Golf is a game of rules, composure and etiquette. It isn’t common to see golfers throw their clubs or act in an irrational way following a poor performance on a hole. If those instances of outrage and outburst do occur, they are captured and shown ad nauseam on SportsCenter. Outburst on the golf course are the exception, not the rule. But what happens when a professional golfer on the PGA has a Happy Gilmore moment?
Like all sports, golf is a game that draws pure, raw emotions from the human core up to the surface. Sometimes these raw emotions can boil over, especially after missing a two-foot putt or sinking your ball in a water hazard. What makes things even more infuriating is the fact that golfers play an individual sport, and unlike football, basketball or baseball, there is no one else to pick up the slack when it drops off.
When a PGA Tour professional loses his cool on the golf course, a number of things can happen. Golf clubs can be tossed or snapped, excessive foul language can ooze from his or her mouth, and even objects around the tee box are fair game for hitting. Perhaps it is that competitive edge that lies deep down in all professional golfers that makes them so elite.
The PGA Tour, unlike other sports leagues who announce fines and suspension, tend to keep its under wraps. This has everything to do with the etiquette of the game and its desire not to bring unwanted PR onto PGA professionals. For the most part, the PGA Tour keeps fines and suspensions a secret. But in 2015, it was revealed just how much it cost Rory McIlroy for tossing a 3-iron into a water hazard during match play. The tour fined McIlroy a whopping $25,000 for his display of anger. Fortunately for the four-time major winner, he had the fine reduced to a mere $5,000 after he apologized in a post-tournament interview.
While any amateur golfer would shutter at the thought of paying out a $5,000 fine, one golfer has paid out far more money than McIlroy for his outbursts. John Daly has reportedly paid more than $100,000 in fines during his illustrious PGA Tour career. According to a 2010 article from the Telegraph, Daly was fined 11 times for “conduct unbecoming a professional and 21 times for not trying”. Daly’s one-off largest fine was $30,000. The PGA fined him for hitting golf balls over spectators during a practice round.
What were some of the reasons Daly was fined on the golf course? Fighting and screaming at other players, hitting his ball into the players ahead of him and acting recklessly on the golf course. In fairness, most of Daly’s fines have come for off the course infractions.
So, what can PGA golfers be fined for today? The most common is for cursing on the golf course. Like many of the fines the PGA levies out, the phrase “conduct unbecoming a professional” is the verbiage used. Regardless of the phrase, the fines all sting just the same. At least the PGA donates the money to charity, right? One nameless golfer reported received a $2,500 citation for use of a curse word after missing a putt.
Along with cursing that is audible for fans and television microphones to pick up, players can be fined for throwing equipment, destroying items on the golf course, attacking other golfers or arguing with fans. The LPGA is now fining female golfers for the clothes they wear. The men can be fined for their attire, too. However, it appears with the new women’s rules put in place in 2017 that the ladies have it far more stringent than their male counterparts.
While the PGA keeps fines and suspensions away from the light of public, there have been some famous reprimands in golf history.
One of those came in 1959 when Tommy Bolt loudly farted during play at the Memphis Invitational Open. PGA officials were not amused and assessed a $250 fine to the golfer. In 2017 dollars that is $2,102. Ouch!
So, the next time you see a PGA professional resisting the urge to break wind, throw his 3-iron, golf bag and caddie down the fairway, just remember it isn’t due to his self-control. It is down to the large sum of money he will lose if he gives in to his raw emotions.