For the better part of a decade now, golf’s’ governing bodies, the PGA, LPGA, R&A and the USGA, all have been well aware that the growth of the game has been beset with undeniably stagnant national growth of about 30 million, as reported by the National Golf Foundation.
It raises a most pressing question for the governing bodies: What’s happening? Why do millions of beginners take up the game yearly, but for various reasons at years’ end they quit? They are also joined by thousands of enthusiastic devout players who walk away and take a long hiatus with many deciding to also quit. Most often it’s because of the slow play plaguing the game today.
Today’s courses are not symbolized by their essence of player friendliness and fun. On the contrary. Instead, they are immersed in featuring all the necessary diabolical playability ingredients for out-distancing recreational players’ skill levels, provoking frustration, despair and plummeting all their anticipated fun and growth of the game.
It’s a special concern for the PGA of America Sectional memberships, for it’s their primary responsibility to teach, promote and show all the ways the game is being made more accessible and fun to play for every age, sex and skill level. And it’s my observation they are making every effort to do exactly that. All one had to do is check out PGALinks.com and view all the ways that the game is being made more accessible and fun. (Golf 2.0 and Get Golf Ready). However, to me, through no fault of their own, their untiring efforts seem to be in vain because the games’ growth rate continues to remain stagnant. To me, the following are the primary reasons:
1.There is an immediate need for course owners to make essential commitments to undertake playability “re-dos” assuring friendly scoring conditions, and make the game less time consuming and more fun to play.
2. Architects must draft courses that evoke a fun experience for all, irrespective of age, sex and skill level.
3. Simply make aspects of the game more affordable for all to play.
4. When all daily tee times are booked, there needs to be better communication between the superintendent and PGA professionals regarding the course setup to better assure a desirable pace of play, which permeates the game at all levels.
5. Player assistants must be given increased authority to police slow play.
6. More beginning boys and girls junior golf programs offered during the summer months of June-July by all PGA sections, city recreation, private and semiprivate muni courses and school PE classes.
7. New participation studies by the National Golf Foundation show that women are among today’s fastest growing new players and that their “buddy golf getaways” are becoming as popular as the male buddy trips. Therefore, there is a need for increased promotional emphasis of this finding.
The year 2013 will undoubtedly see increased scrutiny by the games’ governing bodies regarding possible solutions to the state of the games’ stagnant growth dilemma. It’s past time.
The writer lives in Myrtle Beach.