After Lorne Rubenstein announced last week that his long career as a Globe and Mail golf columnist was coming to an end, there were many tributes to a trailblazer who not only wrote about the best-known names in the game, but also went deeper into its soul.
It was agreed in many of the columns and blogs that ensued that Rubenstein captured the essence of what drew people to the game and kept them there. He could capture the characters and the culture of the game and relate to both scratch golfers and high handicappers.
Through his books and columns, he passed along an important message, that golf isn’t only about dress codes and rules, but also something that sticks with you, which has happened with many of us who have made the game a career.
There are many ways that golf can become a passion.
It might be that first walk on a windy day on a seaside links course in Scotland or Ireland. It could be as simple as that Saturday afternoon round with buds followed by a cold one on the patio or it might be on-course and off-course memories from a golf vacation.
It can lead to all kinds of side effects, such as the study of golf history or becoming a gearhead, obsessed with all of the new equipment that is hitting the market.
That’s not something that needs to be explained to many denizens of the golf industry, but it is an important message that needs to get out to the people that the industry is attempting to lure to the game.
The game needs a storyteller such as Rubenstein more than ever as it strives to grow participation. He passed along his love of the game instead of assuming that people not as familiar with the it automatically felt the same way he did.
Painting a picture of the game was his job and he did it well. It’s the industry’s job as well, but results of the latest GNN Poll show we can do a better job of creating a fun atmosphere to neophytes.
Specifically, the poll asks “Does golf present a fun atmosphere to people not familiar to the game?” The response is quite alarming as 94 per cent of those who answered as of this writing said no, while only six per cent said yes.
As a recreation, our top priority needs to be not only creating fun, but conveying that message to people who, due to inexperience, can’t possibly feel what long-time players feel about the game.
Golf is more inside-out in the way it expects people to pick up on its message when it should be outside-in and go out into the community to find out from newcomers what would draw them to the game.
It also needs to tell its story eloquently as Rubenstein has done and will continue to do, just not as frequently, in various publications and, I suspect, in another book or two.
A great golf course is important. A nice clubhouse helps. Outstanding customer service is essential, but the first priority is getting people to a golf operation to experience all it has to offer. A website with course information, green fees, staff and other information is important for business, but does nothing to attract the potential inexperienced golfer.
Fun is the product that golf is selling. Is the industry doing enough to accomplish that? So far, the answer is no, but you can still have your say at the GNN Poll on the home page.