Society is going through massive changes brought on by a variety of factors.
In North America we are facing challenges and threats to our lifestyle that are going to have a lasting impact – climate change, immigration, stagnant economy, aging baby boomers, political unrest and availability/access to information all will affect the way we live.
Undoubtedly, every single one of us will be called upon to contribute in one way or another to resolve these issues as will every golfer. As the world turns, bringing new and bigger challenges to everyday ways of life, we are also seeing a transformation in golf.
Who would have thought someone wearing a beard would not only give rise to discussion, but to a trend. The once squeaky clean image of the PGA Tour is going down a new road never before travelled.
Players are wearing beards.
Given that players are individual contractors and can pursue their fortune in any way they desire provided they follow the dress code rules of the PGA Tour some have elected to adorn themselves with huge growths of facial hair.
Some people like the look, some don’t like it and some don’t care. In the case of Canadians on the PGA Tour who display large growths of facial hair, it does give rise to our national anthem “I’m A Lumberjack and I’m OK.”
The point is that after many years of top quality players circling the continent in a disorganized manner, certain standards were established to best capitalize on a business opportunity and the PGA Tour was born.
The toughest taskmaster was Deane Beman, who ruled supreme as he ushered players, sponsors, fans, media and the general public through an era of progressive development that evolved into a billion dollar enterprise.
Much was accomplished through projection of a certain image, sans beards.
Clothing worn by players has always influenced the average golfer. In the 1970’s, a piece of tape was tacked along the bottom of the mirror inside the women’s locker rooms at private clubs. If a woman wore shorts that did not reach the height of the tape, the shorts were forbidden for being too short.
Then, along came Jane Blalock who wore short shorts.
Can you imagine how the LPGA Tour would look today if the ladies wore real Bermuda length shorts? It took a very long time, but thankfully, the rules did change.
Today, PGA players like Rickie Fowler are causing discussion over his wearing of motocross-style golf shoes and oversized hats, but kids love it. Others frump and say at least his hat is on frontwards.
Not only is the image presented by the players changing, the image projected by fans is changing.
Take the Waste Management Phoenix Open and “the Pit” on 16. Players/gladiators enter through a tunnel to a par three hole totally surrounded by highly fueled, energetic, screaming fans. Here’s a look from the past at what you can expect on 16.
Many have never played golf, but attend the event because of its party atmosphere. The popularity of the event attracts a whopping 200,000 paid admissions, way more than other tournaments. In turn, the revenue generated has put over $100-million into the pockets of local charities.
Why does this tournament rankle the naysayers and purists?
In my opinion, I think the participants see it as an opportunity to thumb their noses at the establishment. They ignore signs requesting “Quiet Please”. They abandon all sense of centuries-old, on-course decorum and longstanding unspoken codes. A lot of it brings to mind the societal differences portrayed in the movie Caddyshack.
A little fun-in-the-sun on Super Bowl Sunday revitalizes a nation and generates mega cash once a year.
I enjoy it.
So what could be wrong with it?
Absolutely nothing, except for the new uprising witnessed at the Honda Classic on the 17th hole. While it pales in comparison to ‘The Pit’ the atmosphere is changing. It can’t be said that the actions at the 17th at the Bear Trap rival that of the 16th at the Waste Management, but the point is now there are two of them.
As we all know, the formula for the PGA Tour has been successful but change is in the air. Like it or not, there will be fallout both positive and negative depending on your point of view.
The face of golf is changing whether you are clean-shaven or not!