A candid response to Gary Van Sickle’s article on Golf.com giving cause to why golf is struggling.
By Jon Levy
In a recent Golf.com article calling out the real reason golf is struggling, Gary Van Sickle basically concludes the “unacknowledged truth” of slow play – a big contributor to the issue – is that most of us (for lack of a better way to put it) suck. And, within this utter lack of skill, we create those painfully slow rounds at the butt of the industry’s challenges.
Let’s first say I think this is a great piece – it hits a lot of good points that tap into an important issue. But there’s one fundamental difference I have with his (pseudo) solution of first asking the right question before we can save the game.
“Real golf faces challenges. Maybe we can solve them if we start asking the right question: How can we make golf more appealing for those who aren’t good at it — basically all of us?” — Gary Van Sickle, in Golf.com’s Feb. 17 article on slow play.
I always find it interesting that many in golf pose similar inquiries on golf’s appeal, and then subsequently throw out a plethora of wild ideas to make it more attractive and solve the issue.
While Van Sickle doesn’t broach the latter in this instance, the bottom line is that – and this has been PROVEN by the National Golf Foundation – good golfers tend to play more golf than bad ones.
So … therein lies our answer.
Of course two main issues often cited for the game’s challenges – time and money – are absolute problems that need to be massaged. No one likes to pay $200 to tee it, only then to suffer through a six-hour round.
That’s also not to say that new, innovative ways to make the game more attractive – many geared toward younger generations to champion golf’s future – aren’t equally as substantive and important. Will alternatives like FootGolf and TopGolf get newbies interested in the real thing? Who knows, but they can’t hurt.
The point is that if better golfers play more golf, and Van Sickle says the biggest struggle of the game is crappy golfers, then why wouldn’t the best solution be the most obvious one – a stronger focus on helping people play better?
The PGA of America and its thousands of members obviously have a massive stake in this regard, and have aptly created some fantastic initiatives to help grow the game. Not to mention the USGA, with their impressive focus on the slow play issue, and countless other groups shepherding golf’s future doing their part.
And, no bones about it, the very motives behind yours truly on this stance fall directly in line with working for the world leader in golf instruction, which can directly – and significantly – contribute to said issue. But that still doesn’t mean it’s not true.
Think about it. Aside from other factors like being outdoors and socializing with friends, we intrinsically love golf because it comes down to that one that one, insanely-pure shot that felt soooo good, that – if only for a moment – made this incredibly difficult game seem easy.
And, while of course you still care that you shelled out a ton of shekels just for that whole hurry-up-and-wait routine every time you play, you’ll still be calling for a tee time on Tuesday, because that one shot hooked you in and you can’t wait to hit another.
I mean, am I right, or am I right?
So, yes, Mr. Van Sickle, I wholeheartedly agree that we, the golfing public, stink. And this is a big reason why the game is suffering. But the issue can go a long way toward solvency if more people who play – for lack of better way to put it – don’t suck anymore.
My answer, then, is to encourage golfers to take more lessons, use the incredible technology available today to speed up the improvement process, and then – by all means – take fewer shots out there to have more fun, speed up play, and save the game of golf. Enough said.