A group of seniors at Barefoot Resort have discovered that the game of golf can be more enjoyable if you ease up on the rules a bit.
So they’ve created their own set of rules.
Jed DuBreuil, 76, has organized the “Stay in the Game” group of men ages 68 and older that has been playing on Thursdays over the past month under modified rules and elective shorter distances that make the game more fun and less difficult.
The group plays every Thursday with allocated tee times between 10-11 a.m., and DuBreuil said 12 to 15 players have participated per outing despite winter weather.
“I think it will take some time to evolve, but the one thing it does is ensures anyone getting up in years that there is a time and a place for them to play,” DuBreuil said. “There’s always a place at the club for them. This is a way for the older guys to still get out and enjoy the camaraderie of golf.”
Golf has three well-publicized inherent drawbacks: it’s too expensive, takes too long and is too difficult. The “Stay in the Game” group helps alleviate two of those as the modified rules make the game faster and easier.
The group allows men to stay in the game despite health limitations and a decline in physical performance. DuBreuil said the group’s philosophy has helped entice players who had quit the game to tee it up again.
“If the game is going to grow, there need to be more opportunities for the marketplace, and the marketplace is women and seniors,” DuBreuil said. “I’ve played the game my entire life and it’s hard to give up. We need to give them a place to play and give them a chance to get back out and enjoy the game.”
The group adheres to United States Golf Association rules with the following provisions:
▪ One Club Length Rule: A player may move his ball one driver length anywhere through the green while remaining in the same condition, except in a hazard or on the green.
▪ Sand Traps: There is no penalty for raking the bunker prior to your shot or fixing a footprint that your ball may have fallen into.
▪ Gimme Putts: All putts inside 2 feet are considered a “Gimme,” and players are encouraged to mark a 2-foot distance on their putter grip for easy measurement.
▪ Maximum Score: Triple bogey is the maximum score.
▪ Tees: Players can tee it up from any tees they want.
▪ Safety: Players can move balls if they feel there is a chance of injury, such as near tree roots, in the face of steep bunkers, etc.
“The appeal of relaxed rules relieves pressure of performance to some degree while still not radically deviating from the traditional rules of golf,” DuBreuil said. “An element of competition is also maintained with $3 going into a prize pot. Play is faster, less stressful, fosters peer comradeship, and is a comfortable option to splinter groups and play for pay formats that younger and more competitive-minded players prefer.”
DuBreuil was encouraged to approach Barefoot Resort general manager Dave Genevro with his idea when Golf Channel personalities Matt Ginella and Charlie Rymer introduced their seven “Relaxed Rules of Golf” in August on the Morning Drive show.
Those rules consisted of a maximum score of double par, all penalties limited to one stroke and all drops for lost balls near where a ball was lost, two-minute maximum searches for balls, improved unfortunate lies, allowed conceded putts, no equipment restrictions including the number of clubs, and the increased use of common sense.
DuBreuil has a long history and strong connection to golf. After spending 41 years working for the Office of the Secretary of Defense at the Pentagon, he graduated from the Golf Academy of America in Myrtle Beach at the top of his class at the age of 60 in December 2000. His son, Danny, is the general manager of Spring Island outside Beaufort and oversees Old Tabby Golf Links there.
“This is not a revolt against the traditions of the game,” DuBreuil said, “[but] there needs to be a revamping of the real world of playing and enjoying golf. Some changes should be made to make the game more fun.”
DuBreuil hopes the philosophy catches on for both seniors leaving or contemplating leaving the game, and beginners or women who are struggling with the game’s difficulty.
DuBreuil said the age limit was set at 68 because “65 brought in a more talented group. Sixty-eight seemed to be the breakpoint in the handicap department.” He said he has an email list of approximately 35 potential “Stay in the Game” players in Barefoot.
The “Stay in the Game” rounds are not submitted to calculate handicaps. DuBreuil and some others still play in other leagues or play enough rounds to keep a standard USGA handicap index.
But it’s not like many if not a majority of rounds that are used to calculate handicaps don’t include some of the liberties the “Stay in the Game” members employ.
“Everyone gives away putts,” DuBreuil said. “A lot of this stuff that isn’t allowed by the USGA is being done anyway, it’s just not talked about. They more or less are common sense and things people are doing anyway.”
Furthering the “Stay in the Game” group’s effort, Genevro said Barefoot is in the process of adding new tee areas that will shorten the minimum distances of its courses, and they’ll be marked with plaques and markings on the cart path, and will be added to the GPS units on carts.
“We’re trying to make it where people who are new to the game aren’t afraid to play,” Genevro said. “They won’t feel the pressure of people playing behind them. And for the people who are older, we want to take some of those longer par-4s and make them shorter for them.”
Though the “Stay in the Game” group is limited to Barefoot members for the time being, Genevro believes there is potential for outings including guests and outside play that feature the modified rules, and interleague play if groups at other courses pick up on the idea.
“I think if it keeps people playing golf, we have to find a way for them to do it,” Genevro said. “If they’re not turning in scores because it’s not USGA rules, then it’s not hurting anything. It’s keeping fun in the game.”
To the tip of Africa
Zack Byrd of Murrells Inlet will be giving golf in Africa a go this year.
At the age of 30, after playing professional golf domestically for several years and repeatedly attempting to go through the Web.com Tour’s various channels or qualifying tournament, Byrd is going a different route in 2017.
He received an exemption into March’s final stage of the Sunshine Tour Q-School based in South Africa, and hopes to earn status on the tour and play in events in April, May and early June before returning home during a break in the tour’s schedule.
“It’s a little outside the box and something I’ve never done,” said Byrd, a 2009 graduate of Coastal Carolina. “But this is probably the last year for me, and I’ve been doing the same thing for seven years and it hasn’t worked out, so I’m going to try something different.”
Byrd is scheduled to leave for South Africa on March 9 and will have two practice rounds before the Q-School finals begin on March 13.
He said a top-30 finish in Q-School would get him into the large tournaments early in the schedule, including events in Zambia and Zimbabwe.
“The plan would be to play everything I can before the break in the summer and reevaluate based on where I am on the money list and see how much I’d have to go back over there,” Byrd said.
The European Tour has five events in South Africa on its 2017 schedule, and Byrd said a top-15 finish on the Sunshine Tour’s money list would give him a spot in most if not all of them on the 2018 schedule, and a top-50 money list finish would give him an opportunity to compete in some of them as well.
He believes the Sunshine Tour is a better alternative than trying to play on Web.com Tour feeder tours in Latin America or Canada. “I’m doing this to jump to the European Tour,” Byrd said. “I need to earn money. I have a family.”
Prior to his trip to South Africa, Byrd will be playing in three Florida Professional Golf Tour events beginning with this weekend’s sold out Indian River Open at New Smyrna Golf Club. That will be followed by the Wildwood Open & Pro-Am from Feb. 17-19 and Two-Man Team Championship from Feb. 23-24, which he will play with partner Mark Silvers of Savannah, Ga., a member of PGA Tour LatinoAmerica.
In his most recent events, Byrd finished third in the Goslings Invitational on Dec. 1 in the Bahamas to earn $5,750, then finished 12th and second in a pair of Florida Golf Tour events in December.
Dunes seeks volunteers
The Dunes Golf and Beach Club is recruiting volunteers for a pair of tournaments it is hosting over the next four months.
More than 200 volunteers that will divided into 12 subcommittees are sought for the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship from May 27-31. The third playing of the USGA national championship features 64 two-woman teams that will be cut to 32 teams following two rounds of best ball stroke play for a match play finish.
Committees will be filled on a first-come, first-serve basis and include: caddies, scoring, marshals, evacuation, tee refreshments, player hospitality, practice facility, parking, clubhouse/media, transportation, walking scorers and ecology.
An application fee of $25 includes a volunteer uniform, breakfast and lunch while on shift, and a future Dunes Club round of golf for those volunteering for three shifts.
The Dunes Club is also seeking more than 40 volunteers for Coastal Carolina’s annual General James Hackler Championship on March 11-12.
Each Hackler volunteer will be assigned a golf cart, act as an ambassador and be assigned to a group of players on the course and perform tasks such as scoring, spotting golf balls and tending to any food and beverage requirements.
The 54-hole, two-day tournament is expected to feature 15 teams from across the country. Two rounds will be played March 11 and one March 12, and each round constitutes a shift. There is no volunteer fee and volunteers will receive a breakfast on Saturday and/or Sunday, boxed lunch on Saturday, buffet lunch on Sunday and a golf hat. Volunteers who choose all three shifts will receive a future round of golf.
Volunteer applications for both events are available at www.thedunesclub.net. Questions about the Women’s Four-Ball can be directed to volunteer chairman Mike Monahan at USWAFBvolunteers@gmail.com, and questions about the Hackler can be directed to volunteer chairman Dick Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org.
DynaSwingFit Golf School owner Shelby Smith is conducting a pair of two-day indoor golf clinics in February in conjunction with the Town of Surfside Beach at the Dick M. Johnson Civic Center on North Pine Drive.
The dates are Feb. 2 and 9, and Feb. 16 and 23. Clinic hours are from 3-4:30 p.m. and the registration fee is $18 per day. Golfers of all abilities are invited to the full-swing clinics, which do not require pre-registration.
Participants are encouraged to bring a 7-iron and driver, or clubs will be provided. Contact Smith at 843-602-3118 or visit www.DynaSwingFit.com or www.SurfsideBeach.org for more information.
Brad Thomson has been promoted from Farnstead Golf Links pro shop manager to the position of general manager at both Farmstead and sister course Meadowlands Golf Club.
Thomson is a Golf Academy of America graduate who is in the PGA of America Apprentice program and holds a BA in biological sciences and chemistry from Northern Colorado. Mary Nigro, who has worked at Meadowlands for three years, has been promoted to the course’s food and beverage manager position and will also oversee catering. Meadowlands has Nine & Wine events scheduled throughout 2017 to celebrate the course’s 20 years in business.
Thomson replaces Jason Monahan, who was initially hired at Farmstead in 2002 as the first assistant and had been the GM over Farmstead and Meadowlands for the past several years. Monahan said he expects to soon accept another position but wasn’t yet at liberty to discuss it Monday.