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Barney Adams: Calling golf “fun” is disingenuous

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The pile on the sport of golf is officially underway. I’ve received at least a dozen links to different stories about troubling times in the golf industry. We all know about Nike, and I received an email today about 800 courses closing over the past few years. Rumor has it that a TaylorMade sale is forthcoming and at a deep discount to annual sales; another one says Golfsmith is headed to a bankruptcy reorganization to clean up the business prior to a sale, and the list goes on. On the golf course side, the very high-end clubs and low-end clubs are OK, but the great majority in the middle are nervous… as in very nervous.

This article, while influenced by all the negative, isn’t about that. It’s about the game and marketing it to attract new players. Not professional golf, however; that’s television entertainment, is very successful, and is a world unto itself. This is about the game we play.

I watch (and read) the golf commercials promoting the game, and the consistent message is, “Play golf, it’s fun.” I think to myself, “Who authorizes these things? Is this someone’s relative who works in an ad agency who doesn’t play the game?”

So let me propose a “white paper” from which the bright advertising folks can come up with effective campaigns.

Golf is not “fun” in the traditional sense of the word. Golf is hard; it starts hard and stays that way. Fun is ice cream, sunny days and symphonies. Golf, on the other hand, says, ”Here I am, you sap. Do you have what it takes?”

And that’s exactly why it’s such a great game. We get to play against ourselves and the course in the company of friends. I mean, I read where Top Golf is fun and a great lead-in to the game. And you know what, Top Golf is a lot of fun. I know because my grandkids and I went, and we hit balls at targets, got points, drank beer (well, I did), had a competition and a lot of laughs. I kept track; I got points for two shanks, three skulls, one near toe-whiff, and on each occasion I was trying to hit a decent shot. Point is, Top Golf isn’t quite golf, in the fact that you’re not penalized for a poor shot, but rather you earn points. In the real world, I carry a ball retriever because I’ve grooved those shanks and skulls, and at no time do I remember associating them with fun on the course. I’ve not played Foot or Frisbee Golf; I’m sure they are fun, and I’m also sure they are not golf.

A great example of my point happened recently. I’m fortunate to play fairly regularly with Frank Beard, a phenomenal player with 14 PGA Tour wins, and at 77-years-old, we’d all kill to have his game. I’m talking to him on the range the other day and he’s showing me this swing thought he’s working on. I stood there thinking, is there some way to tell this story? This is real golf — a game you can play as a kid, adult and as a senior. It’s a game that will drive you nuts, and just when you think you have the “move” down, it turns out to be a quick source of duck hooks. A game where you make friends for life as you go on course and try to beat each other’s brains out. Public, private? Golf doesn’t care. Hungover, healthy? Golf doesn’t care. Back pain, bad mood? Good mood, new vitamins? Golf just sits there and waits for you to give it your best shot. You know going in that you won’t win because regardless of your skill level, you can always improve. For those of us in the less-skilled division, it’s small victories — the shots you remember are the ones that bring you back.

I’ve had the pleasure of working with some great professional athletes in my club-fitting days with hand-eye coordination that I’d kill for. Some got pretty good while others quit in disgust. That’s the thing, though, golf doesn’t care if you’re an ex-jock, cop, fireman, computer designer, movie star; I’ve yet to find a profession where golf rolled over and said, “OK, for you I’ll make an exception.” Golf also has an unimpressed attitude about “could haves” — you know, the “he could have played the Tour” players that never quite made it. It’s a bit like life; nothing is handed to you, you just have to go out there and do it.

And while I’m writing about facts, someone will soon do research and learn that there are literally millions of women who could take up the game and change participation demographics for the better. That hasn’t happened to date. There are lots of reasons, or perhaps speculations, and I have my own; women are smarter than men. We will play, hit balls and take lessons, determined to overcome golf’s challenge. Women, on the other hand, seem to realize there are more fun, worthwhile things to do. And I write this acknowledging some fine women players who do not make my quest any less-frustrating.

And there is both the issue and the answer. Golf isn’t fun — at least as the word is normally used. Golf is difficult, and no matter how long you play you will still be working at it. Ball in your court Mr. Advertising person.

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Barney Adams is the founder of Adams Golf and the inventor of the iconic "Tight Lies" fairway wood. He served as Chairman of the Board for Adams until 2012, when the company was purchased by TaylorMade-Adidas. Adams is one of golf's most distinguished entrepreneurs, receiving honors such as Manufacturing Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young in 1999 and the 2010 Ernie Sabayrac Award for lifetime contribution to the golf industry by the PGA of America. His journey in the golf industry started as as a club fitter, however, and has the epoxy filled shirts as a testimony to his days as an assembler. Have an equipment question? Adams holds seven patents on club design and has conducted research on every club in the bag. He welcomes your equipment questions through email at barneyadams9@gmail.com Adams is now retired from the golf equipment industry, but his passion for the game endures through his writing. He is the author of "The WOW Factor," a book published in 2008 that offers an insider's view of the golf industry and business advice to entrepreneurs, and he continues to contribute articles to outlets like GolfWRX that offer his solutions to grow the game of golf.

70 Comments

70 Comments

  1. Ude

    Jul 6, 2017 at 1:28 am

    MAGA

  2. Stretch

    Sep 28, 2016 at 10:16 pm

    Fun in golf is the challenge to do better. No matter how good the score there is always better. How to be better is to take the ego out the door and close it. To be the best one can be is to be able to control the ball which is to be able to control the spin. Swing mechanics block the players ability to create the shots that lead to fun outcomes.

  3. Sean

    Sep 6, 2016 at 3:07 pm

    To me it depends on how seriously you take the game. If you are out there to drink some beers with your friends and get away from the home or the office, it’s probably is fun. Some of us work hard at the game and can find moments of satisfaction, disappointment, frustration, and yes fun. But it’s a mixed bag. Is golf fun? Sometimes it is. And, sometimes it isn’t.

  4. Art Pan

    Sep 1, 2016 at 8:29 am

    As one of the few who plays both ball golf, and disc golf (NOT FRISBEE golf), I will have to say that the same frustrations apply. It’s just as easy to release early, or grip lock, and in effect, duck-hook or slice your throw.
    Tree bounces are far more prevalent. “It’s only a 4 inch wide trunk to the side of a 20 foot wide fairway” you think to yourself. Then you hit it, and your disc bounces 30 feet to the left into the woods. Then you’re stuck straddling a bush trying to throw around tree and praying you just make it back to the fairway. But you’ll probably just hit another tree.
    I three putt less is DG, but it still happens. The ‘gimme’ distances are just different. 4 or 5 feet, you’re good. 10 foot, you make consistently if you’re good. outside 10 feet, I’ll probably 2 putt. Unless your putt misses, hits the ground on the edge of the disc, and then rolls. Behind you.

    • KK

      Sep 17, 2016 at 5:53 pm

      What the heck are you babbling about.

    • digitalbroccoli

      Sep 20, 2016 at 9:42 am

      I’ve played disc golf for thirty years, including 2 open qualifiers and I’ve never had an issue with someone calling it frisbee golf. Back it down a notch dude.

  5. golfraven

    Aug 29, 2016 at 4:41 pm

    Golf is always fun if you think that at same time you could sit and look at your email inbox and answer emails. Where would you rather be? Having fun or being a slave to the men. Fun is when you wheck it over 300 yards and when you inbox is empty and you can look at vids from your last visit to the golf range.

  6. mhendon

    Aug 29, 2016 at 4:20 pm

    Sorry Barney I have to disagree with you on this one. Golf is very fun to me. Maybe that’s because I’m able to play closely to the way the game was meant to be played but more importantly I try not to take it to seriously.

  7. Steve C

    Aug 29, 2016 at 4:16 pm

    One last point regarding the demise of golf. Golf is hard, takes time, and today’s generation of everybody getting a trophy (right now) does not appreciate the work necessary to be successful. Add that to short attention spans due to all of todays distractions (social media, music while playing, etc) and real golf does not stand a chance.

    • DaveT

      Aug 29, 2016 at 5:59 pm

      Steve C, that was my reaction as I read the story. There’s a generational difference in attitude, and I’m not sure as many millennials have the attitude that golf — as skillfully described by Barney — requires.

  8. Steve C

    Aug 29, 2016 at 4:09 pm

    My wife always gives me the business about how I get to go out and have fun playing golf. I have always told her I wasn’t having fun (as this story clearly states). Her response is “Well, then why do you go play?” It’s not possible to explain this reasoning, lack of common sense, idiocy , illogical behavior, etc. to someone that does not play the game. That all having been said, there are a few rare occasions that I have had a good time. But it was about the company, not the golf itself. Sadly, I am just as angry at the end of a round whether I shoot a 85 or a 70. I tell all my non-golfing friends to avoid the game as its not worth the frustration!

    • Barney Adams

      Aug 29, 2016 at 5:37 pm

      and my reaction is just the opposite. I tell my friends that at 77 I’m out there beating my head against the same lack of talent wall I’ve always had and I love every minute. Do I have fun Like a video game etc.. and the answer is ” Thankfully ,no” This is golf, it’s so much more.

  9. Deadeye

    Aug 29, 2016 at 2:55 pm

    Hmmmmm. If golf is retreating at the rate you say, and pro golf is doing so great as tv entertainment, who, in a few years, is going to be watching those pro golfers on tv? Surely not those women who have found smarter things to do. Anybody remember when pro bowling was BIG on tv? Those guys were good too. Just saying.

  10. Bob Jones

    Aug 29, 2016 at 2:01 pm

    I get to enjoy the company my friends in a beautifully landscaped environment while doing about the only athletic thing there is that I can do…and that’s not fun?

  11. Bobtrumpet

    Aug 29, 2016 at 1:45 pm

    Frank Beard – a name I haven’t heard for a long time. I loved his one-page columns at the back of Golf Digest years (decades) ago. Seemed to be a straight-shooter (in golf and the written word). Glad to hear he’s still doing well.

  12. Justin

    Aug 29, 2016 at 12:52 pm

    I think the main source of “NO FUN” is when you play golf and your game continues to regress. If you play your home course fairly often and shoot pretty close to the same score, that outlier where you shoot 5 strokes below your handicap becomes fun… no, wait, not fun.. it’s exhilarating. “Fun” is always what you make of it. Fun can turn sour in a heartbeat with the wrong frame of mind. Fun endures if you know how to extract it out of a situation and cultivate it. Now that I have a 1-year old daughter I have plenty of fun in my life. But getting out once a month or so to play golf with good friends has become a different type of fun. Would I like to play more like I have in the past? Who wouldn’t? Golf has transformed into an escape… not from my family or the other things I love, but from reality for those 4+ hours.

    Golf is a game. That sentence could stand alone as a fair description, but it’s really so much more. The game I’ve loved since I could walk is a new chapter in many people’s lives. Stats show that more people are “giving up” the game or playing much less frequently. But to me that doesn’t mean we’ve lost that lovin’ feelin’ to hit the links. We are more consumed than ever with “having something to do” rather than making sure the substance of that thing to do is worth our time. “This will make a great picture for instagram” or “I can finally update my Facebook status because we went on vacation” have become far more important than the value of both self worth and appreciation for what others do for you.

    I love golf because it’s not something you can own. And on the flip side, golf is not something that should own you either. It’s one of the few things you can do poorly and still want to come back and do again. You can be upset with golf, but never truly scorned… in the end it all falls on you the individual. Golf doesn’t need you and you don’t need golf, and that’s exactly why it’s fun.

  13. Mr. Wedge

    Aug 29, 2016 at 12:29 pm

    I hate all this hoopla about making golf easier. The true golfers enjoy a challenge (within reason). And if you are more casual and want golf to be easy, there ARE options out there. I’ve been to a ton of courses that are very wide open and more player friendly. Most also have at least 3 sets of tees to choose from. So teeing it forward is an option too. Don’t have time for a full 18? Most courses have 9 hole rates, so play 9. Golf participation, IMO, is most affected by the cost. Not just for playing, but equipment too. I don’t claim to know what the fix is. But the issue certainly is not because golf is not as “fun” as playing Candyland with my toddler.

  14. Steve

    Aug 29, 2016 at 11:51 am

    Golf is plenty fun under the right circumstances. Such as……when you can play in 3 and 1/2 hours. A five hour round is awful and the definition of no fun. As for the eulogy for golf that we keep reading about, you could’ve fooled me. I don’t play as often as I would like, but I have seen crowded golf courses this summer in North Carolina, Michigan, Ohio and Virginia. I see a billionaire marketing a set of clubs for $ 3000 and new Drivers from the big name manufacturers in the big box stores for nearly $ 400 — with new versions right about the corner. Of course at $ 400 I won’t be making too many impulse purchases. Scotty Cameron putters are kept behind a plexiglass case so they won’t be stolen. Nice. That’s ok….I can 3-putt with something cheaper.

    But what the golf industry lost sight of is this generation’s obsession with time or the lack thereof. Reconfigure golf courses to 12 holes and make twilight rates earlier and more affordable, and people will play. To me, the golden age of golf was back in the 60s when everyone played with wooden woods, irons with a sweet spot the size of a tick and balls that we wouldn’t even hit on a range now. And people loved the game, didn’t complain about it being “too hard” while they adored Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus cuz they looked right at them in the gallery. Those were the days, but give me the chance to play 9 holes with 10 or 11 clubs in a bag I can easily carry without waiting for someone plumb-bobbing a putt in front of me and the game is magic again.

  15. The Truth

    Aug 29, 2016 at 5:04 am

    Women are not smarter than men. Give me a break with this P.C garbage. Women are more emotional and far less logical, they’re very easily influenced by a monkey see, monkey do culture. What sort of lifestyle is hyped up in the MSM to influence them? Oh yes, the degnerate Culrtural Marxist society that is destroying us both socially and financially. And who falls for it the most? Women of course, zero logic. If the traditional values of the West was still considered cool, more Women would be playing.

    • Ru Paul

      Aug 29, 2016 at 8:26 am

      You go girl!

    • Egor

      Aug 30, 2016 at 11:37 am

      @The Truth – many will disagree with you, but you did hit the nail on the head. You’re right.

  16. James

    Aug 28, 2016 at 4:06 pm

    I think you’re wrong Mr. Adams. All sports are difficult and can be “not fun” by your definition. I’m an old baseball guy and if you get a safe hit 30% of the time you’re an amazing player. Quite difficult to hit a round ball with a round stick with a ball thrown fast and with curvature. Still, that one great hit every couple of games is what you chase and the chase if fun. Same with golf. Not every round will be great but parts of it might be. The fun is chasing that better score or hitting a few more good shots in a round. Challenge is fun too. It invigorates the mind. If everything was easy we would all get bored with it. This is why golf is fun, it is the chase and the challenge.

  17. Smitty

    Aug 28, 2016 at 3:56 pm

    Sorry Barney but this was a big ol’ shank of an article. Golf is fun, but it’s not easy. Most things that are fun aren’t easy. Are marketers mis-representing themselves by saying “golf is fun”? Heck no. They get paid to promote and sell stuff and nothing about that tag line is misleading in the least. When you were selling clubs would you have told a potential new golfer that the game really isn’t fun but hey, come buy this club from me for hundreds of dollars?

    I enjoy practicing and working on improving my game and putting practice into play every week on the course. Seeing a long putt drop, hitting a big drive down the fairway, or sticking a wedge close is what fires me up and keeps me coming back for more. That is why the game is fun to me, but those same things don’t define the game of golf for other folks.

    A close friend of mine only gets to golf maybe once a year on his birthday because of family and work conflicts. There are a lot of shanks and lost balls that day, but it’s a blast and he’d never say otherwise.

    Frankly, if I were a marketer or in advertising role in the industry I don’t think there is a single productive thing I could take away from this article. Additionally, one of your final paragraphs about women being smarter than men as the rationale for not taking up the game is utterly ridiculous. It might be time for you to hang up the poor efforts at “writing” and focus on doing some real things to help grow the game.

  18. Dennis Clark

    Aug 28, 2016 at 1:40 pm

    Read Michael Murphy’s classic “Golf in the Kingdom”…
    “Our relationship to paradox is a barometer of our enlightenment”

  19. 8thehardway

    Aug 28, 2016 at 8:55 am

    Ah, the women; exemplars of the worthwhile and conscience to us all. But before they were women they were cart girls… . Somehow they transitioned from flirting to wisdom, while we just kept golfing, Peter Pans locked in eternal battle with Captain Hook and Captain Slice. We never grew up and put aside the things of youth because golf is the opium, the green dragon that clouds our mind even as we chase him from hole to hole; $75 to $150 for a hit that lasts 4 hours and we can’t get enough.

    Should we resist this sticky substance of a sport and, like the women you admire, ascend to a higher plane or should ‘advertising folks’ develop better marketing along the lines you suggest to attract more innocents to this addiction? Your proposition seems at odds with your value system.

    • ?

      Aug 28, 2016 at 11:13 am

      Maybe it’s time to lay off the drugs…

    • KK

      Aug 28, 2016 at 9:15 pm

      Are all women just cart girls of various ages to you? Lame.

      • 8thehardway

        Aug 29, 2016 at 3:56 pm

        I had hoped to pose a developmental dilemma between one-dimensional representations of a cultural bias which reached it’s zenith in the saccharine sitcoms of the early 1960s.

        I guess that boat has sailed, but rest assured I do not regard women as grown up cart girls.

  20. Randy

    Aug 28, 2016 at 1:13 am

    We made it fun, for the last two years we have played two man scrambles for lunch almost every Tuesday, the only time it is not fun is the Tuesday one of the guys cannot make it and we have to play our own ball.

  21. don7936

    Aug 27, 2016 at 7:40 pm

    Barney, what are you smoking? You made your living off of “dumb” men who bought your products?? i understand the point you’re trying to make but belittling the intelligence of 90% of your customer base is preposterous. BY logical extension, if women are too smart to play golf, only dummies will play it. Therefore men are dumb. Dude, that is the lamest thing I’ve seen on this site. Never mind the gratuitous “smart women” comment too prevalent in golf nowadays. If you’re willing to turn golf into a gender issue, publish your remarks at a site geared for women. You totally sold out.

    • kolfpro

      Aug 29, 2016 at 3:59 am

      OK now, keep your shirt on Tonto. Barney is not trying to insult you or golfers in general but it seems you are taking it that way. Remember, never take it personally even tho sometimes it is! 🙂

  22. cwt

    Aug 27, 2016 at 6:32 pm

    “You know going in that you won’t win because regardless of your skill level, you can always improve.”

    Which is why Mr. 58 should have walked away from the game that very day!

    • Jim

      Aug 29, 2016 at 12:08 pm

      Just one put better, and it could have been a 57…….

  23. RI_Redneck

    Aug 27, 2016 at 5:10 pm

    Barney’s description of the game is very spot on IMHO. I don’t play for fun, never have. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the challenge, the comraderie, the exercise and the scenery……. but I don’t have fun. Every time I walk onto a golf course it’s to do battle. It’s always a battle between me and the course itself (and the designer, I guess), even in tournaments. I have won tournaments before and been completely disappointed with my performance because I didn’t play as well as I should have. I get the most fulfillment from playing my best on a really tough track. That’s probably the reason I seek out the courses I do when I’m traveling. I actually don’t think I got my money’s worth if I don’t feel like I’ve worked my a** off to get the score I got. Hey, maybe I’m a bit of a nut and that’s fine if you think so. But that’s just the way it is.

    This game is designed to kick your butt, work you in the ground and reward you only when you try your best. That’s why I love it.

    BT

    • Steve C

      Aug 29, 2016 at 4:20 pm

      Well said, Redneck. And todays generation just does not get it! Nor do they want to.

  24. Double Mocha Man

    Aug 26, 2016 at 10:53 pm

    That must have been a 600 yard par 5 since you hit your drive 410 yards…

  25. Double Mocha Man

    Aug 26, 2016 at 10:48 pm

    Golf is fun for the camaraderie among friends, the anticipation of that round, the fresh air, the 3 incredible “pro-like” shots you hit per round and the gin & tonic afterwards.

    • Double Mocha Man

      Aug 27, 2016 at 12:39 pm

      Actually those are nicknames for Ginger & Tonica… they’re both girls and they’re both legal.

  26. Sometimes a Smizzle

    Aug 26, 2016 at 10:32 pm

    i definetely agree with Barney. I feel like golf is fun in a different kind of way. I often play alone because i like the challenge and i like being alone after being around people all week. I experience satisfaction more then fun.

    • Double Mocha Man

      Aug 26, 2016 at 11:01 pm

      I often play alone because I’m afraid Smizzle will join my threesome. 🙂

  27. JThunder

    Aug 26, 2016 at 10:17 pm

    All sports are challenging and the enjoyment – for those who “get it” – is because it’s a challenge. This is why the push for 15″ holes is idiotic. You could make basketball a lot easier and – apparently – more “fun” by just having a huge waist-high barrel for the ball. I mean, why go through the effort and difficulty of throwing the ball up high to such a small target??

    I’ll take issue with the mention of “symphonies” – to properly understand and appreciate the complexity of the music you’re hearing IS a challenge. This isn’t Barney or Bieber, it’s Bach and Beethoven. *Playing* orchestral music is a challenge of the highest order, and takes a lifetime of dedication and 8 hours practice a day to be professional.

    The real semantic issue at hand is this; have we become so jaded and lazy that something challenging and difficult can’t be called “fun”?

    If everyone is so worried about golf participation, I suggest they look long and hard at the state of the middle class; incomes, time spent at work (including emails at home), increased prices and decreased salaries and benefits, unemployment and underemployment/multiple jobs, plus social media, kids’ activities, etc. More really good 9-hole courses might help. Overcrowding at existing courses is a factor too, certainly in the Chicago area.

    • Nick Stec

      Aug 27, 2016 at 7:25 am

      THIS!!!! AWESOME.

    • Mat

      Aug 27, 2016 at 5:41 pm

      Agreed. As a former musician, I have a draw to golf that is very similar. I had a lot of fun as a musician… same ideas; camaraderie, working but never achieving perfection, and mastering a craft. I was a much better musician than I have ever been a golfer. The irony is that an activity like golf requires determination to get better, but it is a hobby that most of us put in the garage for days or weeks at a time. Those that practice every day, like music, are envied.

      “Fun” might not be the single best word, but how does one describe the drive as an artist for perfection?

      • JThunder

        Aug 27, 2016 at 6:22 pm

        I guess it depends. To some people, “fun” is sitting on a beach doing nothing getting hammered. Some would have to be there surfing or playing volleyball or something. To some, it’s climbing a mountain or hiking a trail, painting a picture or whittling a sofa. It’s a certain kind of person – not necessarily “the very few” though – who enjoy accomplishment rather than idle fun. But if golf weren’t “fun”, why would anyone do it? It’s expensive, it takes time and lots of effort – I guess you can call it “enjoyment” instead of “fun”, but that nitpicks semantics. The same goes for artists – most genuinely enjoy and love what they do, and far less than 1% could claim to be “doing it for the money”.

        So, maybe the disconnect is in the Tiger Factor, and companies like Nike’s expectations. YES, a lot of people “tried” golf because of Tiger, and quit because it was “too hard” or they sucked, or it was too expensive, took too much time, was too hard to Tweet while doing, whatever. It was the Tiger Bubble – and just like the Housing Bubble, the eCommerce Bubble, the occasional tennis or soccer mania, it was BOUND to subside.

        I suppose it could be called “unfortunate” that the Tiger Bubble burst almost simultaneously with the economy. (Wait – what was that crash – the stock market or Tiger’s SUV window? Was that breaking Tiger’s back or the back of the middle class?) Again, anyone who expects “participation” (aka “CASH”) to be UP when the middle class are working 60 hours a week – husband and wife – and barely making ends meet. As for Nike pulling out of golf – I’m sure the cash they paid Tiger didn’t help. As for 800 courses closing – specifics of where and why? I’ve seen a few close here with owners cashing out on the land. NOT lack of golfers.

        • Bag Chatter

          Aug 29, 2016 at 8:36 am

          JT – You shouldn’t be on this site – you make way too much sense!

  28. oldpromoe

    Aug 26, 2016 at 10:12 pm

    I have played golf for 56 years. Golf is fun for me. I play almost every day and always enjoy myself. Great shots still thrill me. Good shots make me happy, Poor shots don’t concern me.
    I play with people I like and one that I love.
    During our long Manitoba winters, I hit balls indoors at the Dome every day. I find that to be fun too.
    Barney, with respect, maybe you need an attitude adjustment.

    • Barney

      Aug 27, 2016 at 12:23 am

      I generally don’t respond but I liked your comment. I’ve been playing for 65+ years and still read the articles on how to improve. I get sick of the “instant gratification ”
      Type ads and am promoting a little ” truth in advertising “

    • Mike W

      Aug 28, 2016 at 1:21 am

      I’m in Winnipeg too. Send me a PM and lets go have fun!

  29. Bernard

    Aug 26, 2016 at 9:57 pm

    Great article. I have always been annoyed by the way the game is sold. It is sold more like a Zumba infomercial than the challenging game that it is. The reward is in the journey to meet it’s challenges. It’s more martial arts or mountain climbing of the soul but it is not “fun”. Fun is only in the fleeting moment everything went correctly. Thank you Barney.

  30. Wayne J Bosley

    Aug 26, 2016 at 9:48 pm

    Exciting and Challenging ,,, like life,,,,,

  31. Steve

    Aug 26, 2016 at 9:32 pm

    Golf is better than work and as memorable as (marital) sex.

  32. Tom Duckworth

    Aug 26, 2016 at 8:55 pm

    Hit a drive about 40 yards along the ground on a par 4 yesterday…..mad and a bit embarrassed I sucked it up and followed that with an arrow straight 5 wood to the left of the green about two yards off the putting surface. Was it fun? No and yes. I’m still a little mad at myself for that crappy drive and proud of the fairway shot. I can’t think of many things I do where the battle is truly against myself. I don’t think golf will die out but it may very well become a game that very few will play in the future with old clubs that they have to keep fixing because they are hard to find. I hope people in the future will be able to understand what a great thing golf is. My granddaughter loves it but my grandson can’t put down his phone long enough to get the beauty of it.

  33. Silverhead

    Aug 26, 2016 at 7:17 pm

    Just had that round today. Started with a par, got on the bogie train, dropped a 25 ft. birdie putt on #7, then made the turn onto the DOUBLE bogie train. Stopped keeping score by #14 and enjoyed the rest of the round.

  34. ooffa

    Aug 26, 2016 at 6:55 pm

    Of course it’s fun. Barney stop griping already it’s getting tiresome.

  35. KK

    Aug 26, 2016 at 6:07 pm

    Ice cream and symphonies are fun? Fail.

    • Double Mocha Man

      Aug 26, 2016 at 10:55 pm

      There is nothing better than Beethoven’s 7th Symphony, final movement. I’ll take a good live production of that over an eagle any day…

      • Fredo

        Aug 27, 2016 at 3:42 pm

        KK, your the clown. You just haven’t realized it yet. Barney gives us thought provoking articles that need to be applauded!

  36. westphi

    Aug 26, 2016 at 5:58 pm

    Fun: “something that provides mirth or amusement”…that’s golf to me, and if Barney Adams is going to say I don’t play golf, I’d invite him to come play a round or reevaluate what he’s been playing all these years…

  37. Scooter McGavin

    Aug 26, 2016 at 5:14 pm

    Also, I’m going to take issue with your logic for why there aren’t as many women golfers as there could be. While you try to put a positive spin on it by making it sound like men are the dumb ones wasting our time and women are the smart ones finding “better things to do”. I’m not starting a debate about which gender is smarter or whatever, but your argument comes across as a veiled sentiment of “men have the drive to tough out the challenges while women don’t want to work hard”. I’m not asking you to take my word for it, but all I ask is you take a moment, step back, and reflect on those remarks and see if they could be construed in a patronizing or condescending way by someone else (namely of the opposite gender). I think the real reason behind the lack of women golfers is the history it has of being a man’s sport, and the boy’s club mentality that gets perpetuated to this day. While it’s not what it used to be, you can still find plenty of men that see golf as their time away from their wives/girlfriends/women/whatever and don’t want women to play. It’s present in everyday pop culture things like TV shows, movies, greeting cards, etc. that show men as the golfers and women as the nagging spouse that gets angry when she has to stay home with the kids on Saturday morning while the husband sneaks out for 18 with his pals. It’s even more apparent in the presence of all-male golf clubs. It’s a cultural issue that is not exclusive to golf, but a number of other sports: baseball, football, etc. I’m sure you’ve heard countless men in your lifetime crack remarks about nobody watching or caring about women’s sports. There’s your problem right there. The culture that men create and that some still perpetuate.

    • Scooter McGavin

      Aug 27, 2016 at 1:05 pm

      Thanks for proving my point with your sexist comment.

    • Gordy

      Aug 28, 2016 at 7:38 pm

      Whew…you’re the preachy person at the party who shows up and kills the laughter. So, let me guess..you majored in gender studies but work at a grocery store as the cashier?

  38. Dj

    Aug 26, 2016 at 5:11 pm

    Uh I find golf fun myself. Just because it’s challenging doesn’t mean it’s not fun. Weird article

  39. Mike

    Aug 26, 2016 at 5:07 pm

    Nicely written piece.

    “Fun” usually implies instant gratification. The reward from golf is greater than that.

    At times, golf can seem like meditation. No one ever called meditation “fun”.

  40. alexdub

    Aug 26, 2016 at 4:58 pm

    Great write-up Barney. Golf is always striving, never arriving.

  41. Scooter McGavin

    Aug 26, 2016 at 4:51 pm

    Symphonies are hard too…

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Gary Player joins our 19th Hole podcast, talks past and future of golf

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Hall-of-Famer and career Grand Slam winner Gary Player joins host Michael Williams for an exclusive one-on-one interview at the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf tournament and Big Cedar Lodge in Branson, Missouri. Player talks about the past and future of the game, including his take on everything from reigning in the golf ball and golf courses, to advocating for more testing for performance enhancing drugs on the Tour. Steve Friedlander of Big Cedar Lodge also appears.

Listen to the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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Let’s Retire Old Man Par: A Modest Proposal

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In 1729, Jonathan Swift wrote a satirical essay entitled “A modest proposal,” in which he suggested that the Irish eat their own children. As might be expected, the piece drew a great deal of discussion and controversy. He was of course not serious, but simply attempting to make a point. As you will read this piece contains “A Modest Proposal” as well, but it is not intended to be satirical. I am for the record dead serious.

The golf industry is wringing its hands, trying to find a way to bring new players into the game, while at the same time keeping those that are in the game from leaving. They have initiated any number of programs designed for this purpose. How successful have they been? I would venture that they have barely moved the needle.

Barriers to the game

What we do know is that today there are three major barriers that confront the industry. They are first, the time required to play the game; second the costs associated with playing the game; and third the difficulty of the game.

There are among those adults that start the game, three distinct different groups:

  1. Those who would like to start playing golf but for any number of reasons decided not to take up the game.
  2. Those who once played more frequently but have reduced the number of rounds that they play.
  3. Those who started to play the game but then after a short period decided to leave it.

Those who leave the game

Those in the golf industry, the hand-wringers, have developed any number of programs to bring new players to the game. I would ask the question, “What is the point, when almost an equal number of players that start playing the game each year, decide to give it up within a span of a few months.

Does it make any sense to continue to put water into a bucket when there is a hole in the bottom? Of course not, but that is effectively what is being done. The first question to be ask, why do these new players quit the playing after a short time? In my opinion, the number No. 1 reason is the method of scoring being used.

Were an exit poll to be conducted asking these people why they quit playing, I seriously doubt they would answer truthfully. Who would want to admit that they were discouraged by their inability to succeed at any endeavor? The two answers that would be given the most often would be 1) that golf is too expensive to play; or 2) that they simply didn’t have time.  In this case both answers serve to preserve the individual’s dignity. And who could blame them?

The concept of par

Why did these individuals find the game difficult? The short answer is that while golf is a hard game to learn, there  is a more compelling reason.  I would venture, that the underlying reason they quit the game is that it ceased to be fun because of how they viewed their performance. And for one central reason… the concept of par. The idea that an amateur golfer, especially a beginner, should measure their level of success against an imaginary set of numbers that represents what an expert player would score on each hole is on the surface ridiculous.

You might imagine a beginning player scoring an eight on a par-four hole after hitting six good shots and then two putting for an eight. In the context of their ability, they should be ecstatic — but of course they are not (because as their playing partner reminds them) they were four-over par on that hole. The time has come for Old Man Par to retire. And retire permanently. He is killing the game.

Perceived failure

In another scenario, the beginning player scores sixty for nine holes, which is an excellent score given the short amount of time they might have spent playing the game. And yet their nine-hole score was 24-over par. How would that make you feel? Would you be encouraged or discouraged? You might imagine yourself back in school and regardless of the amount of work that you put into a given class you always receive an “F.” At some point, would you give up?

Why should every golfer be judged by the same standard when there is such inequality in their ability? The equivalent would be placing a high school freshman in a graduate-level college course, expecting that they could perform at the same level as the other graduate students. The disparity in knowledge, based on age and experience, is precisely the reason why there are different grades in school. The same disparity exists among golfers. In this case, the difference being the ability to perform on the golf course as opposed to the classroom.

What about the second group of players that now plays less than they did in the past? Could it be that they are no longer having fun playing the game?And then there is the third group, those that consider playing the game but abandon it for another sport. Could it be that they are intimidated by the scoring system, knowing that as a beginner par is an absolute impossibility?

Old man par 

The legendary Bobby Jones was the first to coin, perhaps with the help of his friend O.B. Keillor, the phrase “Old Man Par.” Jones was, of course, the greatest amateur to have ever played the game. He won the Grand Slam in 1930, retiring then at the age of 28.

The time has come to retire “Old Man Par” and devise a new system for measuring a golfer’s progress in the game. I know that those in the USGA. would reject the concept immediately for fear of, and here is a $10 word used primarily by attorneys, “bifurcate” the game. What that word essentially means in this context in having more than one standard. The USGA is responsible for preserving the nature of the game, but at the same time it should be equally concerned with preserving the future of the game.

Personal par

What I would suggest is a system based on the principle of what might be termed “personal par.” This was essentially the system that was used to groom a young Tiger Woods. As a young child, he was not capable of reaching the longer holes in regulation, making par a virtual impossibility. Consequently, his coach wisely devised a system in which par was adjusted upward based on his ability at a given point in time. This served to keep the young child feeling good about his performance and subsequent progress.

This is the type of system that needs to be devised for the health of the game. The system would begin at a nine-hole level using a par of thirty-six as a basis. The actual numbers are not as important as the basic concept. There would be within the nine-hole and the eighteen-hole groups five different levels as follows with assigned par for each hole and eighteen holes roughly equal with the player’s ability.

As players improved, they would graduate from one level to another based on their total score. The handicap system would work in similar fashion as it does now with a single modification. The strokes give from one player to another would depend on the level in which they fall and the par assigned to that level.

The personal par handicap system would not be as exacting as it is presently used, but it would be sufficient to allow players to be reasonable competitive without any significant sacrifice. There would then be two scoring systems then, allowing players to choose which one they wanted to use. Or a recommendation might be given that until they reach a given scoring threshold that they use the personal par scoring system.

There would, of course, be the usual concern with something new being injected into the system, but the proposed change would be no greater than when the system of equitable scoring was introduced or when courses were first assigned a course rating number.

A few years ago, when life-long teacher and educator Dr. Gary Wiren was inducted into the Golf Teacher’s Hall of Fame, he wanted to pass along a single piece of advice to those teachers in the room. “Gentleman,” he started and then paused for emphasis. “We must find a way to make the game more fun for our students.”

I’m in full agreement with Dr. Wiren. The question is, “What is the best way to accomplish that goal?” I believe that that the first step in that direction is to change the scoring system so that golfers experience more satisfaction and accomplishment. That is what makes learning fun.

And so, I would have you consider “The Modest Proposal” that I have put forward. And rather than attempting to find reasons why a revised scoring system couldn’t never work, for the benefit of the game, look for the same number of reason why it could work. The time has come for Old Man Par, as we know him, to retire. He has served us well, but he has become an anarchism. He is as obsolete as the horse and buggy. Let’s hand him his gold watch and let him enjoy his golden years in peace.

And at the same time, let’s welcome the “new kid on the block” who will pave the way for the next generation of golfers pioneering a scoring system that promises to make the game more “fun.”

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TG2: What’s the most annoying breach of golf etiquette?

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What’s the one breach of golf etiquette that gets under your skin more than anything else? Equipment expert Brian Knudson and GolfWRX Editor Andrew Tursky discuss what drives them crazy. Also, Knudson talks about his first round with new irons and a new shaft in his driver.

Follow @tg2wrx on Instagram to enter the Bettinardi inovai 5.0 center-shaft putter giveaway.

Listen to the full podcast below on SoundCloud, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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