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In short, leave playing long game to the pros

The television is just great, isn't it?

Even if you stayed indoors 365 days a year, lolling on the couch like a whale in a receding tide, your house would still be filled with friendly, human voices. And if the idiot box informs the watching idiots that "viewers shouldn't try this at home" we tend to take note.

When Evel Knievel attempted to jump the Snake River Canyon in what was, essentially, a rocket-propelled tin bathtub, did we fashion our own jerry-built contraption from odds and ends in the potting shed and head to the nearest gorge? No. When Siegfried and Roy stuck their heads into a white tiger's gaping jaws, did we charge down to the nearest zoo and begin goading a variety of caged beasts? Certainly not.

With this in mind, why then do club golfers try to emulate what they see being performed by the professionals on the television? Because there's nothing bigger than a golfer's ego. Even if their career drive skitters along some 142 yards, they'll still attempt to play a course off the back tees and take on the kind of swashbuckling shots only the golfing gods could execute and even then only with the aid of a stiff tailwind.

Such delusions of grandeur have grown over the years as average players have been bombarded with the message that various innovations in equipment have drastically increased their distance. They've also felt the need to hit the ball further as many of the courses they play, particularly the newer, so-called championship layouts, have become longer.

Like a python trying to get an elephant down its thrapple, many weekend warriors still insist on biting off more than they can chew. The end result of all this over-ambitious recklessness tends to be growing anguish, relentless thrashing and constant plootering, and a game that should, simply, be fun, becomes everything but.

The length of time a round takes is one of the major factors in putting people off the game. At a time when membership figures are declining, the promise of regularly getting stuck for five hours behind a footering four-ball is hardly a great sales pitch.

And playing on a course that is far too long for the average player's abilities only adds to the pace of play palaver. In the US last year, officials at the PGA of America and the United States Golf Asociation threw their weight behind the Tee It Forward programme, a national initiative aimed at encouraging golfers to play a course that is aligned with their average driving distance by utilising tees that provide the greatest playability, thus speeding up the pace and rekindling the flickering embers of enjoyment.

The statisticians on the other side of the Atlantic reckon a 6700-yard course that many amateurs play is proportionally equivalent to a PGA Tour player competing on a course measuring 8100 yards – 700 yards or more longer that a typical layout on the professional circuit.

"Too often we are playing courses that are too long and too difficult," said Hamish Grey, the chief executive of the Scottish Golf Union, who is eager to see the Tee It Forward programme encouraged here.

"People are still playing off the back tees when they are simply not capable of doing it," he said. "We are co-ordinating a working group with the R&A, the PGA and the European Golf Association about Tee It Forward which we think will help re-educate people.

"The top players play a different game. People watch golf week-in, week-out, on the TV and think that's the way they have to play. People forget that the game has to be fun for the vast majority. If it's not fun then is it value for money?"

Across the golfing board, pace of play remains a thorn in the side. Last year, in one of those great "you couldn't make it up" moments, the English teenager Nathan Kimsey, fresh from zipping round 18 holes in 32 minutes at a charity fundraiser, became the first player to be punished under the R&A's new hardline approach to slow play during June's Amateur Championship at Royal Troon.

Amid the snorts of ironic guffawing that greeted the one-shot penalty there was, at least, a serious purpose to the episode: it was evidence that the powers-that-be were finally ready to stand up and take action on an issue that has blighted the game for years.

The campaign to crack the whip on the slowcoaches gathered pace during the season, with both the European Tour and the LPGA Tour dishing out high-profile punishments, and Grey is keen to keep the game moving along at all levels in 2013. "It has to be across the board, whether it's at a Scottish Championship, a Renfrewshire County Championship or a North East District event," he said. "If we can address it at that kind of level then hopefully it will filter down to the clubs."

All that's left now is to make sure club golfers hand their egos into the starter's box before they tee off. That may be easier said than done. "Unfortunately, golfers are masochists." And who uttered those words? Just a certain Jack Nicklaus.

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