It is less than a month away but you will be certain to hear it. That most ghastly of American golfing exports, the raucous cry of ‘Geddindahole’ from a man- it is always a man- in the gallery as a leading player hits his ball greenwards anywhere from 400 yards out.
And rest assured that at the Open Championship, held this July on the links of Muirfield, you will be hearing it more than once. Behaviour in the gallery these days, especially in Ryder Cup matches, makes the word ‘Gallery’ sound a particularly outmoded term. Perhaps ‘The crowd’, associated more with football, is now more apt, as there is little or nothing that is aesthetically pleasing about it.
The ‘Barmy army’ changed the face of spectating at English test cricket, singing their songs, chanting and dressed in bizarre attire and some would argue that it has added colour and ‘passion’, a term beloved of tabloid sports’ writers, to a previously respectful and occasionally silent audience. Silence is no good these days- we have to fill it.
The same has happened at golf and can be traced to the time when the Ryder Cup became a contest again when Great Britain and Ireland became Europe and the USA team tasted defeat for the first time in 26 years.
Triumph became triumphalism amongst the European fans and the Americans did not like it at all. The nadir in golfing behaviour occurred, bizarrely, amongst the USA team rather than the gallery at Kiawah Island in 1991, a contest that, sadly, has become known as ‘The war on the shore.’ Thankfully, in golf, no one gets killed.
At last year’s Ryder Cup at Medina, outside Chicago, silence on the tee disappeared the moment Bubba Watson whipped his already frenzied gallery into a state nothing less than a foaming mass of beer sodden xenophobia.
Some thought it was dreadful others loved it. For the TV cameras it was manna. The commentator could prattle to the expert who could utter banalities back at the commentator while back in the studio some more grinning experts in clothing with big logos on added their two ‘pennorth and so it went on. And on.
Back in the day, galleries were allowed to walk up the fairway of the 18th on the final round of the Open championship and follow the last pair, often containing the winner, almost up to the green.
Health, safety and the threat that far more unruly galleries pose have all eliminated this peculiar quirk, and the Open is the poorer for it.
Now it seems more about shouting, ‘Geddindahole’, dressing up in Ian Poulter trousers and Rory McIlroy wigs and bringing all the fun of the fair to the links. And meanwhile the commentators on radio and TV just keep talking, chattering their lexicon of the blindingly obvious, fearful that a moment’s quiet reflection will shatter public enjoyment forever. And for those brought up to believe that golf is a civilised and civilising game it all seems rather sad.
What do you think about today’s golfing galleries? Let us know your experiences and views too.