Ryder Cup star and major winner Martin Kaymer spoke to Robin Barwick about the amateur game in Germany, as well as sharing a couple anecdotes from the Masters
How do you think golf is progressing as a sport in Germany today?
One thing that I have seen is that there are some golf courses and driving ranges in Germany that are welcoming golfers to play in whatever clothes they want. I am a big supporter of that. Golf should not be about how you look. If people want to try golf for the first time they should be able to do so in jeans, in shorts, or in a shirt without a collar. I don’t care how people dress – just give them a chance to try a great sport.
A nine-hole golf course near me that opened up for anyone to play, without the need for handicaps or a dress code. German golf has traditionally stuck to a lot of rules, so this was a big move. The rules are getting more relaxed now and I would like to see this continue.
Do you think the sport needs to fit better with many people’s busy schedules?
Absolutely, and golf should be a sociable sport too. I have heard about a nine-hole, par-three course in Munich that started a programme called ‘After Work Golf’, and people can turn up after work, play a quick nine holes and they also have a barbeque. Nine holes on a par-three golf course does not need to take much more than an hour. It brings people outside after work, brings them to nature, they play golf, enjoy the barbeque, it’s relaxed and social and they have a great experience. This is the way to move forward, and what makes golf a cool sport, and for golf to move away from all the restrictions, and from the perception that it is just a sport for rich people. We are in a different era now, golf is not just for rich people, and I hope people understand that.
How is the game changing at Tour level?
You know, my first ever nine holes at Augusta National was the back nine with Bernhard Langer, Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus, back in 2008. That was my first ever major and it was a nice way to get it started. I was a little shy – I was only 22 years old – but there were three different eras of golf playing in one group, and it was very interesting to talk about how the game has changed, talking about how golf courses and equipment have changed. It seems crazy to think today that when Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player were my age, they had to travel to tournaments with their own practice golf balls. Gary told me how he always used to pick up tee pegs whenever he saw them, because they were quite expensive back then. Today we just get as many golf balls and tees as we want. We don’t even think about it. We take it for granted.
So what about the rumour about you using range balls during a practice round at Augusta?
Ha! This is a bit of an embarrassing story, but I will tell you. I had arranged to play with Tom Watson on the Monday morning before the 2012 Masters, but I only had practice balls from the driving range because my regular balls had not arrived in my locker yet. I was in a hurry so I just took eight or 10 range balls to the course.
We arrived on 16 and skimmed some balls across the lake, as you always do in practice. My shot looked quite nice, and you are always lucky if your ball actually bounces out onto the green, which mine did. As I started walking to the green, I saw my ball run down the green and into the hole for a hole-in-one.
I went and picked the ball out of the hole, and as I walked off the green all the fans were yelling at me to throw them the ball, and I was thinking, ‘Oh no, it’s a practice ball’. The ball had ‘PRACTICE’ printed right across it. I didn’t want to, but eventually I threw the ball into the crowd and the guy who caught it looked at the ball, and shouted, ‘Dude, you can’t afford your own golf balls?’”