To me, a sports fan, golf has never held much appeal so I wasn’t surprised to read a piece in the New York Times that the sport has lost over five million players in the past decade. Furthermore 20% of the existing twenty five million players are expected to stop playing in the next decade. People under 35 have especially given up on the game apparently finding the rules too complicated and the game to time consuming. For this reason the Professional Golf Association of America is trying out some new ideas including a 15 inch hole and the ability to throw the ball out of the sand trap to attract younger players to the game. The question is will it work? I believe the answer is no, to me and my friends golf biggest problem is the logistics involved in playing the game. To play golf you need a lot of expensive equipment and have the time to get to a course making it to me an “elite” sport played by people with a lot of extra time and money.
Although I am slightly over 35 I am certainly part of the group that has no interest in golf. As a city dweller the idea of having to get to a course to hit a little ball into a hole does not appeal to me. There are no golf courses in the middle of a city and to get to one I would have to travel at minimum of 30 – 40 minutes. Why would I do this when there are so many sports that I can play right in walking distance of my apartment? My favorite elite sport is tennis but even that is more accessible than golf, there aren’t tons of tennis courts in the city but there are enough. There is no practical way to put a golf course in a city, they just take up to much room.
Another problem with golf is the equipment and expense it requires. According to Golfsmith a player can carry up 14 clubs in a bag and the most basic set is made up of at least 8 or 9 clubs. A good set of clubs appears to be a minimum of $600.00, there are sets as cheap $200.00 but they are not as good and do not allow players to control the ball as well. A player who wants to get the most of out of their clubs is going to have to shell out a lot of money for them. At a time when people do not have a lot of discretionary money, I include myself in this group, this is a lot of money to spend to play a game. Not only are the clubs expensive but they take up a lot of room and living in an apartment with not limited closet space where would I put the clubs? A good tennis racket is about $150.00 and fits nicely under my bed. After you pay for your clubs you have to pay for your transportation to the course and since there are none in the city it costs more than the subway fare I pay to get my local tennis court. Additionally to play on most courses you have to join the club that they are a part of and because course are expensive to maintain these memberships are not cheap. They certainly cost more than an hour of time on a tennis court.
After considering the problems & expense of equipment, and getting to the course there is the game itself to consider. Golf is not the type of game where you can go out and swing a club at a ball without knowing what you’re doing. The swing is very complicated and people who want to play and play well have to take lessons from professionals. This is time consuming and expensive so you have to be fully committed to being a golfer to do it. To some degree the same is true of tennis, however I have taken several friends who have never played before out to the court and shown them how to hit a ball which has been a lot of fun. My friends who have enjoyed it have gone onto to take tennis lessons with a pro. The one friend I have who actually plays golf tells me it would be too complicated for her to just show me what to do and I need to take a lesson with a professional.
All these problems aside golf is a time consuming game. A standard round of golf is 18 holes and even though the PGA has encouraged people to start thinking of a round in terms of nine or fewer holes it is still time consuming. Playing a full hole can take about 14 minutes making the time for a full 18 hole round about four hours. Add on the time it takes to get to the course and you’re talking about most of a day to play a round of golf. I usually play tennis for about an hour at a time and with transportation to and from the court it takes about two hours, if that, out of my day. Not to mention when I finish my game I am in the city and can very easily return to my daily routine that would be more complicated if I were away from the city on a golf course.
Given all the problems with playing golf would changing the rules really encourage me and my friends to take up the game? No, since our problem with the game is more about the logistics involved in playing it than the rules. If the PGA really wants to bring people to the game they are going to have to find a way to make the game more accessible and less expensive. Would expanding the hole to 15 inches and allowing me to throw the ball out of the sand trap make the game more fun? Possibly, so I hope they institute these changes the next time I play miniature golf until then give me my tennis racket.