No Ifs, No Butts, Stub It Out

Both print and TV outlets routinely carry images of golf players and caddies with a nicotine-addition smoking openly at work. As Mike Wilson explains, this presents entirely the wrong image for a sport already with its issues and losing out to more vibrant, health-conscious and contemporary sports

Henrik Stenson's caddie Gareth Bryn Lord (centre) smokes as golfers play during the first round of the 78th Masters Golf Tournament at Augusta

Men (and women) only clubs, jackets and ties must be worn in the clubhouse, no shorts or collarless shorts may be worn and, shamefully, until not so long ago, at certain clubs, like Augusta National, no blacks.

However, there is one arcane custom still routinely practice still rooted in professional and amateur golf, being permitted to smoke during play, but the days of the smoke-filled committee rooms and cigars being smoked in the clubhouse are thankfully long since gone.

Yet, for a sport defined by its rules, the 600-plus pages of the R&A Decisions on the Rules of Golf has a rule for almost every eventuality, from, ‘14-3 Artificial Devices and Unusual Equipment; Abnormal Use of Equipment,’ to, ‘12b, Searching for or Identifying Ball Covered by Loose Impediments in a Hazard,’ nothing is left to chance.

Then there’s the whole thing about etiquette, for players, and spectators, who, at the Masters at Augusta are prohibited from running, where the caddies are required to wear ludicrous all-white and the winner gets to choose the menu for the subsequent pre-event champion’s dinner.

Yet, nowhere in the reams of paperwork produced by the R&A - in 2016 they produced a 76-page Pace of Play Manual - does the governing body for the entire world other than North America and Mexico mention smoking during play.

All the R&A had to say on the matter is, “Smoking hasn’t been an issue at our events but we do remind competitors to show courtesy to their playing partners,” hardly a resounding condemnation of one of the world’s major public health problems or bold leadership over an issue that frames golf firmly in the past.

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