If you follow the PGA Tour or watch the Golf Channel you’ve probably heard about the “Grow the Game” initiative. The USGA’s “newest and greatest” idea to get more people out on the golf course. But what goes grow the game mean? And who is responsible for it?
The PGA TOUR?
The First Tee Program?
The Golf Courses?
The Course Pro?
The truth is that there really isn’t an answer to that question. It is all our responsibility and none of ours at the same time. There is only one fact that matters: golf is in a decline. Fewer people are taking up the game, and we have find an answer why.
Again, there isn’t a singular answer to the question of why. The fall of the Tiger Era. Yeah, we have Rickie, Jordan, Rory, Dustin and Jason, but NO ONE will be able to be as big of a phenomenon as Tiger.
The rules of golf are too complicated and the game is too hard. Golf didn’t just suddenly become hard; it has driven people crazy for centuries. The difficulty of the game has always been a large part of its allure. The difficulty is offset by the passion that people have for it.
Golf has a negative reputation for being exclusive and elitist. This isn’t necessarily false in a day when new irons will run you over $1,000, but golf has always been expensive. In the 1600s, a golf ball, or a featherie, as it was known then, cost the equivalent of $14. The average salary in Great Britain in the 1600s was $75. Golf has always been expensive.
The truth is, we all should work together and collaborate to grow the game of golf. There is a reason that we are all obsessed with the game. It takes a combination of both mental and physical skill, and it’s a game that conceivably can never be perfected. We must show more kids, more twenty, thirty, and forty somethings, how rewarding golf can be.
At the junior level, the trick is to get kids to fall in love with the game. And parents, that doesn’t mean having your 7-year-old beat range balls for 3 hours in the July sun because they are showing some promise on the course. I see these parents supervising their young child as they putt 3-footer after 3-footer and I have mixed feelings: 1) I see a kid with a ton of talent that could be the next star on the PGA or LPGA Tour, and 2) I see a kid that’s going to burn out at 15 and never pick up a club again. Have them fall in love with the GAME of golf.
To grow the game, we must focus on the game, because that’s what golf is: a game and one that’s meant to be fun and entertaining. Let’s not develop kids that have golf skills, let’s develop kids that are golf-ers. So, parents, get out there on the golf course and play with your kids. Members, don’t get annoyed if you see juniors out on the course. Instead, think, “there’s the future of the club at work.” Maybe mentor them!
To the kids out there… play, play, PLAY. Fall in love with the game. Get out there and play and don’t let anyone discourage you because this is a sport that can give you so much.
The goal shouldn’t be to grow the game at all costs, it should be to connect on a one-to-one level with each golfer, or prospective golfer, and to help them appreciate why it’s worth taking the time to learn how to play.
Someday a star just as alluring as Bobby Jones, Arnold Palmer, or Tiger Woods will come along and once again, the game will flourish. And this discussion will be as old as the game itself.
General Manager / Head Golf Professional
Madison Golf and Country Club