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  • Alistair Tait

Foursomes golf deserves a comeback

Foursomes play deserves a comeback when golf returns from this coronavirus lockdown. It might be the most sensible way to restart the game in what is likely to be a long, enforced period of social distancing.

As long its played the old fashioned, proper way. Not the way it’s played in the Ryder and Solheim Cups.

Foursomes golf is perfect for four players for obvious reasons. It’s quicker than four-ball play for a start. If played properly, it means only two of the four players are on a tee at any one time, while the other two are on the move up the fairway to play the second shots. Social distancing is much easier as a result.

Clubs could designate courses as two-ball only to deter groups playing in four-balls, where social distancing is harder to enforce. The same pre-shutdown rules could remain in place: no bunker rakes, no touching of flagsticks or ball washers. Clubhouses could remain shut, with players changing shoes in the parking lot.

As @JHR_P correctly points out on twitter, partners share the same ball in foursomes. However, there's nothing to stop partners using their own balls on holes they tee off on. So I would use my ball on the first, my partner would put his or her ball into play on the second, and so on. It works as long as, pardon the expression, partners don't touch each each other's balls.

Foursomes golf isn’t as popular in the British Isles as it once was, but there are still traditional clubs which designate courses as two-ball courses either on specific days or until a certain time of the day. Those lucky enough to have two courses will designate one as a two-ball course, with four-ball play allowed on the other.

As I said, it’s a fast form of play if played correctly. I remember playing in a four-ball at Gullane with three American colleagues when we were caught up by foursome on a front nine par-3. I looked back towards the tee to see two of the four on the tee with the other two walking up towards the green.

My American colleagues were a wee bit confused when I said we had to stand aside to let the group behind play through. My colonial friends had never played foursomes. In fact, I’m not sure they knew two-ball play had priority over four-ball play.

We stood aside and I waved to the guys on the tee to play up. They did so gratefully. Shortly after their balls landed on the green, the other two in the group stepped on to the putting green to take their putts. The four went through us in a matter of minutes and had hightailed it out of our sight within two holes. We never even saw them in the bar afterwards.

Quite how playing foursomes properly got lost in international team matches is beyond me. Seeing eight players – four players and four caddies – on tees in the Ryder, Solheim, Walker and Curtis Cups is commonplace. Foursome matches in last year’s Solheim Cup took nearly six hours, leading to it being dubbed the “Slowheim Cup.” Fans had to wait a long time beside many greens for images like the one above of Solheim Cup foursomes partners Charley Hull and Azahara Munoz fist pumping. Thankfully, Europe’s dramatic final day victory relegated the glacial pace of play of the first two days to the side lines.

Before readers jump down my throat accusing me of picking on women golfers, this is a problem systemic in male team competitions too. The foursomes pace of play in last year’s Walker Cup wasn’t exactly zippy, with respective captains Nathanial Crosby and Craig Watson bemoaning that very fact.

I’ve stood in amazement watching Ryder Cup partners in foursomes discuss clubbing as if they were trying to find a cure for cancer. I remember covering a Seve Trophy in Ireland when GB&I captain Colin Montgomerie was practically tearing his hair out with the frustration of having to play six hour plus rounds.

Those times obviously won’t happen at club level. Play should be quick if foursomes is played properly. This original form of golf deserves a welcome return when we eventually get back to our courses.

P.S. Thanks to good friend Michael Lovett for suggesting the theme for today’s blog. Glad to see he’s got his thinking cap on while in self-isolation, and not just depleting his liquor cabinet.

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Apr 24, 2020

Here at Brancaster Golf Club (Royal West Norfolk GC) foursomes is the "preferred" format for members. And if you take longer than 2 1/2 hours to get around you might get a word from one of the other members!

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