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.
The 19th Hole Episode 170: Grassroots golf and Darius Rucker
Host Michael Williams talks about the benefits of grassroots golf programs in growing the game. Also features a reboot of his exclusive interview with Hootie and the Blowfish.
The Wedge Guy: Have a ‘Plan B’
One of the things that I think is very interesting and fun about this game is that there are a number of ways to play every hole you encounter. And sometimes a hole offers “better” ways to play it than you might think. Let me explain with a couple of experiences from my own golf life.
ONE. In my thirties and forties, I played at a club outside of San Antonio – Fair Oaks Ranch. The 18th hole was a tough par 4 with a very small landing area and a gaping bunker at about 175 out. The skinny fairway left of that bunker wasn’t more than 15 yards wide, and there was a little mott of trees on the green side of the bunker that you would have to carry with your mid-iron bunker approach. Tough, to say the least.
That hole drove most of us nuts, and double bogeys were more common than birdies, for sure. Par was always a great score and bogey wasn’t “bad” at all.
So, one day it hit me that if I hit 4-wood off the tee, I would have an elevated fairway look at the green from about 200-210, giving me another soft 4-wood or 3-iron to the green, and the fairway was about 40 yards wide back there. Being a good long club player, I began to play the hole that way. Doubles disappeared entirely, pars became the norm and I even made the occasional birdie. Hmm.
TWO. At my recent club, the ninth hole just didn’t fit my eye or my game. I play a fade off the tee most of the time and turning over a draw was just not reliable for me at the time. That ninth is a dogleg left, with a bunker on the right side of the fairway that runs from about 160-125 from the green, right where the prime driving area is. What makes this hole so tough for me is that the prevailing wind is left to right, and trees just 60-100 yards off the tee keep me from starting the ball out left and letting it ride the breeze. This is another one where birdies are rare for me there, and bogies and doubles way too frequent. So, it dawned on me one day, finally, that I could hit 4-wood right at that bunker and not get to it, leaving me a 5- or 6-iron into the green, rather than the short iron the rare proper drive would leave me. So, that became my new strategy on that hole. I’m a good mid-iron player, so I’m fine with that, and that damn fairway bunker never caught me again.
THREE. My new club puts a premium on accurate wedge play. Most of the shorter holes have the smallest greens I’ve ever seen, so distance control with your wedge approaches is critical. And I find that reasonably full-swing wedges are easier to control distance than those awkward 60- to 80-yard partial swings. So, I’ve learned to put a premium on club selection off the tee on those holes to leave my approach shots in the 85-115 range, so that I can “dial in” my approach shotmaking.
My point in all this is that sometimes a hole gets under your skin or just doesn’t set up well for your game. When that happens, design yourself a Plan ‘B,’ and change the way you play it, at least for a while. Quite often you will find a solution to a problem and your scores and attitude will improve.
Club Junkie: Mizuno T-22 wedge and Cuater Moneymaker shoes review!
Mizuno’s new T-22 wedges are forged from the same 1025 carbon steel with boron as the irons, giving them an extremely soft feel. Very versatile, the sole grinds allow for hitting any shot your heart desires.
The Cuater Moneymaker shoes might be some of the most comfortable I have worn in years. Tons of cushioning, exceptional traction all over the course, and they are even waterproof!
Patrick Reed’s Twitter suggests that he’s fuming with Stricker’s Ryder Cup snub
Taking the backyard putting green plunge
4-wood vs 7-wood vs hybrid – GolfWRXers discuss
The Wedge Guy: More on learning – the grip
Jessica Korda calls out social media ‘hate’ as rise in online abuse continues
Justin Rose’s caddie calls into question U.S. player’s graciousness at Solheim Cup
Clement: This wrist position can add 30 yards to your drive
Steve Stricker shares positive news from Tiger Woods’ rehab
Spider-Man’s driver off the deck nearly lands him a spot on the European Ryder Cup team
Patrick Cantlay’s winning WITB: 2021 Tour Championship
WITB Time Machine: Justin Thomas’ winning WITB 2017 CJ Cup
Driver: Titleist 917D2 (9.5 degrees) Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana BF 60TX (tipped 1.5 inches) 3 Wood: Titleist 917F2 (15 degrees) Shaft: Mitsubishi Tensei CK...
Adam Scott WITB 2021 (October, new irons)
Adam Scott’s what’s in the bag accurate as of the CJ Cup . Driver: Titleist TSi4 (9 degrees, A2 SureFit...
Danny Willett WITB 2021 (October)
Danny Willett what’s in the bag accurate as of the Shriners Open. Driver: Callaway Rogue (9 degrees) Shaft: Mitsubishi Kai’li...
Sungjae Im’s winning WITB: 2021 Shriners Open
Driver: Titleist TSi2 (8 degrees) Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD DI 7 X (45.25 inches) 3-wood: Titleist TS3 (13.5) (B1...
19th Hole1 week ago
Bryson reveals the cut-off point on money list where players make an annual loss on Tour
19th Hole7 days ago
Tiger Woods photographed back on golf course with son Charlie
19th Hole5 days ago
Bryson DeChambeau shares why dimples are the key to sinking more short putts
19th Hole2 weeks ago
‘Patrick Cantlay p****d me off’ – European Ryder Cup rookie hits out at U.S. star
19th Hole2 weeks ago
The ruthless message Tiger Woods sent to inspire the U.S team at Ryder Cup
19th Hole3 days ago
High school sophomore records a historic 57 in conference championship
19th Hole1 week ago
Why Harris English’s putter grip led to strange ruling at Ryder Cup
Podcasts2 weeks ago
The 19th Hole Episode 168: Long Drive Champ Maurice Allen discusses Bryson