Cover story: The Happiness IssueAugust 1, 2015

21: The Most Elusive Number In Golf

How much golf would you play if you could play as much as you wanted? Imagine all of life's constraints--work, family, money, a nagging injury--vanished.

This was the question posed in a recent study by Minnesota State University. More than 2,000 golfers participated. Every respondent had a USGA Handicap (the average Index was 13.3), and most were summer-starved Minnesotans, so a pretty serious bunch. Including time for practicing, reading about golf or watching it on TV, as well as yapping about it at the 19th hole, the magic number that shook out was 21 hours a week. Blackjack. Call it three or four rounds, plus a few extracurriculars.

But in reality these golfers were getting only 10 hours. Now, that 11-hour deficit might not draw sympathy from the family man with two jobs who's lucky to get out once a month, but the research underscores a critical point: Most golfers aren't happy with their "golf time." Golf requires real hours, just as maintaining or improving the skill to play a musical instrument requires real hours, and certain life-decisions affect those hours more than others. What we see as the true obstacles, however, can depend on our perspective. Says Dr. Dan Sachau, who led the study with the help of the Minnesota Golf Association's Warren Ryan: "Overwhelmingly, most golfers didn't feel strongly that golf interfered with their work but were more inclined to say that work interfered with their golf."

At least it sounds like they have their priorities in order.

21

Number of hours per week you want to spend on golf

10

Actual hours you spend on golf if you have a full-time job

14

Weekly golf hoursmif you work part-time

5

Extra hours coming your way if you don't have children

1.5

Hours you gain back once your child becomes a teenager

2

Extra hours you'll score if your spouse also plays

1.6

Extra hours you have if you're living alone

33%

Golfers who are not satisfied with their ability to balance the demands of work and golf

20%

Golfers who are not satisfied with their ability to balance the demands of home and golf

23%

Golfers who are not comfortable asking their boss for time off to play an important event

99%

Golfers who regret the five minutes of "golf time" they lost reading this article.