Do you remember taking your driving test? Hours of lessons with an instructor behind the wheel of a car before you sit a theory test, then when you are ready the prospect of facing the dreaded drivers license test. Half an hour of sheer terror and it would be the instructors yay or nay that would mean whether you earned that full drivers license or not.
We may not have liked the process at the time, but every rational human being will recognise that such a move is entirely necessary. Having the roads clogged up with people who have not learnt to drive, with no system in place to prevent them from doing so, would undoubtedly cause chaos, death, injury and mayhem. So we fully accept that passing our driving test is a key requisite in proving our worthiness to drive alone on the roads.
L’Autorisation de Parcours in Switzerland
And in Swizerland (as well as Austria and Germany), they have followed these same principles when it comes to playing golf - qualifying system for amateurs golfers in Switzerland or better known as L’Autorisation de Parcours (AP). If you’re based in Switzerland and are interested in obtaining your AP, then MyGolf offers a Golf Clinic Program that is the first step to get you started with your qualification.
To play golf in Switzerland you need to qualify for either a platzerlaubnis or platzreife or L’Autorisation de Parcours (AP). This document is, to all terms and effects, a golfing license that says you have undertaken and passed a course about all aspects of the golf. The course involves learning about the rules and ettiquette of the golf and then passing a written exam on the subject.
The prospective golfer then receives tuition from a PGA professional about golf, helping them develop their swing and an understanding of how to play on the golf course, so that they don’t learn any annoying golfing traits like not repairing pitch marks or indulging in slow play. In addition, the PGA professional will help them develop their game to an acceptable standard, thus getting their AP license.
Once they have completed this course, which in some cases can take as long as a year, and passed their theory test, they must then head out onto a course with a professional golf instructor in tow. The candidate will then have to demonstrate that they have full understanding of the game of golf, allied to a decent ability to play. They are marked in the Stableford format over the nine holes (of which the best six are judged). If the player scores six Stableford points, they are awarded their platzerlaubnis/L’Autorisation de Parcours.
It is important to note that examiners are not just testing golfers on their ability here. Their overall score is also affected by how they conduct themselves on the golf course. The speed they play, whether they adhere to the rules of the game and follow accepted ettiquette. This is all marked down by the instructor for the individual candidate and goes towards giving them their final grade.
For many people in the rest of the golfing world, especially the US and the UK and Ireland, the very thought of having to prove your knowledge before you go out on a course seems utterly baffling. In the UK, for example, it is taken for granted that anyone can play at a public golf course. Private golf courses may insist on guests having a proven handicap, but the vast majority do not. In the UK, the game is largely open to all who want to and can afford to play it.
You may think that the pre-qualification scheme that Switzerland’s golfers have to put up with, seems a waste of time and money.
But is it?
Why L’Autorisation de Parcours is beneficial?
There is growing evidence that the system is working.
A recently published report by KPMG into European golfing trends throughout 2011 painted a rather gloomy picture for European golf. Participation was, for the first time in many years, down by a total of 46,000 players during 2012. The UK alone lost over 40,000 golfers and other once booming markets like Sweden and Spain also saw a significant reduction in the number of people playing. The trend was the same across most of Europe, with only a few countries bucking this otherwise downward trend. Intriguingly, Austria saw no drop off in numbers, Germany saw an increase of 1.8 per cent while Switzerland saw its number of golfers climb by 4.1%.
Clearly, the qualifying system in these countries is not putting golfers off. If it was then this would clearly be evidenced in the KMPMG findings.
On the contrary, the Swiss L’Autorisation de Parcours (AP) golf system of having a “Driver License” may well have many benefits that are perhaps being overlooked.
A quick poll of golfers from across the world will highlight some of the problems they face when playing in a weekend round of golf. Frequently, there will be problems reported to do with slow play, or a lack of course etiquette (such as failing to replace divots, repair pitch marks or walking across the line of a playing partners putt). These cause golfers an inordinate amount of frustration with the alarming regularity that they occur, even by golfers who purport to “know the rules” and have been playing for many years.
The test system would help eradicate that by instilling in players in their formative years, the need for good practice, quick play and to play using an accepted standard of etiquette. At the moment, there is no compunction to behave well out on a course for many players in the UK and US other than it being a moral obligation, or a course rule (which are frequently ignored and even less rarely enforced).
Furthermore, learning about the rules of the game can help clarify issues more quickly when a ruling is required, thus cutting down on delays and causing less stress and impatience from those playing behind you. Learning to play quickly also helps alleviate these concerns.
Best of all though, the tuition you receive from a golfing professional during the lessons you take to qualify for your license will help instill in you the good habits and techniques to become a better player. You won’t turn into the next Rory McIlroy or Bubba Watson overnight, but you will gain a basic understanding of the correct key concepts and thus develop as a player with the right habits and correct technique. This is something that many players across the UK and United States will pay a fortune in golfing lessons to develop anyway.
So far from being a disincentive to play golf, the licensing system used in several European countries seems to open up playing golf to the typical person in the saw way passing your driving tests opens up the roads to the newly qualified driver.
Evidence from KPMG suggests that while European golf markets have fallen, the game is still growing in these countries in particular. Perhaps other countries, seeking ways to help foster a thriving next generation of golfers to enjoy the game could do a lot worse than examine the Swiss model and consider using the same sound principles in their own country?
MyGolf offers a Golf Clinic Program for anyone that wants to start with their AP in Switzerland – lessons with a PGA pro and lots of fun.