The Golf Bug
Received this text yesterday:
[blockquote source=”Addasheee”] High of 44 on sat… golfing it is?[/blockquote]
Golf’s Declining Nature
There is an article in the WSJ that is titled, “Whoever Said Golf Was Supposed to Be Fun?” that looks into why the sport has lost 5 million players over the past decade, including a 30% drop in golfers age 18-34. Ambassadors to the sport have created hackgolf.org to try to spur the popularity of golf again by “making it fun” which is what this article points out isn’t why people like golf.
Since conventional ideas of encouraging faster play and youth programs have done little to halt the decline, they are looking for more radical ideas such as GPS nanotechnology golf balls or structure changes to boost golf’s popularity. The problem the game of golf is facing is that it’s perfect the way it is and people just can’t hack it (or afford it). It’s a game that requires dedication and a commitment to improving skills which require lots of time, patience, and money, which the majority of people don’t have.
“A slow round of golf is asking a lot of today’s young people, whose idea of fun is probably not six hours of painstaking frustration.” Golf isn’t fun if you suck at it which is where the focus of these organizations should be. I’ve been playing since I was 13, I’m now 30, and I can still barely hit the ball where I want it to go (I play at a 15-20). If you can’t move the ball throughout the holes with any regularity, golf sucks. How are people supposed to pick up a club and find enjoyment on the course when the learning curve is years? Understanding that “sucking at golf makes golf suck” is what the representatives have to understand when forming their ideas to inject life back into golf which even with this hurdle, can still be achieved.
The article used a quote about, “superior beings deriving pleasure from things that are difficult and challenging” to describe golfers. An idea would be to sponsor a “have you got what it takes” campaign aimed at Type A personalities. I don’t think this is bad but there aren’t enough people who care about being challenged to start picking up golf. The campaign should be about forgetting life on the golf course or enjoying being outdoors with your friends. That’s what golf is all about. We aren’t going to be professional golfers and us hackers know this. We like basking in the heat with a few brews and hitting that one shot that you’ll remember for the next 5 years. That feeling and getting away from life is where the enjoyment takes place. Practicing and improving is the additional level and what makes the sport wonderful the way it is.
How to Improve Golf
I perused some of the suggestions on the hackgolf.org and added a few of my own to make the game better:
The Good Ideas
Promote twosomes – I thought a course that only accepted twosomes was a different idea. Foursomes move slower and I think a smaller more agile group would keep play moving at a faster pace. You lose the camaraderie because a good foursome is going to be more fun than a twosome, but if courses catered to twosomes, they might find that they have less time of play issues. Some of the best rounds of golf I’ve played have been with just 2 people flying around the course in under 3 hours.
Golf facilities should reward under 4 hour rounds – I like the idea of the course giving a discount on your next round if you play properly. I’ve played with guys who have no incentive to play quickly and they don’t, thus dragging the whole group down. Slow players kill golf. When fast golfers get stuck behind slow golfers, no one will have fun.
Affordable – Golf is too expensive. $75-$100 rounds are more than I want to spend. Obviously if a course if filled at these numbers, there is no reason to alter it but it certainly doesn’t invite any new players. Cater days of cheap play to new players and it will help promote the game. Courses force players to play twilight.
Some Bad Ideas:
Make the rules easier or different for Rec players – I’m a stickler for rules and nothing burns me up more than a player saying he shoots 100 and plays by his own rules. Some people play chess and others play checkers. I personally don’t care what a player says he shoots by his own rules but creating a new recreational set of rules is out of the question.
Make Balls easier to find – Hate this. One of the best parts about golf is finding a ball that was supposedly lost. Hunting for balls is great because it’s a skill that is overlooked. GPS balls take this attribute away. Although they would make sure you are always playing your own ball which would be a perk.
Bigger Cups – Putting doesn’t deter golfers. Ball striking is what adds up numbers.
Less Holes – There is always the option to play 9. 18 is a great number because you can turn in a horrible front 9 and a majestic back 9. It cuts up the game nicely.
The Answer – Education By Fun
Games that promote skill sets for hitting the ball. There is nothing fun about going to a driving range and hitting balls into a field. People want to be entertained and this can be done by getting creative to make people practice. Lose the traditional golf holes and set up crazy practice shots that people can attempt. This brings fun into it and they practice at the same time. Once people can get better at ball striking, then they need to be lured to the course with reasonable prices and an experience that doesn’t deter them from the game. Not everyone is meant to be a golfer but teaching skills that make golf enjoyable is where the heart of the problem lies.