ORLANDO, Fla. – It’s great to be back in the Home of the Brave and the Land of the Free Tee. The differences between British and American golf never ceases to amaze me.
I’ve gotten used to playing golf in the United States. So I didn’t think it odd that the first thing we did was strap golf clubs onto a golf cart when we arrived at the golf club. As usual, there was no discussion about whether or not we should walk the golf course. Not in the good ol’ USA.
Why walk when you can let the cart take strain?
Carts on golf courses are a rarity in the United Kingdom. In the States they are a given.
No problem, though; When in Rome, I thought. So I hopped on the cart and we headed for the first tee. That’s when I learned of another difference between golf in the U.S. and the U.K.: the breakfast ball.
What’s a breakfast ball? Basically, it’s a mulligan. One of my playing companions hit his first tee shot into a fairway bunker and immediately announced he was going to play “a breakfast ball.” So out came another ball from his pocket that he proceeded to hit off the tee.
My playing partner also hit a bad tee shot and announced he, too, would be hitting “a breakfast ball.” I hit my tee shot left and was offered the choice of “a breakfast ball” but declined the invitation.
A breakfast ball! If I announced to my playing companions back in the U.K. that I was playing “a breakfast ball” they’d waste no time in telling me to “take a hike,” or words to that effect.
Another difference between golf in the U.S. and the U.K. awaited us beside the second green: the beverage cart.
Few clubs in the U.K. have drinks/food carts. In the U.S. they are ubiquitous. Americans can’t seem to play a complete game of golf without a beverage and a snack.
Another difference came with the keeping of scores. Even though we had picked teams at the start of the round and were playing fourball (better ball) match play, my partner still recorded everyone’s score on the hole.
Back home, if we play match play then no one keeps score. No one ever asks you what you shot in the U.K. because most of the time it doesn’t matter. They’ll ask you how you played. In the U.S., score is everything.
There are other subtle differences too, such as grown men with tea towels tucked into their belts that they use to clean balls on the greens.
Golfers carrying three or four clubs at a time is another difference. I lost count of the number of times I had to take at least three clubs out of the cart to go and play a chip shot from around the green. Back home we don’t have to worry about carrying a number of different clubs since we have all 14 with us at all times.
People in the U.K. who don’t want to carry their bags usually have electric trolleys that they place their clubs on. It lets them get the benefit of exercise without having to lug a 40-pound bag around. I’ve never see an electric trolley in the U.S.
Another difference is the bag drop. Golfers in the U.K. are quite content to carry their bags from the parking lot to the first tee. In the U.S. many clubs force you to drop the clubs off at a central point and then park their cars. Then you wait for your clubs to be delivered to you.
Guys who wait for you to leave the 18th green and then clean your clubs is another U.S. custom we don’t have back home. No one has ever offered to clean my clubs after a round in the U.K.
However, the two main differences between the golf in the U.S. and the U.K. remain carts and cards. The U.S. is obsessed with both whereas we can live without them.
Two nations separated in subtle but very different ways.