The debate over the future of golf is once again in the news and it seems we’ve found both sides in exactly the same place we left them a few years ago. What’s all the hubbub about? Well, it seems the biggest problem is these dang’d new millennials (18-34 years old according to the National Golf Foundation) and all their new ideas on how to grow the game.
CHANGE? NO THANKS!
New ideas and golf … no thank you! Well at least that’s the attitude thus far greeting a number of millennials at the door. Music? Shorts? T-shirts? Denim? You must be crazy, young man! GPS, Lasers … hmm, well in practice rounds, but “if you’re a real golfer” you don’t need them … “see that bush over there, that’s 150.”
Now you would think a game with stagnating numbers of somewhere around 25-million golfers in the U.S., would be a bit more welcoming of a new crowd, but so far, not really. The Heisman pose from many older golfers to this new generation is surprising, because a National Golf Foundation study, reported millennials valued the tradition and honor of the game the same as their older counterparts. However, the same study also reported a majority of millennials are turned off by the perceived lack of acceptance and the exclusive attitude they see in the game.
Many current golfers, do indeed, welcome the new generation, but with conditions. Come play golf, sure. Join our club, sure. Pay the buy-in fee up front … definitely! But, tow the line, get along, or go find another sport! It should be no surprise to anyone this is a generational issue with no apparent cease-fire in sight. However, it is also a struggle repeated throughout time and over the history of golf.
ROOM FOR EVERYONE
Look at any picture of golf’s history and you’ll see the unmistakable progression of time and the merging of new ideas making their way into today’s game. You don’t have to turn too many pages back to see men in coats and ties and women in dresses on the course, which was the norm for play back then. Turn a few more pages back, and you’ll find even more exclusionary “normals” for the times.
So how did all this change and did it somehow fundamentally flaw the game in the process? Using a simple example; why are men no longer required to wear coat and tie and women, long dresses when playing golf? This change took place over a period of time and was the result of new ideas and thoughts … probably from some other generation who didn’t know their place.
These new ideas don’t (and won’t) change the traditions or the core of the game and it may surprise you to learn, millennials don’t want them to. These new golfers are drawn to the sport for the same reasons we were back in the day. They may have different thoughts or ideas on what they’d like to see, but they love the game every bit as much as we do.
Don’t misunderstand; no one is calling for anarchy. No swimsuits, birthday suits, rock concerts, or confetti after each birdie. No matter who we are or where we come from, we all comply to society’s norms and believe it or not, so did this current group who is joining the game. If you ask, you’ll find the majority of millennials understand if they play at an upscale course they may need to conform to a different dress code and a different behavior. For many millennials, this more formal atmosphere will be exactly what they’re looking for and where they’ll find a perfect home. However, for others, a T-shirt, jeans, and some Aerosmith might be the trick.
There’s room for everyone to find their place in our great game.
OLD MAN PAR
For those upset and convinced these new changes will be the ruin of our game, breathe easy and keep this in mind; Par will always be Par. Par won’t change because Taylor Smith is playing in the background. Par won’t change because someone’s wearing a Cubs jersey, a Nike T-shirt, high-tops, or God forbid, jeans. Par has been, and will always be, Par.
There is no denying we have a game in flux right now, but just as before from the days of Morris, to Vardon, to Jones, to Hogan, to Palmer, to Nicklaus, to Woods … Par will always be Par.
BIO: Keith Cook has been a writer/contributing editor at localgolfer.com since 2013. Follow Keith and Local Golfer on Twitter: @_KeithCook and @LocalGolfer.