Why America Won’t Play Golf

By Wayne | Articles: In Golf as in Life

I am asked at least once a week by struggling students if I would tell them if I thought they were “hopeless”. I tell them that I would never do that, that there is no telling when a breakthrough might occur, and that as long as they wish to try I will be there trying just as hard to help them.

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(5) comments

Lawrence May 1, 2017

hi Wayne,

Thanks. I always enjoy your reflection and commentary.
I’m a retired PGA pro that still teaches. Ben Hogan. Nothing more said. You understand.
A passion for pure shot making is what has always driven me.
Knowing that is a bit delusional. I’ll accept that and continue the quest anyway.
We grew up pre-internet, pre cell phone. Distractions were less. Golf was my refuge.
Nothing was better than throwing a bag over your shoulder, walking and hitting a ball from point A to point B.
To some that is all that matters. To others they won’t understand. And that doesn’t matter, does it.

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Tom May 2, 2017

As usual, excellent analysis, Wayne.

Another incongruity of golf is that its wonderful social nature is appreciated more as one ages. As a youth, I gravitated toward football, basketball and baseball, partly because of the social aspect of the teams.

But as I’ve grown older and become a golfer, I have come to realize that there are few more pleasurable endeavors than walking around a beautiful golf course competing against and talking with friends who also enjoy golf.

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John May 3, 2017

Thanks Wayne. True lovers of the game share similar concerns but perhaps golf will get back to being the fringe sport is once was. Just when golf became an ‘industry’ I am not quite sure but I don’t think such a sport was ever likely to have permanent appeal to the masses. The masses are fickle and susceptible to the latest fad or fashion. Added to that we are in the era of instant gratification and egos which cannot tolerate struggle and failure.
I think a major in the decline of golf is that it has lost a lot of its simplicity and grace. Someone mentioned ‘throwing a bag over your shoulder’. This is how I was introduced to the game. A few clubs in a small bag. Walking directly to your ball. Using your eyes. I honestly think that the game would be more fun if we were limited to perhaps eight clubs. Most people could carry and you could fit four sets in the trunk of the car for the fist time since the sixties. But the ‘industry’ which is golf would never allow it. Must extract every bit of revenue and profit from the addicts.
In addition, advances in equipment have added cost and time to a game which was already leisurely and expensive. Courses have been stretched thus taking longer to play. Once upon a time people like Peter Alliss could have a few G&Ts and then go out and win a European Tour event. If you were just a normal athletic specimen, you could become a scratch player by developing finesse and short game skills. Now you need to be a gym junkie as well because you have to drive it 330 yards to reach every par five in two if you wnat to compete. The distance now between the good and the great has never seemed more insurmountable.
But equipment is a two edged sword. Modern gear means a relatively fit 63 year old like me can still play to a one handicap but I would probably have just as much fun playing a 6,000 yard course with the old gear.
I don’t see much emphasis any more on the classic advantages of golf, which were promoted for years, namely:-
*Golf is a game for life. You can’t say that about every sport.
*Golf provides healthy exercise – or it did until the ‘golf industry’ convinced us to play using wheelchairs instead of legs.
*In golf you can sometime play a shot that Nicklaus or Hogan would have been proud of.
*Every golf course is unique and it’s a joy to try different venues. Can’t say that about most sports.
*Golf has a handicap system which allows people of different abilities to play together.

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Bryan May 4, 2017

Wayne
If I may add my thoughts as to contributing factors to golf’s decline. I feel a downward flow began if the trend for the club pro to be a corporate employee rather than an entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur, the club pro had a vested interested in getting more people into the game and keeping his current players enthused and happy. They hustled lessons, ran more tournaments to facilitate moving product through the proshop, worked with juniors, made sure the carts were clean, and just did more face to face PR. Now days, many of the club pros project the feeling today is just another day of work, so they minimize what they do. They don’t like tournaments, don’t want to mess with juniors, don’t like to give lessons (unless they are a contract teaching pro), don’t like to play with members etc. In that regard, I feel the club pros have lost sight of civic responsibility associated with our chosen careers. All of us have a civic responsibility to promote our careers, our industry, our community which golf pros which is not a strong point of most club pros. I am generalizing, of course, and there are some who go above and beyond, but most don’t. Personally, I feel club pros should give beginning lessons to kids for free. It’s part of their responsibility to grow the game. Civic responsibility again. Free is a marketable concept. Non golfing parents will take their kids to the course for free lessons, but that’s good. If the kids have fun, like the game, and say “Dad, come hit balls with me”, no Dad can resist that and soon the parents may start the game as well. We all do volunteer activities for Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Clubs, the school, etc to make our community better. The club pro must do their part as well.

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John May 4, 2017

Given the recent interest in bush-walking and cycling I think the ‘golf industry’ has forgotten, or deliberately concealed, the point of golf. Many people give up because it’s too hard. Even elite players who have played for decades often lose interest and get frustrated as their skills diminish. I played with a 7 hcp player the other day who said he now prefers gardening as it is not so frustrating as golf. This is from someone who can hit good golf shots! The golfing public have also lost the meaning and purpose of the game.

‘Ye’re makin’ a great mistake if ye think the gemme is meant for the shots’. ‘Twas said that he sometimes forgot his shots, the walkin’ got to be so good’. ‘If ye can enjoy the walkin’, ye can probably enjoy the other times in your life when ye’re in between’.

Some of us have surely experienced this at some point. 98% of golfers will never enjoy the elite level of the game. So why do we tempt them with it? Why do we make false promises? Why do they frustrate themselves with insanely optimistic hopes? Instead we should be educating people about the true purpose of the game.
(With thanks to Michael Murphy).

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