How to Attract People to Golf: It’s About Making a Connection

Having been involved with the game of golf for more than 30 years now, including 20 in a professional role, I think I finally understand what the unending lure of this game is. To non-golfers, golf seems like nothing more than chasing a little white ball around a field, which leads to the typical reactions of “what’s the point?” and “how boring must that be!” Now I understand that the game is not for everyone, but let me shed some light on why it is so important to us golfers.

Anyone who plays golf on a regular basis – and if you’re reading this post you’re probably one of them – understands it’s not just a game. It’s a lifestyle, a passion, and an itch that begs to be scratched.

Living in Canada causes you to truly miss the game for 6 months every year, which I think contributes greatly to the fanatical Canadian golf culture. If you’ve ever stood in a Pro-Shop in April and watched 4 guys tee off in temperatures 2 degrees above freezing you would understand what I mean… it’s not just a game.

An opportunity for peace of mind

We now live in a world of “hyper connectivity” with our phones, tablets, Bluetooth, texts, tweets, Facebook and instant messages; the problem is…these really are a false sense of connection. Outside of work, real connection with other humans in a (non-fleeting) manner is quite rare these days. When it comes to golf, the nature of the game allows us to connect with friends, new and old, family, colleagues, clients, or even ourselves. Sometimes there is nothing more soothing and mind-clearing than a solitary 9-hole walk in the evening – just you and your clubs.

Along with the inherent challenges golf gives us, it is my go-to activity for a combination of exercise, fresh air, connection with nature, mental and physical challenge, and 2 to 4 hours of uninterrupted connection with one or more like minded people – all in the guise of a game.

For the fun of it

Golf is “me” time for everyone that plays this game, save for the very few who are playing for a living. For the vast majority of us, the score is very secondary to the experience of the sights, sounds, smells, and personal connections we make. I can attest that whether I shoot 65 or 85 nothing in my life is going to change. However, the “Fun Factor” increases the better I play that day, and that’s why I put in some practice time when I can.  We all know that one great shot will bring us back, and leisure time should be fun. Invest in yourself, learn a skill set that will produce more “great shots,” and increase your fun factor. It will always lead to stronger and better connections in business, and in life.

Getting involved

So with all of the personal and business benefits of being involved in the game at some level, why does it appear to some that the game is stagnant?  For my entire life in golf I have been told by friends, local pros, and the golf media that golf was hard…extremely hard to learn to play, and  that in itself was an early deterrent to playing as a junior member at my local club.

The fact that kids (juniors) were not really welcome at the golf course but were tolerated as an inconvenience to the regular playing members, the pros unwillingness to spend any real quality time with the junior players, and the constant bombardment about how hard and frustrating this game is were obstacles I was not willing to try and overcome as a potential new golfer, and instead turned to Tennis as my summer sport of choice. That was in 1973…How have we grown golf as a business and a lifestyle since then?

Back in 1973, the only access to golf instruction was the local pro, or if your dad made you watch “Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf,” a TV show pitting one great player of the day against another in a head to head contest. Each player would give a short tip and then showcase their talent. Then there was the gym teacher who couldn’t shoot 100, and even worse, friends who “thought “they knew something. Sure there were golf magazines and publications but it has been only the last few years with the internet and YouTube that the breakdown in the golf instructional industry has fully come to light.

In the history of the game, there has never been a standard of golf instruction that could be taught to the masses of players wanting to learn how to propel the ball downfield and get it into that little hole. Tennis has coaching standards, hockey has coaching standards, baseball has coaching standards – even swimming has coaching standards. Golf? Not so much.

Golf is the hardest game to learn as a child or an adultor is it?

Golf is a skill set, the same as any other sport or leisure activity. At the highest levels it is extremely difficult to perform under the pressures of anxiety and fear, but does that mean the basic skill set is too difficult for most people -in my 20 years of experience teaching golf lessons -absolutely not. The basic skill set needed to learn to play golf, to navigate a golf course with a golf ball or two is not rocket science, I believe anyone with a desire to learn to play, can learn (in a very short period of time) the basic skill set required to complete most golf shots, and I’ve seen it thousands of times. If a player then wishes to ascend in the ranks of competitive players, that skill set has to expand to include a repertoire of specialty shots and most likely mental training; and then there is the time commitment.

I believe the disconnect between the people who desire to play the game, and the people teaching the golf skill set is the real culprit in the stagnant growth of (what I believe) is the greatest game in the world; not for the potential of greatness as a player, but the connection with like minded people, playing a non-violent, friendship building, nature-based game that can be enjoyed for a lifetime, and is never the same twice.

I believe we have to look to the educators to find common ground, and deliver a consistent message that does not contradict, or compromise the trust factor between student and teacher.

The governing bodies of the game (the PGAs) of the world of which I have been a member of for 20 years have (in my opinion) dropped the ball on an educational model for the masses, and left it to individual members to piece together their own methods, leaving much to interpretation, and creating a host of contradictions.

It’s a new world, and change is not only inevitable, it’s here…and if this sport is to thrive and survive, the burden rests solely on the “new” education model for the sport…whatever that may be.

“A well hit golf shot is a feeling that goes up the shaft, right through your hands and into your heart.” ― Ben Hogan

Rob Bernard, Center of Gravity Golf

PGA of Canada.

Golf: It’s All About Focus

Golf is the ultimate game of focus – let me explain. If you consider yourself a half decent golfer, and have a modicum of consistency and ease on the driving range but cannot seem to take it to the golf course and hit it the way you do on the range… you’ve lost your focus.

Focus is a very fleeting and fair friend. Whatever you focus on is where your brain takes you in that instant – whether it is a thought, a noise, or a shifting of your eyes. Focusing is not an impossible task; you do it daily when you drive your car, sing along with your favourite song on the radio, learn any new task, or do your chosen job or career to the best of your ability. What you focus on is what differentiates you from everyone else, so you can, and do focus on a daily basis… on something.

Golf is the ultimate game of focus, and there are so many things that can distract us from our job. It seems everything bothers golfers: the wind, a noise, a distracting thought, perceived pressure form peers. We have cell phones and e-mails that consume our focus. Finally, bunkers, water hazards, and out of bounds all take a portion of our focus, and golf course architects design these focus grabbers right into your playing field… on purpose!

Any or all of these distractions can spell disaster for your golf game. As I explained in my last article, Learn to tell the Story, you have to tell the same story to the golf ball every time you stand over it. If you lose your focus, and leave out a part of the story, or mix up the story in any way, the ball does not do what you want it to do – it does exactly what you told it to do.

In today’s world, losing focus is very easy with our phones, tablets, and computers. Access to information (even the wrong information) is easier than ever and bombards us constantly. Just now my phone dinged and I lost my focus on this story…ok got it back.

Focus Makes All the Difference

I believe I can hit a golf ball as good as anyone in the world – from time to time. I don’t play on the Tour because I can’t hold my focus from shot to shot, for 4 ½ hours on a daily basis, which is what it takes to be a professional player – and that’s why there are so few of them.

Everyone who plays this game for a living has tremendous focus and can win on tour at any given time, so why does Tiger, Phil, Rory, Jack, Arnold etc. win seemingly more than their share? They have better focus, not better skill. The skill level is exemplary on tour, but it’s not the equipment, it’s not the ball – it’s how well they can focus, and get the job done before something takes their focus and causes a bad swing or a bad decision.

Sports psychologists are a big deal today, and when you cut through all the jargon and exercises they have you do, they are really teaching you to focus, bring back positive emotions and a sense of ease standing over the golf ball. If you feel anxious, scared, or un-easy standing over a shot, you have lost the focus on what it is you have to do at that moment.

I had a front row seat to an LPGA event in Waterloo Ontario Canada this week and I have to tell you, these girls are awesome. They don’t hit the ball over 300 yards, or smash a 7 iron 175 but they very seldom miss a shot, and the 26 under par winning total for the week is proof enough of that.

I implore you to watch more LPGA golf tournaments. They don’t overpower a golf course the way the men’s tour does (they can’t…and neither can you or I). They actually have to plan and play the course strategically. Other than the methodically slow and smooth golf swings they all possess, it was their ability to focus that made me really take notice. With thousands of people gawking at them, television cameras watching their every move, and commentators’ dissecting their golf swings, their ability to focus on the task at hand is what makes them professionals.

The golf course should be a sanctuary, a place to go and forget all the distractions in life, and enjoy a game on the most beautiful and diverse playing fields on the planet. Use this time to enjoy nature and the camaraderie of like-minded friends. Being frustrated, throwing clubs, berating yourself, and ruining everyone’s day is not the peaceful pastime golf was designed to be, especially when you pay good money to be able to play.

Tiger Woods’ dad not only trained him to swing the golf club properly and manage his game, but also used to try and distract him every chance he got on the golf course, even using an air horn on occasion. He was training Tiger to focus on the task at hand and not let anything distract him, emotions, noise, surroundings, or elements. Skill sets aside, this is why he is #1 in the world.

Now I know you’re probably not going to be able to focus like a Tour Pro. I surely can’t, but I can focus enough to play a decent game and keep it around par, some days I even dip into the 60s and have a 63 scorecard from Mexico on my office wall…but I can also throw in an 80 here and there. My point is, the more you can focus for 10 seconds or so on what you have to do, and don’t be distracted by outside influences, noises, or the worst distraction – wondering where the ball will go and taking a peek before you finish what you started – you will soon be in control of your game.

Center of Gravity Golf teaches you to control your focus until the job is completely done… then you can look down the fairway at another good shot, just like the pros.

Work on focus, and completing the job at hand without distraction, and you will see that soon enough, you will be surprised at a bad shot, and not when you hit a good one. Now you’re on the right track!