Opinion Forum: Should Golf Ban On-Course Celebrations?

Whether it be fist-pumping by Tiger, riding the bull by Boo, or throwing a putter after a missed putt like Woody Austin, players showing emotion in extreme cases certainly adds to the drama and intrigue of a professional golf tournament. However, should golf incorporate more strict rules regarding celebrations in order to protect the integrity of the game and quality of sportsmanship?

Following a rather interesting conversation with a coworker, I could not help but reflect on all the times one of the above scenarios played out on a Sunday during the professional golf season. Some of my most favorite and fond memories of golf include a celebration by a favorite player. For example, I will never forget Tiger's reaction after sinking his putt on the 72nd hole of the US Open at Torrey Pines a few years ago.

Does the memorable quality of the moment make his reaction appropriate to sportsmanship?

Consider the rules enforced by officials in the other major sports around the world. Chad Ochocinco (while incredibly creative and funny) is constantly fined for his on-field celebrations and while his team is penalized 15 yards for conduct. NBA players receive technical fouls for showing frustration and excessive celebration on the court, especially when hanging on the rim after an amazing dunk (unless another player is under them, which hanging on the rim to limit injuries is acceptable). While proving to be a minor deterrent to this team-based sports, penalties and fines are still enforced and somewhat effective in making the athlete think twice.

Some golf events have already instilled a type of sportsmanship guideline in fine print. Take the Challenge Cup, for example:

Code of Conduct Violation Penalties The Challenge Cup may assess any or all
of the penalties based on severity and frequency of the violation(s):
• One-stroke penalty for each act of unsportsmanlike behavior on the golf
course
• Immediate disqualification from the tournament at which the violation
occurs
• Depending on the severity of the violation, a tournament disqualification
may also result in disqualification from the next tournament(s) for which a
player been accepted
• The Challenge Cup reserves the right to suspend or revoke a player’s
membership for a major breach of the Challenge Cup Code of Conduct.
Any Code of Conduct violation will result in a written letter to the player
and his or her parent/guardian.

While not a professional golf event by any means, the Challenge Cup still provides a fitting example of how tournament officials may be able to address celebrations or excessive frustration on the golf course.

Perhaps the individuality of the game itself is taken into consideration, however, when being more lenient on enforcing stroke penalties to players? Certainly, when a tennis player is seen rejoicing after an ace or finishing off a win at Wimbleton nobody seems to mind. Expecting players to hide his or her emotion as if made of stone is simply silly to even consider. However, does this necessarily mean penalties are not needed?