Insanity – Thy name is golf.

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It is said that Albert Einstein defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.

I’ve always loved that definition because it reminds me to think outside the box when I see myself repeating the same mistakes.

I am by nature a stubborn person, but I don’t consider myself insane. If something ‘ain’t broke’ in my life, I won’t try and fix it. But if things aren’t quite right, I’m not afraid to shake them up. 

Which is why I was lying awake last night worrying about the epidemic plaguing the golf industry – the steady decline in people participating in golf.

I think my insomnia was triggered by the latest study in Europe that reported an astounding 46,000 drop in registered golfers in 2011.  According to Andrea Sartori, head of KPMG’s Golf Advisory Practice, the growth of golf started to slow down after 2005, but last year was the first time there was actually a decrease in registered golfers.

Certainly the economy isn’t helping matters, but I believe it’s more than that.  Golf hasn’t kept up with the times and time is passing it by.

Look at the youth of today and what interests them:

  • On-demand entertainment from YouTube, smartphone apps and social media 
  • Anywhere/anytime access to friends (real and virtual)

For them, instant gratification isn’t a “nice surprise” as it was for us Baby Boomers when we were their age, it’s an expectation, almost an entitlement, because virtually everything they want today is just a click away.

And then there’s golf….where nothing happens instantly.  You can’t just pick up your clubs and hit the links whenever you want with whomever you want, at least not in my town. 

No, you have to book a tee time days in advance, dress in clothes you wouldn’t normally be caught dead in, arrive at least 20 minutes prior to your tee time or lose it, discover your 3-some of golf buddies will be forced to play with an old geezer who showed up as a single.  Oh… and then fork out mega cash for 5 hours of “hurry up and wait”.  Fun eh?

No wonder our kids won’t play with us any more.  Oh ours did when they were 9 or 10, but once they hit puberty, no amount of begging or bribing was going to get them on the golf course.  As far as they are concerned, golf:

  • Takes too long.
  • Is boring (probably because it takes too long).
  • Is slow (making it take too long)
  • Is uncool.
  • Is a game for old men (AKA it’s uncool).
  • Costs too much.
  • Has too many dumb rules.

I decided to venture online to find out more about kids’ real feelings on golf and came across this question on Yahoo from a young lady begging for help: “I hate golf and my dad is forcing me to play it. What do I do?”

Here were some of the very telling answers:

“If after the first few holes you still decide you hate it, just play as ABSOLUTELY SLOW as possible. that will drive your dad crazy enough to never make you play again.”

“Pretend to be REALLY bad, my grandpa forced me to play, and all i did was pretend to be really bad, and he saw how bad i sucked, and i got out of it.”

“Hit all the balls in the water, make it too costly to play the game.”

But the one I loved the most was…

“HOW can you hate golf?   It is a fabulous game. People are really impressed by women who can play.  Besides, it is a wonderful way to meet men with money.”

I wasn’t sure if I should laugh about that one or cry.

Now it’s not all doom and gloom…there are a few initiatives out there trying to create new variants of golf that appeal to the younger generation, such as the Jack Nicklaus-endorsed Golf 2.0 and every traditionalists’ unfavorite,  NotGolf (AKA Flogton) and Off Course Golf.

I, myself, applaud any organization who is experimenting with new forms of white ball entertainment to try and keep the game alive for future generations.

Here’s one idea from Kwik Golf which not only makes the game more kid-friendly, it solves the pace of play problem that plagues so many courses.

Kwik Golf recently together with the First Tee of Palm Beach and provided a fun and energetic game of Kwik Golf for the kids in that program.  Cool!

For many of us on the slippery side of “over the hill”, the traditional game of golf will always be on our hit parade.  But there is a growing list of young people who see the game we love as going the way of the LP/Beta/VHS/CD…

I don’t think we’re insane for trying to protect the sanctity of the game for the few who take it seriously and want to compete.  But the iTunes and Netflix generation want something else.

Bowling alleys use laser lights and music now to attract more youth.  And one cannot ignore the growth of snowboarding.  It wasn’t that long ago when “the bane of skiing purists” weren’t allowed on many hills in Canada.  Today they are everywhere and are predicted to overtake the number skiers on our hills by 2015. 

I’m afraid to think about the state of golf in 2015.  It’s time to stop the insanity.  It’s time to give our future what they want – Golf Their Way.

Golfgal

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8 comments

  1. Great post! Did Tiger Woods bring youthfulness to the game when he started? Perhaps a “new” Tiger is needed.

    And maybe rap/hip-hop music needs to be blasting during youth tournaments?

    Kids don’t spend as much time outdoors in this day and age. That’s sad.

  2. Thanks Gerry for your comments. Kids do need their heros, that’s for sure. And Xbox 360s etc have created a lot of couch potatoes as well, sadly.

    But the soccer fields are over flowing here in Vancouver and the baseball fields too. Parents are running their kids here and there to play the sports they love.

    Golf really doesn’t excite kids like hockey, baseball, football and soccer. And certainly it costs a whole lot more to play.

    Something has to change, and it’s not the kids.

    Thanks again for your thoughts!
    cheers
    Gayle

  3. I can’t say that I had the best attitude towards golf when I was young, particularly since it was the pre-Tiger era and an air of elitism and racism still prevailed. I started playing in 2000 just as Tiger was starting his dominance is the sport became more popular in the neighborhoods and ages were previously it was sparse

    My concern is more for those that want to play but can’t or don’t know where to go.

    I run an NCGA golf club and I’ve seen the stats. The demographics are that the average age of members is increasing and overall membership is decreasing.

    Golf enjoyed a boom period but now is suffering from too many clubs and too many courses to support the current level of players. Some consolidation and new solutions are necessary to get the game going again. In this age where communication channels are free or nearly free somehow I think the sport will be back one way or another.

  4. Hey Scott! Great to hear from you.

    I hope the almost free communication channels will stir things up a bit.

    The youth pushed snowboarding, but I don’t see them pushing new ideas in golf – those ideas seem to be coming from our generation.

    Maybe we need a Justin Bieber in golf to make it cool to play. Rickie and Rory are helping, but they don’t seem to be quite enough.

    Anyway, I’ll keep those channels open :)

    Cheers
    Gayle

  5. Tiger woods made a huge difference to Golf and I dont think his legacy has yet come to fruition.
    I think the biggest difference Tiger made to Golf was the fact he was on TV playing when he was 2, all of a sudden parents started to get their kids involved in golf from a younger age and Golf clubs responded by offering younger memberships and shorter tees. When I first started playing (20 years ago) 12 was the minimum age you could join my local club. Now children join at aged 6 or 7.

    I still think Golf clubs have to catch up with this but Golf will always attract younger players because it is a challenge and such a great game

  6. Hey “Taketwogolf” (like that name :)).

    Thanks for sharing. I do see a lot of youngsters out on the range and at private courses. My concern is when they become teenagers – how do we keep them interested? So many distractions with other sports.

    But starting young is great – I wish I had started decades ago.

    It’s such a wonderful game/sport.

    Cheers
    Gayle

  7. Hi Golfgal

    Just found your site. I like it!

    This line made me laugh.

    “discover your 3-some of golf buddies will be forced to play with an old geezer who showed up as a single”.

    I’ve been that guy:)56 yrs old.

    The twenty something kids were fun to play with and kept calling me sir.

    Very respectful but, SIR?

    I eventually got them to call me by my first name and had a great round!

  8. Hey thanks Tom! :)

    I’m with you on the age thing (I’m on the slippery side of over-the-hill myself. And being called Ma’am is not fun ;)

    But the young guns and gals we have played with were a treat – I just wish there more of them.

    Come back and visit any time Tom!
    cheers
    Gayle

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