GOLF IN DECLINE?

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According to the National Golf Federation, “USA has lost more than 5 million players over the last decade and that more golf courses closed than opened in the U.S. in 2013 for the 8 straight year”. Dick’s Sporting Goods rid itself of more than 500 PGA professionals who used to work as customer consultants.

“Foot golf” (kicking a soccer ball into an oversized hole) is gaining popularity. Redwoods Golf Course introduced a larger hole (8 inch in diameter) instead of the usual 4-¼ inch hole. In Southern California, Mark King, CEO of TaylorMade-Adidas Golf, installed oversized holes (15-inch) at a country club, reducing playing time one hour less than the normal time it takes to play 18 holes.

Investors are wary of golf-related businesses and have caused declines in stocks of Callaway.

So what is this negative uproar about golf? Some call it “The Tiger Effect” – that interest in golf has declined, as Tiger Woods’ dominance of the game appears to have ceased. Others believe it is “too-expensive” to play golf. And then there is the big complaint about golf being an “elitist” sport with “rules that are too difficult to learn and follow”.

But why do people play golf in the first play? And what makes them give up the game?

Many of us enjoy the challenge that the sport of golf presents. We enjoy the competition of trying to score lower than our handicap index. We consider it a great way to exercise and walk more than 15,000 steps in a game. But probably one of the best reasons is that we simply enjoy the camaraderie, friendship, and kibitzing before, during, and after the game. Strong friendship amongst competitors develops that makes the social aspect quite appealing.

However, like most other clubs, we have had our own share of “golfing decline”. For some yet unknown reasons, some familiar faces are no longer anywhere to be seen, in weeks, months, …and years.

So to what could this be possibly attributed?

Time maybe. Work demands? Health and financial issues? Family? Or could it be an occasional “snag in social interaction” – a disagreement on the course? About something so trivial. Maybe even a horrible score on a hole!

What is probably one of the greatest causes of golf’s decline and disagreement (player quitting the sport) is about rules. Some of us have become paranoid with the “strict application and interpretation of complex rules”.

 HE WHO HAS NOT SINNED CAST THE FIRST STONE……

For example, who is not guilty the following “strict rules’” violations:

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TEN MOST COMMON GOLF RULES INFRACTION

 

  • Marking a ball on the green at 90 degree angle from a straight line to the hole and then returning it perpendicular to the hole, OR marking the ball properly and then returning it a few centimeters closer to the hole
  • Lackadaisically backhanding a very short putt and missing the ball completely and not counting the missed stroke
  • Lifting a ball to identify it in a “summer rule” play
  • Dropping a ball more than 2 club lengths in a lateral water hazard
  • Grounding a club within a clearly marked hazard (with red stakes) (such as when searching for the ball using a club)
  • Teeing the ball up a few inches ahead of the tees
  • Picking the ball up as a “gimme” in tournament play, or striking the ball in disgust for a missed putt and not finishing the hole
  • Hitting a similar ball from the rough and then discovering it is not the original ball you played
  • Hitting a ball after taking a drop (from a presumed “lost” ball) without declaring it to be a “provisional ball”, and then finding and playing the original ball
  • Ignoring the stroke and distance penalty on a lost ball

Padraig Harrington, Camilo Villegas, Tiger Woods, Michelle Wie, Craig Stadler, John Daly, and Chella Choi, all professional golfers are just some of the victims of “TV golf rules junkies” who call to report rules infractions.

Thank goodness, as an amateur club, close circuit TV zoom cameras do not follow the Birdiehunters closely. SIMON would have an easier job with unsigned scorecards, disqualifications, and multiple rules infractions.

If we are to prevent contributing to the malaise of declining interest in the sport, isn’t it about time to be more humane and accept that the sport is ONLY a pastime for all of us; that it is OK to be an expert in the complex rules of the game, if one chooses, but quite another to be so draconian about them that we are ready to send a jihadist to anyone who commits an infraction?

Perhaps we should be more “rules friendly” and less “rules paranoids” because, I am 100% sure that all of us at one time or another, have been guilty of some of the TEN MOST COMMON GOLF RULES INFRACTIONS.

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