There is no denying that the game we love is under a bit of pressure these days. There may be a new wave of exciting young players at the highest level of the sport but not enough people of any age are taking up the game. To be sure there are challenging economic head winds these days but rounds played were on the decline before most of us had heard of AIG or knew what a credit default swap was.
And, on top of it all, golf doesn’t really help itself out when it comes to updating or rebranding either.
Take soccer as an example. It too is a sport of ancient origin. I read one article tracing it back to a Chinese game of the 2nd century BC. (Really? Paper and fireworks weren’t enough? They want credit for soccer now as well?) But over time it mutated into rugby which in turn branched off into American football and a distant cousin, Australian rules football, followed by the recent emergence of arena football, and finally the apotheosis of the sport, the lingerie football league. In the meantime golf has stayed golf. It’s still about the hard little ball that has to go into the hard to find hole. There is a quasi-religious reverence for things that haven’t changed like St. Andrews. When one of the governing bodies of the sport talks about attracting people to the game it trots out another white haired guy in a blazer and a rep tie who touts a youth instruction program in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Yeah that will generate some buzz.
So as a public service to the game I will be posting from time to time with my ideas on how to popularize the game either by updating its image or addressing the main objections people have about golf, specifically the time and cost involved.
The first is one that I’ve tried to promote at my own club and while everyone at least says to my face that they think it’s clever and all nobody and I mean nobody has taken me up on it. Well here goes anyway:
The concept is very simple. In this version golf is no longer a competition over a set number of holes but a contest to see who can get the furthest on a set number of strokes. In other words, how far can you get on 72 strokes? The third shot on # 15? The fourth on #17? Kind of changes the vibe of the game just a little, wouldn’t you say? Definitely makes a round a lot shorter for most of us. I go into more detail in my forthcoming book, but in the meantime think about it.