For a golf nut, the PGA Merchandise Show (or just about any golf show for that matter) is like being a kid in a candy store. If you’re into everything golf, then it’s the place to be to check out the latest and greatest. It’s like putting me at one of the big auto shows. Just booths and booths, aisles and aisles, of new clubs, apparel, swing aids and all the other accessories involved in the game from all the big players in the industry. It’s hard to not be excited for something like this. But I’ve read that one of the bigger topics (as I suppose it is every year) to come out of this years show was the concern over, and how to stop, the decline of golfers year in and year out.
After experiencing major growth in the sport prior, the past eight years have not been kind to golf as a whole. While participation is still on the decline, more courses continue to close than open. So, as usual, the industry people are looking for answers to reverse the trend. And when I first started reading up on one of their ideas, it sounded pretty good! That is, until I read a little further…
Let’s start with this…”Hack Golf.” Off the bat, it sounds interesting. Being a hack myself (along with the majority of other golfers out there), I’m intrigued right from the start. That is, until I read further. Hack Golf (www.hackgolf.org) is an initiative started up by Taylor Made. It’s a website to, more or less, open the lines of communication between the industry and the golfers themselves. That in itself, is a good idea. What bothers me is that it’s taken about eight years of decline before the industry seems to have thrown their hands up and finally said “I give up. Maybe we should listen to what people have to say.” Genius.
Now if that’s not bad enough, one of the solutions I see they are looking into, is to make the game simpler. I am sure I am not the first person to say…I HATE this idea. Make the cup fifteen inches?! Seriously? That’s almost as big as a basketball hoop! Tee-up every shot? Use bigger balls and special clubs? Is it just me, or is this so typically American? The game is too tough, so instead of encouraging someone to work hard, we dumb it down.
That being said, I still like the idea of reaching out to the golfers. But as I look through the comments posted on there so far, most of it is the same stuff we hear on a regular basis – It’s too expensive, it takes too long to play, it needs to advance into the digital age, it’s too difficult, etc… Now, some of these complaints are spot-on. But at the same time, I think some golfers need to relax a bit.
From the standpoint of the industry, yeah…it’s too damn expensive. Maybe these industry people need to realize that money is in fact an object to most people. We’ve said before that every time you thumb through a golf magazine, almost everything advertised, whether it is golf-related or not, is high-end and expensive. Equipment, apparel, courses…all high-end stuff. There is nothing there for the budget-minded golfer. It just fuels that “Rich man’s game” stereo-type that keeps people away before they even give it a chance. And on the rare occasion a new course does open, that’s expensive also! The greens fees are simply too much. Here in CT, the average course is roughly $45 for 18 holes. But it seems that any new course that come along is well above that putting it out of reach for most.
Now, from the standpoint of the golfer, we need to relax a bit. Is the game time-consuming? It sure is! But you know that going in, so what are you complaining about? If you don’t have the time to play, then play nine holes or stay home. Someone else will gladly take your place. And as far as bringing the game into the digital age? We’re asking for trouble here. I have news for you – GPS slows the game down. Keeping your score on your smartphone slows the game down. Pulling up a golf app mid-round slows the game down. If you need your smartphone to help you keep score because you find it too difficult to use a pencil, then you need to try another sport. But you complain that the game moves too slow already? Understand…sometimes technology is a step backward. Find the game too hard? Here’s a novel idea…practice! If it’s that important to you, then work harder! But, no…instead, people would rather complain that the game is too tough hoping that someone will make it easier for them by making the hole bigger.
In my opinion, golf somewhat needs to struggle for a while. Courses need to close. Companies need to go out of business. The industry as a whole needs to suffer a bit. After all, the industry as a whole is what caused so many prices to rise to untouchable levels. And in turn, the culture changes for the golfers…much of it for the negative.
The fault lies on both ends. The industry has made it so the game is simply out of reach financially for many people. But golfers have also made it so expectations are unrealistic and the image of the game is negative. The fact that there is a very large portion of golfers who play this game for no reason other than fun, seems like it has been lost on the industry (as well as many “serious” golfers) for quite a long time.
This is the message that we here at golfstinks.com are trying to convey. It’s what we are all about. We’ve spent the past three-and-a-half years promoting the idea that golf is a game…you should have fun playing it. Take a look through our hundreds of previous posts to see what we mean. I’ll use myself as an example - I don’t have the most expensive clubs. My putter was free. I don’t spend a lot of money on my golf apparel or equipment. I play an expensive course every once in a while, otherwise I keep it pretty average. I’ve never paid for a lesson. I’ve never hurried through a round. I’m not in competition with anyone. I don’t even know what my handicap is or how to figure it out. But do you know what I do? I play golf and I have fun. Everyone should try it sometime.
Swing ’til you’re happy!