Tuesday, January 10, 2012

How Can We Grow The Game?

How Can We Grow The Game?
By Sean Mysel - "CrossGolfDude"

During the long drive from Pennsylvania to the Bay Area, I was on Interstate 80 listening to the PGA Tour Network on my satellite radio (Sirius 93 in case you wondered) and listened to a gentleman that writes for Golf Digest.  Just as a side note, I passed a town on a side trip called Vilisca, Iowa which has a house that's supposedly haunted, see the Travel Channel's "Ghost Adventures" for further reference.  The discussion was about a survey that was conducted asking people what the reasons why they did not play more golf.  In the interview, the author of the article cited three main reasons:  game is too expensive, game is too long (time wise) and game is to difficult.  Essentially, people can't afford to play, when they do play they don't want to be stuck on a course for six hours and shooting 100+ all the time is hardly exciting.  Let's try to tackle these one at a time.

Too Expensive - Of course businesses are in business to make a profit, well at least most of them.  Investors buy land, build courses and hire managers to make the thing run and at a profit.  But when does the pursuit of profit actually get in the way of future growth?  I worked at a golf course and know people who still do and I learned one thing...time, or tee times rather are money.  Weekends cost more than weekdays, early tee times are more expensive than later in the afternoon and so on.  The course I worked at had gaping holes in the afternoons and even sometimes on the weekends.  Why not give steep discounts during these times to attract golfers to come on out?  If the times aren't being used wouldn't a quick nickel beat a slow dime?  All I am saying is give the consumer who may be pinching pennies a compelling reason to play, maybe even throw in some range balls or a drink.  While lowering prices can and has cheapened the perceived value of a product, making some money certainly beats making no money.

Too Long -  This, in my opinion is perhaps one of the easiest things to control and for some reason is rarely observed.  One of the first books I read about the game was Harvey Penick's "Little Red Book".  In it, Mr. Penick talked about how in Europe there are signs posted telling you when you should finish a round.  Moreover, my home course has a couple of clocks telling you if you're behind or not.  Imagine this, you are playing the round of your life for the first few holes, driver is clicking, striping the irons, putts are sniffing out the cups and then BAM!!! You run into a group that's lighting up cigars (or something else..yes it happens), flagging the beverage cart every hole and playing a skins game that resembles a sudden death playoff at the US Open.  Next thing you know, the Mojo is gone and now your blood pressure rises thinking about how long you have to wait for each shot.  How do we fix this?  

First, have your starters or marshals make their presence known on the course, not in an intimidating way, but just to say "hey we're here to make sure everyone enjoys their round and doesn't turn this into a mini-series".  Second, post the times on the course when players should finish and track their times at the turn.  Finally, and we would have to hope this never becomes a reality, but there is the nuclear option.  If the marshal has asked politely for a group to speed up and they are still way behind, you may have to ask them to leave, give them a raincheck and get the artery unclogged.  I've done it before, it's not fun but it happens but four upset customers beats the 50 or so behind them.

Too Hard - Here is my favorite topic because there are so many easy ways to deal with it.  No doubt the game of golf is one of the most demanding games of skill humans could torture each other with.  In fact, I don't think it's ever really mastered.  While we could argue the last point, it's hard to argue that golf is a tough game that requires many different skill sets to get through a course at par.  I've heard some suggestions that we could increase the size of the cups or even the golf balls to reduce spin or make putting the ball in the hole easier.  There are two things I would love to see people do which are fairly simple to execute.

First is something that actually was created that is in my view absolutely perfect.  Recently the USGA and PGA of America came together and developed the "Tee It Forward" program.  What this consists of is taking a person's average distance with their driver and adjusting the yardage they play accordingly.  One thing I see quite often on golf courses both public and private are golfers who are high handicappers playing from the championship tees.  Why?  To see more of the course?  Really you see the same course for a lot longer with more aggravation.  My wife who has just started in golf will tee the ball from where my tee shot landed or from the women's tee box if she can reach the green.  The skill of the game isn't taken away, just some of the yardage.  As her skill set improves, then we'll start moving her distances back.  The second item falls on teaching professionals.

As mentioned earlier, golf professionals are in the business of making money and hopefully for the love of the  game.  We should all strive to make our students the best they can possibly be.  So when you are at the range and you see someone struggling and getting frustrated, take a moment to help them out.  Don't think of charging them for your time (although if you help them, they'll come back for more) but think of how you would want someone to help you when you get stuck.  If possible, hold some free clinics at your course or charge a nominal fee.  Anything we can do to help grow the game ensures that those of us in the business of golf can continue to follow our passion and enjoy life.  While someone could argue these points, it's best not to argue points but to continue finding different solutions.

If you need help with your game, check us out on www.crossgolfpros.com