How Our Attitudes as Avid Golfers are Disincentivizing People from Sticking with Golf
An article recently came out in the Wall Street Journal discussing the fact that more people than ever tried golf recently according to their study, and yet golf continues to see a decline. Many articles, opinions, and blogs have been written on this subject already. Most of them point to an archaic game that refuses to change it rules to allow access to more people. Still others state that the high cost of playing golf or taking lessons to properly learn the game are prohibitive for a majority. Those points seem to fly in the face of what the article points out – People are willing and able to give golf a try in spite of these reasons.
In fact, I’ve yet to see someone decide not to play golf because they can’t wear jeans (in fact I see many, MANY people wearing jeans, to the chagrin of some). Actually, I think the reason many people won’t play, is because of YOU, (and occasionally ME TOO.) Why You ask?
Now before you get all offended or defensive (and I can understand why you would), allow me to explain. I am in a pretty unique position, in that I am one of the few who has become proficient in the game very quickly. I have completed almost 3 full years of golf now, and my handicap has been as low as a 4.8. I’ve broken par, and I play from the tips or near it on most courses. This isn’t to gloat, but it puts me in an interesting situation. I feel and see the plights of the novice, the newcomer on the golf course. At the same time, I can certainly say I belong to the avid golfer crowd. I know what it’s like to be annoyed by people playing their 5 hour rounds, or taking 8 practice strokes with their 3 wood when they have no chance of making the green, and likely they’ll be chunking it 30 yards anyway. I also remember very well, BEING that person. As a tournament golfer, I yearn for the competitiveness and pace of playing with really good golfers in my group, whom I’m competing with fiercely. I also recall the complete humiliation and glares from scoring 10s on holes in my first tournament, only a year and a half ago (I am pretty sure I have PTSD from it).
GOLF IS HARD. A lot of people cite that as the reason people don’t stick with it. And from where I stand, it just isn’t true. When people got into it in droves in previous generations, it was just as difficult, and perhaps even MORE difficult with less forgiving clubs and other technology. As a new golfer, the stress of playing poorly was always compounded heavily by the sensation that ‘that foursome’ behind you was breathing down your neck and hitting into you every hole. It was deepened when we’d play with people who wanted to get their round over with and seemed annoyed to be playing with us. I was fortunate to be mentored by a few golfers, one in particular, (shout out to Jimmy Tennant), who had the patience to play with me and see me through the rough patches of early play. I didn’t know the rules, and even if you read the book, the nuances of etiquette are hidden ‘assumed knowns’ that a new player feels paralyzed with fear about. “Can I stand here? Can I walk here? Do I mark my ball yet?” were all questions that likely all of us faced at some point, and are very intimidating parts of the game, because most people won’t take the time to explain them to you, you are simply expected to know them.
People who look to enter the golf community don’t do it for you. They do it to have fun. And when we, as avid golfers, complain, act rudely and impatiently, and expecting anyone who sets foot on the golf course to know EVERYTHING about golf including the unwritten, we push them away from what we know to be the most beautiful game in the world. We would all benefit from a flourishing, growing game of golf. Green fees paid mean better conditions on more and better courses. Let’s do our part by remembering the novice in all of us, and cutting him some slack. Someone did it for you- whether it was your father, or your friend. In the mean time, a foursome behind you got stuck watching you practice your swing 6 times before duffing it 30 yards. Likely you walked in someone’s line at some point, out of pure ignorance, and yet someone had the patience and directness to just explain you shouldn’t do it, instead of grumpily murmuring and making you feel like you’d ruined their life.
A more inclusive, more inviting, BETTER golf starts with those who tread the course on the regular. It is incumbent upon US to grow the game, not the PGA of America, not Rory, or Ricky, or Jordan. I challenge you to look at your own habits. Not your pace, but your treatment of those around you who are perhaps looking to become the next avid golfer, and ask yourself whether you are doing your part to encourage them to stick around, or whether you are pushing them out. Instead of high horsed behavior, I challenge you to HELP novice players when you see them. Encourage them, explain to them constructively about the little unwritten rules of etiquette. Tell someone to practice their swing and get their distance while someone else in their foursome hits. Tell them to be ready with the line before it’s their shot at putting. We are the true keepers of our game. If the game of golf is to survive, it will be at our hands. If it is not, we may find we only have ourselves to blame.
Republished with grateful thanks from LinkedIn post by:
L. Oviedo – Owner, Founder, NoteCaddie Mobile Golf on 4.6.2016
NoteCaddie Mobile Golf is an app concept that gives you access to great golf notes. Take advantage of great notes around the course to give yourself consistency and commitment, without taking yourself away from your golf game. Share those notes with the NoteCaddie community, and you can be connected to great notes on a course even if you’ve never played it before, to get that ‘home course’ edge!
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