Readers Revolt Decry US Courses


OK, you have spoken. From east, west, north and south, you pinpoint ' accurately, I believe - what is the underlying problem of American golf. It is American greed.
The answer to the question of why we are rapidly being surpassed by the world in the Solheim and Ryder Cups is ' Where do the young people play? American developers and course owners are so anxious to turn a buck (or 100) that they charge exorbitant rates to play. If they cant squeeze a small fortune out of the course, they dont build it.
Here are a few of your comments:
If you want answers to why small countries can beat a nation of 200 million, you need only to look at America itself. Face it - golf is an elite sport. Though you have 250 million residents, only 50 million can afford to play golf at an elite level. Assuming, say,. one in 20 girls actually develops a passion for golf. The talent pool is much smaller. Only the well-off get formal training. Not everyone can send their child to the Leadbetter Academy at $40,000 a year.

Take Sweden as an example. A report I saw on TGC: They have memberships well under $4,000. They have programs to make golf affordable for ALL children. Sweden will be a golf power in women's golf. South Korea is a power. Australia is also doing amazing things as well.

It's time to look within.'
Phillip Chin
As a father of a 5-year-old girl who enjoys the game, I can attest that opportunities are few unless you live in a golf mecca, i.e., Florida or certain urban areas or you have a parent in the golf business - preferably a pro.
I live in a town of 200,000 and all that we have are summer golf camps which are generally half-day group instruction for one week. No leagues, no school golf until high school. In that kind of environment, how can a champion arise, how can you even be expected to compete with kids who were raised at the Leadbetter Academy?
Our town has numerous opportunities for kids to be involved in a plethora of sports: football, basketball, soccer, baseball, swimming, gymnastics, volleyball all offer far more opportunity to develop skill in our community than does golf. Until golf is more universally promoted and encouraged, I'm afraid that the future of American golf will be limited to a select few who have the opportunity to develop the skills necessary. Until then, expect, Europe, Asia, and Australia to continue to gain and/or pass us by on the international golf scene.
Mark Swoboda
Come on, George, the reason why Americans don't do well in golf is because the selection process is based on economics. In Sweden, you can join a golf club for a very small fee. Our system penalizes or eliminates so much talent because of economics.
In baseball, football, track, basketball, there are no economic barriers. But in fencing, ice-skating, golf, gymnastics, equestrian, polo, etc., it's all about finances.
Incidentally, how can you possibly get the best athletes in the world from such a small population that the economically well-off represent? I get embarrassed every time I watch golf, whether it's the men or the women. If it wasnt for Tiger Woods, we would not have many American winners in golf. Its unfortunate, but we need to look at ourselves and question our common sense.
John Knight
If you want to know why American golf has become less competitive, it's because in the last 30 years golf has become economically less accessible to middle class American kids and, even if kids can afford to play, these idiotic new Pete Dye style courses are too hard to learn on.
On the other hand, kids in Europe get much more access and encouragement. Once their kids go through their vastly superior junior programs, they come here to play college golf.
Although equipment has become less expensive after inflation since 1970, greens fees in the U.S. have gone out of sight. When I was a kid in Detroit in the 1960s I could play 18 holes at four different Donald Ross courses for $2.50. There was another good course also at $2.50. (My dad was a factory worker and my mom was a waitress. I paid my own greens fees by working for minimum wage in a hospital dietary department.) Even at 400 percent inflation, that would translate to $12.50 today. Where can kids play courses like that for $12.50 now?
Even for upper middle class families, belonging to a club has become such a financial burden that parents say 'no thanks' unless the father is a golf junkie. Many of these clubs waste money on opulent clubhouses and four-star dining rooms and forget that the purpose of the club is the enjoyment of knocking a ball into a hole with a stick.
The result of all of this is that Americans will increasingly field teams consisting of only their richest kids while the Euros will field teams consisting of their most talented kids.
If Americans want to field competitive international teams they need to look at what the Euros are doing in their junior programs. Juniors need economical access, instruction and encouragement. We need to change our ways of looking after junior players.'
John Gillis
What can I add, except a hearty Amen! The situation is not getting any better, people. I, too, am fed up with $100-200 golf courses. I find it despicable that kids are not welcome at some time of the day, say 4 p.m.
However, developers think that this is still the thing to do, build posh pleasure palaces so the few members can sit behind their big picture windows and stare out at the rest of us poor geeks. Isnt this era about to end, the J. Bairds FitzTipton age when you have the ultra-rich and then you have everyone else?
Give me a $20 course and I dont care that there are few bunkers or small greens or the view isnt picture-perfect. The kid I see there just might be a future LPGA star.
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