The struggle to rescue golf

Update: August, 28/2016 - 09:00
Viet Nam News

by Robert Bicknell

If you read all the various posts online and in social media, you’d have the opinion that “golf is dying” in the US and the future is very bleak. The movers and shakers in the industry are desperately trying to find a way  to “rescue” golf. As part of the “rescue” they are trying to find ways to make golf more fun, and this is where the problem begins.

Let me first get something off my chest…

“Foot Golf” or “Disc Golf" is not golf and should not even be part of the title. In my opinion, they should take the word “golf” out of it completely. It has nothing in common with the actual game of golf, the traditions or the culture.

Now then, “why” is golf “dying”in the US?

In a nutshell, it’s not, but there are a lot of club owners who are crying themselves to sleep every night because there are not enough players for them to show a profit. Many of these are clubs which sprang up during the “Tiger boom” and everybody tried to jump on the bandwagon and cash in.

Many of these clubs did not perform due diligence, they had no idea what their market was, nor did they care as they rushed to open their new clubs and join the Tiger boom..

This is called the “Field of Dreams” business model – “If you build it, they will come” and it is pure lunacy. The end result is what we see…too many clubs and not enough players to sustain them.

Naturally, the club owners scream their brains out and demand something be done to “rescue the game which is dying” when, in fact, they have simply been hoist by their own petard. They got greedy and imagined they could get everybody to play golf and make piles of money.

I have consistently said the same thing over and over: “Golf is not for everyone.”

Unfortunately, the real estate developers who build far too many golf courses for the marketplace refuse to accept this basic supply and demand fact of life. They want everyone to play golf, regardless if they want to or not because, damn it, they paid big money to build that club.

Therefore, they start online petitions to change the rules of golf to make it “fun” for everyone. They want to do away with many of the rules. They want to allow players to wear whatever they want on the course. They want music on the course. The only thing I haven’t seen yet is a proposal for juggling clowns.

Golf is a very special game in that it requires a person to improve themselves in order to score better. Before you can master the game, you first have to master yourself because only 20 per cent of the game is physical, the rest is mental.

Without clarity of purpose, you cannot play great golf, and to have clarity of purpose, you have to know yourself and exactly what your goal is.

Most players do not understand this. They just whack balls, find them and whack them again and wonder why they don’t improve. I can teach almost anyone how to hit a golf ball within a few minutes. This is not rocket science.

However, teaching someone to “play” golf takes a lifetime because you never stop learning, improving and evolving. Every day brings a different set of challenges, many of which are created by the player within his own mind that day.

So, when I hear developers trying to say they want to make golf more “fun”, I recognize that they do not have the best interests of the game in mind, only their bottom lines.

And if you don’t think these people would happily trash every tradition and characteristic which makes golf special in their pursuit of profit, you’re nuts. 

When the Vietnamese Government slashed the amount of new golf course projects a few years ago, many developers who wanted to cash in on the boom were outraged. History has shown that it was the right path to follow and golf continues to grow at a slow, but steady pace. Most of the clubs make money.

Golf has survived for hundreds of years and trying to fix something that isn’t broken is lunacy.-VNS