Us Them and The Future of Golf
When she came up for air, I asked her if she plays golf.
Oh, wellyou knowpar 3 and all that, she said sheepishly. Once Im on the green, I like it a lot better.
Well, thats still golf, I answered reflexively.
I suppose so, she said. And she returned to considering how to expand the ball pocket.
On the plane ride home, I thought about the conversation and wondered: Is the bag ladys golf any less worthy of the name than the play em down, count em up kind of serious competition I enjoy? Does the tank-top-and-cutoffs, all-the-mulligans-you-can-eat crowd play the same game as the traditionally dressed, but-O.K.-to-roll-em-in-the-fairway clique (or any other group you can dream up)?
And why does it matter?
The simple answers: Yes. And it matters because if we want golf to live up to its potential in the U.S. and beyond, we need to be as inclusive as possible.
Now, before you start stringing your bows and firing arrows, hear me out. Im not suggesting that anyone re-engineer his or her idea of what golf is and should be. But I am suggesting more tolerance for people whose notion of the game diverges from your own. In the long run, that will make for more golfers, better solutions to the games challenges, and a happier golf populace.
Its not just the purists who get militant about this sort of thing. Weve all heard of certain members of upper-crust clubs who are fond of pontificating about certain golf practices they consider beneath the games dignity. The attitude seems to go both, or all, ways. The kind of player who is more comfortable putting his ball in line with the others in the steel-wire rack at the city course can sometimes be heard decrying the allegedly stuck-up customs of the private-club (and often wealthy) golfer.
But as long as those who hold differing golf views arent interfering with your game, why get your bag towel in a knot?
Rounds in the U.S. have declined in three of the last four years (the only increase, in 2004, was just 0.7 percent), and the trend continues ' through June, the last month to be measured, rounds are down 1.1 percent nationwide compared to 2004, says the National Golf Foundation.
Considering that, and the competition golf faces for a slice of Americans limited leisure time, it would be best to treat anyone who plays the game ' or plays at it ' as a golfer. This might not provide the best business metrics (how much can you learn from the buying behavior of a guy who plays once a year?), but it might provide the welcoming environment that impels someone to play more often, and at a higher, more economically active level.
None of this is to say that serious players should have to deal with groups of occasional (read: slower) players in front of them. Nor should beginners, hit-and-giggles, three-holes-is-plenty players, or any other variation have to endure blank stares from players who like their golf serious and fast.
The solution? There must be facilities for all kinds of golfers. It may take some business courage, and it will definitely take some creativity. Golf has to find a way to make three-hole, six-hole, and beginner courses profitable. Alternative ways to enjoy the game, ways that defuse the classic objections to full-scale golfs need for large amounts of time, money, and ability, will be the hope of the industry.
To be fair, many good minds in the business are working on this problem. But as years go by with little new golfer retention, the job becomes more and more critical. Adult attraction programs and opportunities for youth from various economic strata are helping at the grass roots, to be sure. But more bold thinking is necessary, especially if golf is to grow ' or even hold level ' over the next decade.
Heres an example of the kind of idea that might help: A municipal course or daily fee could consider splitting its 18 into three courses between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. Golfers with kids in tow or on their way home from work could choose the option that fits their available time: three, six or nine holes. And perhaps a post-round dinner special would pump up the food-and-beverage business.
And who knows? Perhaps that kind of golfer ' could one day develop into your kind.
Email your thoughts to Adam Barr
Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test
One day after receiving a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour for failing to provide a sample for a drug test, Mark Hensby offered details on the events that led to his missed test in October.
Hensby, 46, released a statement explaining that the test in question came after the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where the Aussie opened with a 78. Frustrated about his play, Hensby said he was prepared to give a blood sample but was then informed that the test would be urine, not blood.
"I had just urinated on the eighth hole, my 17th hole that day, and knew that I was probably unable to complete the urine test for at least a couple more hours," Hensby said. "I told this gentleman that I would complete the test in the morning prior to my early morning tee time. Another gentleman nearby told me that 'they have no authority to require me to stay.' Thus, I left."
Hensby explained that he subsequently received multiple calls and texts from PGA Tour officials inquiring as to why he left without providing a sample and requesting that he return to the course.
"I showed poor judgment in not responding," said Hensby, who was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.
Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic, but he has missed six cuts in seven PGA Tour starts over the last two years. He will not be eligible to return to the Tour until Oct. 26, 2018.
"Again, I made a terrible decision to not stay around that evening to take the urine test," Hensby said. "Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test. Call me stupid, but don't call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents, and I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves."
Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage
Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.
Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.
Swipe to see what’s up in my world. It’s long-winded.... short version, we lost the baby. Had to share this since we had shared the news already. I know you’re all so supportive and kind. I just couldn’t face it before. Now let’s get back to our regularly scheduled programming. #ihavealotoffeelings #andphotostocatchupon
“I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”
The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.
“I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.
Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia
This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.
The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.
Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.
The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.
A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.
And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.
The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.
Green jacket tour
Man of the people
Ace at 17th at Sawgrass
Departure from TaylorMade
Squashed beef with Paddy
Victory at Valderrama
Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017
GolfChannel.com is counting down the top 10 Newsmakers of the Year as voted on by Golf Channel’s writers, editors, reporters and producers. Check out the list below, including future release dates:
No. 4: Dec. 13
No. 3: Dec. 14
No. 2: Dec. 15
No. 1: Dec. 18