Us Them and The Future of Golf

By Adam BarrAugust 20, 2005, 4:00 pm
We were shooting at a golf bag company the other day. I watched one of the pattern experts laying out the pieces of a new bag design. She referred to plans and drawings, paused frequently to ponder the intricacies of the design, tried changes, made decisions. Clearly, this woman knew a lot about golf bags and enjoyed making them as functional as possible.
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
Getty Images

Watch: Moore does impressions of Tiger, Poults, Bubba

By Grill Room TeamJuly 16, 2018, 10:36 pm
Getty Images

Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

Getty Images

Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.

Updated Official World Golf Ranking

There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

Getty Images

Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”