I’ve heard people write and talk about the declining popularity of golf. Some think the rules are too daunting. Others think our society has grown lazy. Still others believe it has become too expensive in money and time for regular folks.
I don’t know the truth about any of that, but I doubt the validity of them all. I watch TV and I play at my local public track with seven-year-old clubs. I compare that to what I saw and experienced in the ’70s and ’80s.
I think golf has experienced a correction. It is now perceived in a different way. All the various elements that made up the game–its players, celebrities, media producers, writers, thinking, language, storytelling–have all recast themselves and come together in synergy that represents the new identity of today’s golf.
Golf is not as fashionable anymore for execs to hit the course, bond, and do business. Now the execs are younger, don’t smoke cigars, can’t afford or aspire to country clubs, or they own one. They’d rather do business at Starbucks or via Skype.
It’s also not as much a family thing to go to the mini-golf venues with the kids or an outing to the driving range, not with a smart TV and Xbox at home. It’s a culture shift, a change in lifestyle priorities.
It seems as though we’ve blinked, and when our eyes refocused the golf world looked and felt different. Golf isn’t cool or relevant for everyday people now, and it seems more remote. Golf writers and media programs perpetrate the new look by focusing more on expectations and what could be, rather than what is and what’s real.
For instance, TV commentators love the Waste Management 16th hole and its crazy atmosphere of yelling and screaming and drinking. There is now talk of expanding it to the 17th hole, as well. Maybe that’s entertainment for some, but I don’t think it will lure anyone to the true heart of the game of golf.
It used to be, too, that we actually enjoyed a plethora of golf literature–humor in every golf and mainstream magazine from The New Yorker to Reader’s Digest to Golf Magazine (I know, I sold to them), people pieces, family-oriented pieces, novels. Golf appeared in films, TV shows and commercials, comedy routines, and was a positive character statement for U.S. presidents Most of all that is gone from our culture and certainly not of pertinent interest.
The fans and their lives are no longer a focus of these golf publications in general. They aren’t interested in bringing golf to all facets of our lives. They are mostly now concerned with boosting the industry and turning readers into customers.
Plus, the professional golfers themselves have become too elite for everyday folks to relate to. They have become a sterotype of wealth. Arnie and Jack and Lee and Ray and Gary and Chi-Chi and Hubert and Johnny and Watson and the gang were approachable and seemed real.
Today, there’s little of that. Today, there is a template. The players are stiff and remote, and only bad boys like Feherty can catch the players off-guard and reveal a bit of their humanity. Pro golf used to feel like a club, now it feels like a set and a stage and a play for the rich.
If golf is declining in popularity, that, I believe, is part of the answer.
In my next installment, I’ll write a rant on golf TV commentators and producers and how they are mindlessly tearing apart the brands of the PGA and LPGA tours.
by Tim Schoch (shock)
Photo Courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.