In the past couple of years, golf has shown us a lot about our generation as a whole.
Not because we have been practicing the intense self-discipline that golf demands; not because we have been taking time to ruminate existential problems during the span of a relaxing 18-hole round; and not because we have been gaining the confidence that only sinking a 15-foot breaking putt can offer. No, quite frankly it is the opposite. It is not the activity of golfing that is unveiling our generation’s true colors. It is the steady dying of the sport that reveals the most.
A plethora of retail and equipment suppliers have seen a steady decline in golf equipment sales including Dick’s Sporting Goods, TaylorMade, and Callaway. Golf course closures are severely outnumbering openings. It’s obvious that less people are playing golf. But why?
A round of golf takes about four and a half hours for 18 holes, two hours for 9. The electronic age puts speed and efficiency on a pedestal, and demands everything fast. One particular example of this in the sports world sticks out to me. If you’ve been watching football at all this year, you’re probably familiar with the FanDuel.com commercials in which they advertise fantasy football with “no season long commitment”. Isn’t a season long commitment the point? With respect to golf, this attitude just won’t cut it. It is a slow game in which taking your time is imperative, and people just can’t do that these days.
We simply don’t have the attention span for golf. We still have the same 24 hours a day that we’ve had forever, and the 18 holes on a course hasn’t increased. Personally, I think golf is a type of therapy. Like a long walk, golf gives you time to think about what is going on in your life. It allows one to prioritize and ponder and just relax. All too often people forget to do these things, or maybe they just don’t find the opportunity. In this sense, golf is more of a mental health exercise than a sport, like meditation without sitting cross-legged and humming, “ommmmm”.
But the game is trying to change with us too. Clubs that host 12-hole, 8-hole, and even 4 and 6-hole courses are popping up all around the world, catering to our faults. Not only are courses trying to keep up with our small attention spans, but they are also trying to survive through our lack of self-discipline. Golf is a tough game (maybe the toughest) to learn, and anyone who has played will most likely use the word “frustrating” to describe it. Hitting a tiny round ball into a four and a quarter-inch diameter hole with a titanium club from anywhere between 150-500 yards out is quite the feat, and carding 8 strokes is not fun for anyone. So, a 15-inch hole has been put into practice at numerous golf courses to make the game fun for everyone.
TopGolf is another way the game is trying to survive. It is an arcade-style game in which one tees off aiming for targets to get points. It’s almost a mix between bowling and golf, and again, requires less time and discipline. Regardless, it might bring the youth generation back into the game and hopefully back to the course one day.
This Friday, the Ryder Cup starts, a PGA tournament event in which the U.S. takes on Europe in a series of team competitions. It is a fun event to watch, and the intensity of the rivalry makes it that much more entertaining. So turn on the television this weekend, give it a watch. Keep an eye out for a TopGolf venue near you and go hit some balls. Heck, get out on the course before the snow falls, and we can save the game of golf.
Collegian Assistant Sports Editor Zac Koch can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @zactkoch