Dan Goldbeck writes with a very logical question. We, in the golf world, assume that people know what we're talking about when we throw around terms such as "growing the game." It's not always so. And we also assume what we're promoting is great for everyone. As Dan suggests, maybe that's not the case.
Occasionally in your magazine I read about the idea of "growing the game of golf." This concept seems to be on the agenda of the PGA as well as the USGA. I wonder if you would please define exactly what is meant by the term. Also, could you explain if growing the game of golf would be beneficial to current golfers such as me. I should add that I have been playing golf for over 40 years and that I live on Long Island where it is not unusual to come across 4- and 5-hour waits for tee times.>
Dan, I'll be it means a lot of different things to different people. I'll try to explain what we mean. Our position is based on the assumption that golf's popularity promotes its economy--the development of courses and equipment--affords more opportunities for golfers to fulfill their passion. Its born of a feeling that we want to share a great thing. We love the game; we want others to learn and care about it.
Is that a good thing for golf on Long Island? Is it a good thing for golf in Michigan? I'd say it depends on whom you ask. Our view is that if we want municipalities to continue to build and service golf courses, if we want equipment companies to continue to make better clubs and balls, if we want the game to flourish in future generations, post-Tiger Woods, then it needs to be promoted and we need to make it accessible to new players. You might say, we'll you want that because you want to sell golf magazines. Fair enough. And the PGA of America wants to make sure there is work for its members. And the PGA Tour wants to make sure there are audiences for its telecasts. All true.
But fundamentally, there's more to it than that. Golf is a game we love because of its values, its settings, its challenge, its opportunities for "athletes" of all levels. I'd hate for the game and its values to be lost to my son's generation because we didn't make an effort to welcome him--and left him to his video games. Or to my wife because we decided it was really a man's game. Or to folks on Long Island because we decided that it was crowded enough already. I hate slow play and I hate waiting. But what I hate worse is the condition of golf courses--or the absence of them--in places where golf was left behind. I mention Michigan because though the game is incredibly popular there, the present economy of my home state could hurt the game's long-term health. That would be a shame. I want municipalities and entrepreneurs to see our game as a source of revenue, provided they create the right venues, formats and opportunities.
So if the choice is "growing the game" or keeping it to ourselves because resources are too stretched in some places already, we'll vote for growing it--and facing the consequences as it gets more popular. If the game doesn't grow, your waits will get even worse as courses close and municipalities decide their are better things to do with that land.