But for those of us who
play love this game, the answer isn’t that easy. After all, many of us don’t consider ourselves rich.
Most of us have to work for a living at a modest job – we’re not jet-setters, leisurely golfing around the globe at some exotic locale like Abu Dhabi or Thailand. Nor do we tee-it-up daily at some hoity-toity private club where late-model luxury sedans fill the parking lot.
No sir, we drive our Honda Accord or Ford Fusion to the local public course and fork-over $60 to squeeze in 18-holes every Saturday. I say “squeeze” because inevitably we have to return home to mow the lawn before it gets too dark. Clearly we aren’t rich, so the headline of this post is a bit perplexing to us.
What we forget though, is that we’re the middle class…and we can afford golf. We can afford $125 for a pair of golf shoes every year or two; we can spend $600 or $700 on a new set of clubs every 5 to 7 years; we have a closet full of polo shirts that we already wear to work; and we have an extra 60 to 100 bucks a week to plunk down on greens fees. We may not always be happy with the costs associated with golf, but we pay them because (a) we love this game and (b) we can afford to pay them.
However, there are many, many people who cannot afford to play golf. Golf is not soccer or baseball – where you can organize a quick game at the local park. Nor is it basketball – where you can just show up at the courts down the street and play a quick pick-up game for free.
The mere fact that you have to pay to play golf sets it apart. In fact, you even have to pay to practice golf. Let’s ponder this for a second: First you pay to learn golf; then you pay to practice golf; and then you pay to actually play golf. Add to that the costs associated with clubs, balls and apparel and you begin to get the picture.
The USGA and other authoritative organizations within the industry want to grow the game. They want to bring golf to inner-city kids and others who wouldn’t normally have an opportunity to play. I say kudos to them. But this is not an easy task. The very foundational structure of golf requires the need for money. And not just initial money to learn the game – but liquid cash on hand throughout a lifetime of playing the game. We can get them started, but will they be able to continue?
Something within golf needs to change in order bring more diversity to the game. Perhaps golf course developers need to consider creating (or investing in) more 9-hole or Executive-style links – this would provide an inexpensive alternative to the typical 18-hole facility. These smaller tracts would be more cost effective to run and serve as a training ground for newer golfers and/or those who simply can’t afford 18-hole greens fees.
Funneling money to smaller-sized courses is just one possible solution – I’m sure there are many others – like removing this notion that every part of the golf course must be lush and green (AKA the Augusta effect). But ultimately, the point is something needs to change or the dream of growing the game will forever be…a dream.
So, is golf meant for the rich? Well, let’s put it this way: It’s certainly not meant for the poor.