More to golf than just a past time

Okay, here is my rant and some thoughts to follow.  I am sick and tired of hearing and reading how golf is in a decline and there are so many reasons they are hard to count.  A little less irksome, but irksome just the same, are all the supposed "fixes" to the game that will make it better and make more people play the game.  Don't get me wrong, I am all for change and evolution, heck I even wear running style golf shoes, use a pull cart and promote "forward" tees, but some things just go too far (foot golf, really?).

In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with game.  In fact, the rewards of golf are even more important in today's society than they were 10 or 30 years ago.  I think we should be promoting the great game and what it can do for people, instead of lamenting about lack of participation or the obstacles that might or might not be keeping people from playing.  

The game provides many things that all sports do plus a few that I believe are pretty unique.  It provides a challenge that can be taken up by almost anyone, from 2 to 92.  It does not require you to be elite athlete, have cardiovascular stamina, be in perfect health and be able to run or jump or be of any particular size or strength.  On the flip side, it provides a great form of exercise and can be a motivator to get more mobility and strength.  You hardly ever see acute injuries from the game and the only overuse injuries occur in people who play quite a lot (like every day).   

Golf gets people outside and walking, something that seems to be going away.  The environment of the golf course is great, the golfer gets to see nature, usually with an absence of ambient noise.  This might seem like a little thing, but it is important.  Many studies show a walk in the woods will reduce stress, and studies are now showing that golfers seem to live longer even when all other factors are taken into account.  More importantly, it can connect people with nature for 4 hours, longer than most people will spend at a park or walking in the woods.

Playing golf you either get to spend time with friends, family, or better yet, get to meet new people in a non-threatening situation.  Not just 10 minutes, or a half hour, but 4 hours.  You have time to talk and get to know the other person (for good or bad).  Actual face time as they call it these days.  Again, trying to put a value on this is impossible, some would say it is what life is about.     

Golf is the only sport I know that an elite player can have a match with a novice and not only have fun, but it can be competitive.  The handicap system is not perfect, but it is unique and provides a great way to have fun competition.  It not only provides for fair competition, but it also serves as a way of measuring progress and helps in goal setting, another skill that some say is being lost.   

Golf takes time to play and takes even more time to get proficient at.  This is one of its strengths, not a weakness.  I am all for fast golf and abhor slow play, but that is not what I am talking about.  I am talking about making a commitment to learn a skill that does not involve looking at a screen.  I am talking about learning from failures.  Having a bad shot or an awful round and shaking it off and trying again.  Seeing the reward of practice, patience and achieving a goal.  It is what makes this the best game of all.

Doug Mahovlic
PGA of Canada