Editors' BlogAugust 17, 2008

Growing the Game cont'd

I got this response to a recent post on the problem that a lot of think the game has: In our focus on competition, score, handicaps--in our seriousness about the game--we've turned off potential casual players who are simply looking for fun:

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Hey Bob, golf's to too difficult a game for many people. It was designed to be taken seriously, not as a picnic outing. I have encountered too many with no regard for others playing the course. They need a different game.

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Brutually honest, and, I'm sure, shared by a lot of you. During a Maine vacation last week, I got a lesson in that difficulty. My wife, myself and my 13-year-old son found Willowdale Golf Course near Portland and decided to walk nine. Conditions were soggy, not easy, the course playing long. I suggested to my son, Matt, a sometime golfer with a surprisingly good natural swing, that he and I play alternate shot or captain's choice, but he wanted to play his own ball. It was a struggle. He played parts of two holes, hit about 15 shots, couldn't overcome the "rights" and said he'd had enough. It just wasn't fun for him.

To my wife Julie's credit, she was fine with Matt's decision. He walked with us, we took photographs, enjoyed the beautiful surroundings. I was disappointed that he wasn't playing, but the fact is Matt was smart not to torture himself. It was vacation after all.

And so, yes, I understand that sometimes golf is too hard; it's just not fun, anymore than running the 100-yard-dash, which we're watching tonight from Bejing, would be fun for most of us. But I also know that for Matt golf can be enjoyable. And because my wife and I want to share this game with him, we'll continue to give him opportunities--and lessons, if he wants--and search for ways to make it fun for him. I remember Johnny Miller saying he used to take his boys to water hazards and encourage them to hit balls into the water, which they loved. We'll try it.

It's because the game can be so difficult, it seems to me, that we need to work really hard to make it enjoyable for beginners. (Maybe that begins with two-hole rounds!) In his own way, that's what Arnie did for those of us who followed him into the game. He showed us the excitement first, then the technique, and finally the score. If we want to the game to prosper, we better do the same.

--Bob Carney

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