An old friend sent me a newspaper column titled “Who Killed Common Sense?” The article explained, in a humorous way, that common sense was under threat by people who were making things too complicated and confused. While reading it, I couldn’t help but see our own industry as falling victim to the same excesses.
Yes, the golf industry is a party to the disappearance of our old friend Common Sense. We’re not really sure how old he was, because his birth records were long ago buried in bureaucratic red tape. He will be remembered as having taught such valuable lessons as knowing when to come in out of the rain, why the early bird gets the worm, that life isn’t always fair, and that maybe, just maybe, it was my fault. Does this sound as if it might apply to what we do? Here are a few areas in golf from which Common Sense long ago left the scene.
Grow The Game
Everyone is in a panic to grow the game…without thinking through what this means. How big do they want it to get? What might suffer if the game gets too big? Is such growth sustainable?
The Need for Speed
Greens don’t have to be fast to be good. In fact, very often the faster they are, the worse they are. If greens get above 11 on the Stimpmeter, we lose the ability to build in contour into the surfaces. As Pete Dye once said, when you take contour out of greens and speed them up, you only make the game easier for the average-putting Tour pro and harder for the club player.
Does anyone really believe the so-called “alternative games” like Foot Golf, Fling Golf and Hack Golf will attract anyone to good old golf? Try them on your course but please don’t think they are a stepping stone to the real thing. How does kicking a soccer ball or chipping into a 15-inch hole give someone that incredible feeling we get playing golf? Do we really want to take the game we love and dumb it down? Do we really want to take a game that has lasted this long because it is a challenge and make it easier? What lures people to golf is its emphasis on skill and the need to practice to get better. We don’t want to wake up one day and realize the U.S. Open trophy is being awarded just for showing up.
Is It Broken?
To all of you trying to “fix” golf, answer me one question: How is it broken? Contrary to popular opinion, the game existed well before 1990. About 300 years before, if not more. It was then and remains a niche sport, a square peg than cannot be fit into the round hole of conformity and convention. I don’t believe the game is broken; I’m not so sure about those who want to turn golf into something more mainstream just so they can squeeze a few more bucks out of it. And pardon my political incorrectness, but I don’t believe our energy should be put toward encouraging golf among people who live far away from courses and have neither the money nor inclination necessary to play it or work at it. Diversity is great, but some of the efforts to “fix” (which usually means “change”) golf are misguided. It’s like trying to sell hockey to Floridians: Yes, some will bite, but the numbers will remain small and select.
When you live in a desert, you must learn to conserve. It’s that simple.
I’ve seen too many teaching professionals overload students with numerous swing thoughts, drills and practice aids. Besides taking the fun out of the game, such over-analysis produces a lethal side effect: slow play.
Golf Course Rating
Two parallel forces have killed Common Sense here: First, those who believe courses need to be rated and can be compared side by side. Second, by the insurance salesmen, doctors, lawyers and retired members of those professions who have played a few courses, paid their way onto a panel, and now consider themselves “experts.” Why trust these self-appointed deacons of design? Most of the courses they rattle on about are inaccessible to most of us “regular guys.”
Does the average member or golfer really understand what this means? And as a superintendent, do you really want to subject your players to these? Remember – your job is at stake.
How is the game going to benefit by banning a tool that helps a few people play/putt better? If the grand poohbahs of golf (hello, Scotland) are that upset by aesthetics, I can think of some much uglier places to start. Like their wardrobes.
Rolling Back the Ball
A less lively golf ball means Bubba will hit it “only” 325 yards rather than 350. I can live with that. But not if it means my 81-year-old father-in-law now hits it only 160 rather than his usual 200. He just lost 40 yards of enjoyment.
Taking established turf out of irrigation – primarily in hard to maintain areas like hillsides – isn’t going to save that much water. Native areas still require maintenance. And if El Nino does hit California as forecast, what part of the course do you think is going to wash away first?
Ultradwarf or hybrid Bermudagrasses continue to replace bentgrass in unlikely places. The further north you go, the further south you get. Are we taking Bermuda too far north? How will it grow in Philly in February?
Has anyone listened to what the under-30 set wants? I have, and what they want is to play different courses, play with their buddies and have a good time. Sounds good to me. So how do we make that happen… and, consequently, grow the game intelligently?
Why is it that chemical compounds very much like what you use to combat jock itch are being banned from golf courses? So it’s OK to sprinkle it on my foliage but not on the course’s? Has regulation gone a little overboard?
Maybe two sets of rules actually would help the game.
All I’m saying is think before you act. Don’t do anything stupid to your course, your members and their guests, or your staff. Maybe if we all start thinking first — in all aspects of our jobs, in all aspects of this great game, in all aspects of our lives — we can bring Common Sense back from the dead.
principal, ASPIRE Golf (firstname.lastname@example.org). Follow Tim’s blog, Golf Course Confidential at www.aspire-golf.com/buzz.html or on Twitter @TimMoraghan