I read many, many articles about growing the game. I am aware of a huge number of projects undertaken to grow the game by a multitude of organizations, associations, corporations and individuals.
I admire them and am thankful for their efforts, but why do I also read and hear about the decline in the popularity of golf? The construction of new courses is in slow gear, the sale of equipment is nowhere near where it was and the long lines of early morning golfers at pay-as-you play courses is mostly a thing of the past.
One thing I wish wasn’t happening is the constant barrage of survey results undertaken by industry officials reporting this news. It seems as though there is a new article every month bemoaning the golf business from lower lower cart usage to poor F&B numbers.
As a disciple, it bothers me to hear a constant negative reinforcement of what is more than just a sport to me. I love golf. I love everything about it – the people, the courses, golf on TV, golf via the internet, you name it, I love it.
I know the executives and administrators rely on such information to guide their decision-making within the golf business. What irks me is people outside the industry who revel and wallow in downbeat information by forwarding the dark side of not only golf, but everything else.
People who are extremely skilled writers who have no clue about golf or the golf community conduct research to support their chosen subject and compile a stack of information into a damning report on the demise of the game.
Coincidentally, they have the backing of their editors, usually of highly-read publications. They do so based on the information we (the golfers) provide for them.
Their facts are not wrong. Their stories are well written. Unfortunately, their material is distributed to and consumed by millions of people who have no interest in the game and who, once filled with legitimate information, spread it like gossip.
Over and over, I encounter people in all walks of life who do not play golf and know that I do. Their first conversations starter is, “How are you doing amidst all the chaos and ruination in the golf industry,” or something like that.
They continue with a line of commentary that would make any TV soap opera proud. They actually seem to enjoy rattling off a stream of depressing, pessimistic, downbeat, twisted-out-of-proportion opinion about the state of the game and unhealthy prospects for the future.
The coup de grace is when they provide a quote from a business magazine that, while factual, is taken completely out of context and inserted to validate themselves as an informed person.
Following such a meeting I can hardly wait to get home where I can read posts on Facebook, articles in golf magazines and/or call a fellow golf believer as an act of self-cleansing and salvation.
When I began my career as a young golf professional I had this dream of becoming the head professional at a well-regarded private country club.
In those days the route followed a few fairly consistent paths. I could work at a well-regarded private club and work my up. I could work for a well-regarded head professional or I could become a champion golfer. None were presenting themselves as a way for me.
It isn’t that I didn’t try, but for a variety of reasons ,they weren’t forthcoming. One day, it occurred to me there is another approach. I could market myself as someone who had enthusiasm, knowledge and experience and be desirable to a private club.
I began by developing one of the first winter golf clinics held in conjunction with the night school program. I also approached the local newspaper and asked if I could contribute a weekly series of lessons and tips.
I contacted local shopping malls for permission to erect a net/hitting bay and gave free golf tips at Christmas. I wrote to every conceivable service club (Rotary, Lions, Knights of Columbus, etc.) and asked if I could be a guest speaker and I presented myself to the PGA of Ontario as a candidate for its board of directors.
My theory was simple.
If I presented myself repeatedly in positions aligned with a high profile, sooner or later I would attract the interest of a person or persons of influence. My plan took nine years until it produced my goal.
Once I had achieved my objective, I realized my efforts to present myself in an unconventional manner was my main reason for my success and if I wished to maintain it, I had continue to develop it.
I worked with our club to develop a charity pro-am (FYI: It has continued for the past 37 years) and played in about 10 similar events as a returned favour to the hosting clubs for endorsing the entry of their professional in our event.
I travelled to several international pro-ams at my own expense, served on countless committees/boards of directors, spoke as a guest speaker endlessly and generally worked hard marketing myself.
I tell you this because, in retrospect, I had found a way to grow the game. Originally, I did it for my own selfish reasons, but I also spent thousands of dollars voluntarily and donated thousands of hours voluntarily, all of which contributed to growing the game.
I recognize most people would never freely and willingly give their time and effort away without thought of material gain, but I didn’t either. I did it as a strategy that worked.
When I hear about the fall of the game and failure of golfers to rescue it, I get an incredible feeling inside that speaks out and says all the negative reports, the unsupportive surveys, accurate, mind-numbing analysis and unconstructive articles won’t bring us down.”
Playing golf will always only appeal to certain people and a certain percentage of the population. We cannot stop overzealous writers from bashing the game, but we can enjoy it, tell others we enjoy it and welcome newcomers.
We can all help grow the game, All we have to do is have a lot of fun! Every time someone feeds you a negative news story, refute it with one or more great memories you have of playing golf.
Let the world know that if they haven’t tried it, they have truly missed a chance to do something incredibly special. Above all, don’t relent, just persevere with a smile.