FineGolf’s hero passes on

Added on August 31st, 2021 by Lorne Smith
Posted in General, Slow play | 1 Comment

The passing on of Edward Dexter CBE is a sad day for golf.

His mainstream news obituaries are naturally full of tributes to the dashing and determined cricketer, epitomised by his famous 70 achieved against the pomp of Hall and Griffiths at Lord’s in 1963 a feat that is often quoted as the greatest ever Test Match innings.

The brilliant cricket journalist Scyld Berry recognised him as the original thinker he was and one of the game’s great innovators. This was the case both on and off the field. He was the creator behind the ‘Spirit of Cricket’ initiative that was taken successfully worldwide, though Sir Colin Cowdrey’s name is on the annual lecture.

Walking out to bat at Hove with Jim Parks

Lord Ted, fourteen years older than me, was always my sporting hero and though I have often used the excuse of having the same school, cricket county and country for my interest in him, it was the man himself, that I got to know better later in life, and he honoured FineGolf by joining our Advisory Panel, that I would like golfers to mourn.

He was never an easy man to talk to. In life he became bored easily and was less interested in the fluffiness of social discourse and came a cropper with the media on occasion when his subtle humour, after the fashion of the Duke of Edinburgh, fell flat. But engage him in strategy or a new idea, he would challenge you and help you think the concept through, being able to discuss controversial matters without descending to the personal level.

The best golf example I can give is his ultimately successful campaign to help speed up the game of golf, and he challenged me in 2010 to expand FineGolf’s aims:
“Admirable as your golfing “cause” is, it is the game that counts more than the course. Where is the satisfaction of playing on fine turf when you are stuck behind ignorant golfers who take all day to hit each stroke and walk at a snail’s pace? I recommend that you add speedier golf to your aims and objectives so that “Fine Golf Courses” can be more sure of providing “Fine Entertainment”. Edward Dexter.

Watching cricket with the Duke of Edinburgh.

The article containing the above words, stimulated a number of interesting comments from knowledgeable golfers with Ted then frustratingly adding:
“Great to see so many like-minded golfers.
I wish to share one statistic. Average handicap in the world is 22 (approx). A Four Ball will involve about 400 strokes. If every stroke were made in 10 seconds less time than the current norm, there is a saving of over ONE HOUR.
I have begged the R&A to mount a full scale worldwide campaign using all available media – for instance, graphically comparing the speedy Colin Montgomery with the daft brush of an American Tour player who has a dozen practise swings. What do the R&A do? They produce a turgid video on The Rules where they show how to mark a ball on the green – not once – at least twice and possibly three times. What hope is there?” Edward Dexter.

The guest of honour at a Long room dinner in 2017.

Ted had been testing out his ‘speedier’ ideas at his home club Sunningdale and was pleased to be offered the FineGolf platform to help publicise the detail of his practical code changes which we then used at FineGolf’s first ‘Running-Golf Day’ at Temple in 2013 and again at Hollinwell in 2017.

These incorporated ‘ready golf’, ‘the three minute lost ball’, ‘not attending the pin’, ‘lower ball dropping height’, all of which The R&A and the USGA had listened to and used in their 2019 rule changes, which with vital importance prioritised recreational golf before professional golf.

His further idea of doing away with the provisional ball or walking back to the tee when a ball was lost is now being used extensively in recreational golf to further speed up the game, though I believe within ladies golf his suggestion of giving short putts ‘within the leather’ is less used.

Ted’s emphasis was on golf relying on the integrity of the golfer rather than the use of the rule book.

I came across a simple example of this recently when playing in an important competition, it was suggested to me late on in a round that my tossing from a few inches of a large thin medal behind my ball as a marker on the green was against the rules. I have been doing that for some time as my back makes it quite hard to get down at times without going on one knee.

I have to admit I am with Ted with regard to integrity and trusting others and was not confidant as to exactly what was the rule. Unsurprisingly my game did not improve and I actually four putted the next green being unable to extricate the issue from my mind. At the end of the round at least, after asking, I was told I was not being accused of cheating.

I have subsequently checked the rules with others and readers will be pleased to know that any marker can be used and many use a scratch or a tee-peg and it does not have to be exactly in line behind the ball as long as the ball is replaced in the same spot.

If somebody is worried about a couple of millimetres they are not playing the same game as FineGolf and Ted Dexter.

He was quite simply not only the world’s finest ever cricketer-golfer but was a visionary with regard to how the great games should be played.

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