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.
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 adult…or 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 likeminded 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.