – urging him to change his mind. "But for the problems in other sports, I doubt we would be at this point," he said during a conference with the leaders of six major golf organizations.

The International Golf Federation has released its own statement in which it says: “Olympic golf will operate under our anti-doping policy, which is WADA compliant. This will come into effect 13 weeks out from the Olympic Games in Rio. In 2016, for the period from May 6th through to the conclusion of the Olympic Games there will be a registered testing pool, created and managed by the IGF, and male and female golfing athletes will be subject to both urine and blood tests for substances on the WADA prohibited list.”

Peter DawsonPeter Dawson, outgoing chief executive of the R&A, commented, “I would certainly urge that golf moves towards being WADA compliant at all times and right across the world, and I think the game of golf is working towards that.” He did however make a point of saying that, “It’s still my belief that we don’t have a major drug problem of any kind in the game of golf.”

Legends of Golf in Savannah, GA April 19, 2010While it seems that the R&A and the PGA are quite content to procrastinate (thus appearing at best to be indecisive and at worst to be indifferent about the subject), Gary Player is not nearly so reticent. He is on record as saying that he personally knows that some golfers are using drugs: "Whether it's HGH, Creatine, or steroids, I know for a fact that some golfers are doing it," he said.

When asked at a press conference why the R&A does not have drug testing at the British Open and whether he was concerned that its winner could be using steroids, Dawson rather lamely replied, "I don't know if Gary Player is right about golfers being on drugs, frankly, so I really can't comment. One thing I do know is that we're not drug testing here at the Open championship this week, so just how that would be identified, I'm not sure."

So, let’s take a reality check. Relatively recently, one of golf’s top players failed his third drug test in five years. The same player competed at last month’s Open Championship, where there was clearly no testing in operation. Does that suggest that those charged with governance of golf should extract their heads from the sand and squarely face up to the kind of issues that get athletes in most other sports lengthy, if not lifetime bans? Are we being overly sceptical to wonder whether their failure to act decisively and vigorously has anything to do with economics? – After all, there's a lot of money to be made from those at the very top of the game. Could that be why there seems to be a reluctance to rock the boat?

14593885027_0dd4a0cc91_m7818775672_c63fc18482_mAll this comes at a time when other governing bodies (cycling and athletics being very public examples) are repeatedly and openly addressing drug-related incidents and attempting to clean up their respective sports. Surely someone in a position of authority within the game of golf has to step up to the plate, and quickly!

It may well be that golf doesn't have a “major drug problem”, but how will we ever know until proper testing is routinely employed. Can the R&A and PGA each continue to justify its current position: one rule for golf and another for everyone else?

U.S. Open Golf Practice Round June 13,  2011Can it continue to cultivate the code of silence with which it once helped to cover up Tiger's indiscretions? When Dustin Johnson failed to appear to defend his title at the World Golf Championship in Shanghai, following all the media speculation about his "off-course issues", the PGA remained tight-lipped about where he was and the reasons for his non-appearance.

The European Tour, meanwhile, have practiced random drug-testing since July 2008, but will not disclose which tournaments are targeted by testers, or how often drug testing is carried out. When drug testing occurs, samples are taken from 10 to 15 per cent of the field and are carried out by an external company, Independent Drug Test Management. The European Tour also use results from drug tests taken during tournaments on the PGA Tour, and claim that this negates the need to take as many tests themselves, which they say would "inconvenience" players who play on both sides of the Atlantic.

U.S. Open Golf Practice Round June 15,  2011[6] Tiger WoodsThis discrepancy between the two tours is reflected in separate comments made by Tiger Woods and Justin Rose. Woods revealed that on average he’s tested about five times a year on the PGA Tour: “We get regularly tested throughout the year… like five times. That’s usually about the number for most guys.” While Justin Rose made the startling admission in 2013 that he had never taken a drugs test while competing on the European Tour.

It has been claimed that drugs cannot enhance a golfer’s performance in the way that they can in sports such as athletics, cycling and football. A drug cannot help a golfer hit a putt straight, they say. Maybe, maybe not. However, as the sport’s top stars develop ever more powerful physiques in search of increased swing speed, does it not seem naïve to ignore the issue?