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Growing the Game: Welcoming Newcomers to Golf

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It’s Saturday morning at 8 a.m. My wife and I have both had a long work week (as is pretty much always the case), the kids have been in school all week, and everyone needs to recharge their batteries. The kids are watching their cartoons, my wife and I are having coffee, and I get a text on my phone. I look at my wife and say “Hey babe, Matt has a tee time today at noon. Mind if I join him?”

Look, maybe your significant other plays golf. Maybe he or she doesn’t. They may be the coolest, most easy-going person in the world. Regardless of what your specific situation is, here’s what he or she just heard, “Hey babe, Matt has a tee time at noon. If I leave at 11 a.m., drive 20 minutes to the course, check in, hit some balls, roll some putts, then play a 4-hour-and-20-minute round of golf (kind of average here in the U.S.), drive 20 minutes back, I can be home by about 4:45 p.m. You’re good with the kids for about 5.5-6 hours, right? Thanks. Bye, honey!”

Look, I’m lucky. Golf was a significant part of my life before I had kids, a wife, or even a job. My wife can’t say I sprung this on her all of a sudden. But I can imagine if I instead said I was going to play cricket or go mountain biking for 6 hours of pretty much every weekend… let’s just say that might receive a puzzling look. And my wife is a very understanding and caring person.

If you’re on this site, you’re probably already hooked just like me. But what about the new blood? How do we get them hooked, or even interested in golf? How do we get them to carve out 6 hours of their Saturday to (frankly) stink at golf? How do we get their families to buy in? In short, while pretty much everyone is buzzing about the top end of the golf market and their new PXG and Epic irons, I’d rather talk about who’s going to take the plunge on that Wilson box set and why.

Depending on who you’re trying to recruit to the game, you’ll wind up with a different sales pitch, but here’s the one thing I’d like us all to agree on. Next time you and your golfing buddy are paired with two dudes with second-hand DCI’s from 1996 who can only hope to break 100, let’s be nice. As long as they’re not chugging Jack Daniel’s and blasting Bob Marley during the round, let’s be encouraging. Play a tee (or two) up with them to speed up play. If solicited, offer up some advice to them in an encouraging way.  The fact that they’re out there beating it with the rest of us is good for the game, even if they may irritate you on that particular day. Maybe they’re annoyingly bad, but they just carved a big chunk of time out of their Saturday to try to invest in a new game. They basically told their significant others they were going hang gliding for 6 hours. Let’s welcome them.

And if they are chugging Jack Daniel’s and blasting Bob Marley, politely decline and think about suggesting that you and Matt play ahead of them. All four of you may enjoy your rounds a little more at that point.

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Peter Schmitt is an avid golfer trying to get better every day, the definition of which changes relatively frequently. He believes that first and foremost, golf should be an enjoyable experience. Always. Peter is a former Marine and a full-time mechanical engineer (outside of the golf industry). He lives in Lexington, KY with his wife and two young kids. "What other people may find in poetry or art museums, I find in the flight of a good drive." -Arnold Palmer

19 Comments

19 Comments

  1. Peter Schmitt

    Aug 7, 2017 at 9:36 am

    Folks, just wanted to drop in one last time and say thanks for the overwhelmingly positive reactions. This is the first time I’ve ever done anything like this. For those of you that never have, it’s a scary, yet exhilarating feeling and to have it be well-received is huge. I hope to keep generating content that is entertaining and thought provoking. Cheers!

  2. Peter Schmitt

    Aug 7, 2017 at 7:41 am

    Well, I certainly do have biases toward certain manufacturers, but I try to stick with the best tools for the job. The Epic helps me find more fairways plain and simple. I know the 8802 is not something one who struggles with putting “should” be using, but I do putt better with it than a lot of other flat sticks. I guess something about how it’s weighted allows me to swing the putter head more instinctively. I am an engineer, but I play better golf when I DON’T have my analytical engineer half of my brain cooking, as I can really get in my own way.

  3. Ude

    Aug 6, 2017 at 8:28 pm

    Fair Way = Partee = ooffa = feminist failure who only loves golf clubs and herself …. sooo obvious

  4. Matt

    Aug 5, 2017 at 11:19 am

    Great article. As someone who picked the game up a few years ago I especially agree with the last paragraph (especially the part about offering advice if solicited).

  5. Jacked_Loft

    Aug 5, 2017 at 6:05 am

    Nice article Peter! We are the game, and we can grow the game. An old wisdom: “If she don’t play, she won’t stay.”

  6. Matt

    Aug 5, 2017 at 1:38 am

    Maybe golf could have two scorecards, one for casual local rules and one for the official rules of golf. A weekly ‘casual rules’ allowed time of Sat or Sun 9 hole afternoon from 2pm might also make it more fun… Rental gear and quick lessons onsite, cheap fees, no dress code, allowing play from forward or back fees, using a tee on any shot, preferred lie, one mulligan on the first hole and a maximum of triple bogey.

  7. Hardcore Looper

    Aug 4, 2017 at 11:33 pm

    Nice article. But if you want to keep your significant other from.feelimg like they’re stuck with the kids, get them playing. Yes, you won’t play many 18 hole rounds while they’re little, but they’ll get there faster than you’d think. Plus, you’re growing the game, and you’re spending quality time with them.

    Maybe I don’t contend in the club championship as I’d like, but I’ll trade that for our rounds in the Parent-Child any day.

    • Tyler

      Aug 6, 2017 at 4:01 pm

      Here, here! I’ve got three boys ages 5, 3 and 1. I started taking my oldest with me about age 3 and then I recruited grandpa (my dad who wasn’t a golfer, but has recently gotten into the game) to come along when my second oldest turned 3. Now the conversation goes like this, “Hey honey I’m going to take the boys to play 9 holes with grandpa for 2-3 hours this afternoon, you OK with that?” What’s she gonna say to that? Happy wife, happy life. Initially it was a struggle to teach them the rules and etiquette of the game, but it hasn’t taken long for them to get the hang of it. So basically I’m bringing 3 (soon to be 4) new players into the game and it starts with a little patience and understanding from those of us that know the game.

  8. madeinguam81

    Aug 4, 2017 at 8:25 pm

    Great read. My wife and I have two young boys (4 and almost 2) and this hit home. The only part I didn’t agree with is moving “a tee or two up to speed up play” when paired up with newer players. I’m a big proponent of playing what you should be playing and if it’s done right, it shouldn’t slow down play.

  9. MSMI ZZLE

    Aug 4, 2017 at 7:11 pm

    Hey babe, Matt has a tee time today at noon. Mind if I join him?”…..what tf ever

  10. John

    Aug 4, 2017 at 3:08 pm

    I loved this article. A refreshing change from the usual fare.
    Well done, Peter.

    To the editors: I think we could all use more of this and less of “6 hour fittings for a set of Miuras and the grips look nice next to my Porsche” piece that seem to be everpresent on this site.

  11. Peter Schmitt

    Aug 4, 2017 at 1:24 pm

    Thanks for the comment. My WITB just had a full reboot this year. It had been about 4 years since my last. I now carry an Epic Driver and 3 wood, Titleist H2 hybrid, JPX 900 forged irons, and I have a potpourri of wedges and a milled 8802 putter. As for my game, it needs work! Mainly putting. Current goal is to consistently stay under 80. Keep hovering between the 78-82 mark. Trying to get rid of all three putts and double bogeys to achieve that end.

  12. Lauren

    Aug 4, 2017 at 10:12 am

    The wives of the world applaud your awareness of how frustrating the LOOOOONG absence that a golf outing on the weekend can feel to the spouse who is left-behind! However, I encourage wives, as my grandmother once told me, “let your husband play golf!” Men and women both need hobbies and things to help them escape the day-to-day grind of work, and also, let’s face it, parenthood. if golf does that for you, as I assume it does for countless others, go for it!

    My other comment is related to your encouragement of more inclusion in the game of golf–and by inclusion, I mean, patience with those of us who want to play, but are terrible and embarrassed to try. I don’t always feel like a golf course is the most welcoming to folks who fit that description, and I agree that they certainly need to be if the game of golf is going to survive into future generations.

    Good article.

    • BD57

      Aug 5, 2017 at 2:54 pm

      Lauren,

      Thank you for understanding. And for those of us who’ve been playing for years – we absolutely should be encouraging to people coming into the game.

      Part of what we all need to understand- at least, IMO – is, for newcomers, the goal isn’t “put a number on a scorecard,” it’s to start hitting decent shots, to get proficient enough so you feel like “you belong” . . . . no one wants to feel like he or she “shouldn’t be here.”

      That’s not just for newcomers, Lauren. There was a time when I’d play in State Am qualifiers and the like, but I stopped years ago when my game got to the point where I didn’t feel it did justice to my fellow competitors to be out there – I wouldn’t want to distract someone who had a legitimate shot of qualifying when my game isn’t in shape to do so myself.

      For newcomers . . . . Hit a tee shot, play a second shot, but if you’re scuffling – – – – if we’re going down the hole 50 yards at a time – – – – feel free to pick it up and drop your ball up near the green so you can pitch, chip & putt (because that’s good stuff to work on). You’re out there to LEARN to play golf by hitting golf shots . . . . you’re not playing “scorecard golf” yet (there are a lot of people who never do).

      Play “short courses” whenever you can – they’re a great place to become more proficient and work into “the big course.”

      It’s a great game, and it can be FUN if you focus on making it fun.

  13. Richard Steele

    Aug 4, 2017 at 9:37 am

    Really great article Peter. Here in the UK were launching our App MemberMatch to help club golfers who are looking to play more and meet new friends. Our matching algorithm finds like minded players and suggests they play together- This helps build their social network, playing network and helps their club be more social. Look for MemberMatch.co.uk, coming to a club near you soon

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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.

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