Gary Van Sickle
Over the weekend, I came across an interesting commentary proffered by Gary Van Sickle in a piece he did for Golf.com. His thesis argues golf is struggling simply because golfers generally stink when it comes to play. Wow, must admit, that sentiment set me back a bit. Wasn’t quite sure if his argument valid or not should be taken as offensive or simply the ugly truth. When you break down his numbers, it paints a grim portrait mired in prolific ineptitude, a malaise literally choking the life from the game. After all, we’ve been repeatedly told slow play is the very bane of the golf world and nothing contributes to slow play more than poorly played golf dispensed at such an alarmingly consistent rate. The USGA has put out a “hit” as it were to this perversion, the “While We’re Young” campaign.
Admittedly, I took this opinion piece at face value all but acknowledging it’s veracity rooted in undeniable truth. We all want the game to be better, but his story doesn’t lend itself to a happy ending in any regard. Take Old Yeller out back and do what needs to be done. Alas, a little choked up (if you didn’t cry watching Old Yeller, you may have some issues to attend…broad brush, no offense), I felt compelled to pose the question to my brethren on the GolfWRX Forums. Let the people opine and trust me in that forum, opine they will. As Paul Harvey used to say….”Now, for the rest of the story”.
Golf is Awesome
My post was mild mannered, meek almost, formed from a position of beaten down weakness. My beloved Golf is dying, all the “know it alls” portend of it’s inevitable demise. Excruciatingly slow death not unlike watching the PGA Championship. Man, I was feeling pretty bummed. Then the people spoke! One particular post struck me with a call to arms…Golf is Awesome….why are so many people trying to tear it down? Golf isn’t too slow and it certainly doesn’t take too long. It is what you make it. When you compare it to other supposedly less detrimental hobbies and past times, golf is on par if not even a little better in regards to it’s time demands. Let’s look at some of the comparisons illustrated in the forum replies. I’ve even added a few for good measure.
When you compare Golf to say fishing, it’s not even close. This particular comparison took on a life of it’s own in the forum. To summarize, Fishing is dreadfully slow and the time it takes can truly be epic. Sure you can go to your local pond and fish from the shoreline, essentially the equivalent to sneaking in 9 holes when you get the chance. To truly fish, you need a lake or ocean with water, a boat, maybe a friend, and most certainly some beer. Doesn’t sound like something that you try to get done in 4 hours? For the record, I don’t hate fishing, the idea of it is very appealing, I’m just not good at it so I would rather play golf. How about skiing or snowboarding? Even if you live in Colorado, Utah, or some other winter sports mecca, that sport takes time and some money to really enjoy. I got the most out of my slope time my last time out. More a butt slide down the slopes than actually staying up on my skis, so it took me a little longer to make my run. Given my fear of heights and a need for a sense of control, I decided, just not my thing. Pretty much the same reasons I stopped playing Top Flites back in the day. How about Bowling? Not unlike golf in a lot of regards. If you are playing in a group, you are waiting a lot between turns. Time for a sip of beer, maybe a a pull on the cigar. To make it worse, bowlers have built in mulligans every frame. I’d be scratch already if I could do that every shot playing golf. What about tennis? If you play for fun with a buddy, you can get in and out in 2 hours and it provides a fairly decent workout. If you are on a team playing competitively….you might as well play 18. I was an avid tennis player and I can tell you, team matches that start at 9, don’t end till 12:30 at the earliest. Had to quit tennis because it encroached on my golf. Morally, I’m justified. As the law says, you can only marry one.
What of other non participatory endeavors? Oh, I know…how about Fantasy Football? Most likely, money is involved, actually, pretty much always, or why would you play? If you are devout, that’s a brick house ton of time you must devote to your passion. Think of it, Thursday night, all day Sunday…followed by Monday Night Football. That’s just the games, don’t let me get into the time it takes to research and keep up on trends with players and teams. Speaking from a position of vast experience as I’ve been a begrudgingly willing participant (call me the Patty Hearst of FF) for the last 14 years…..an esteemed retired fantasy football commissioner to boot. We regularly impugn golf for the time it takes, yet it all seems absurdly reasonable to sit and watch 3 games on Sunday and not a whimper or whine regarding the glacial back to New York, “is it a catch” instant replay reviews. What of our grand national past time…yep, baseball? That’s too easy, seriously, way too easy. I know many of us golfers engage in these other activities with reckless disregard as to the “real” time it takes and the “real” expense of it all. If we take an objective view of the time costs to play golf….it’s really inline with all the other happy diversions of life.
As golfers we need to be super protective of our game. We can’t let others set the narrative of what golf should and shouldn’t be for the recreational player. Golf was meant to take time. It was meant to be played with nature as it’s backdrop. Fellowship the primary byproduct of this great grand ole game. It wasn’t meant to be played racing blindly around in a golf cart trying desperately to play 18 in 3 and a half hours. Don’t get me started on golf carts, the unnecessary evil of it all. Can we improve pace of play? Sure, but we don’t need it to break neck in order to satisfy some fictitious decree deploring us for not being good. Brutal truth, I hate waiting on the tee box just like everyone else. When you take an accounting of all the benefits this endeavor affords it’s participants, it’s but a small price. On the whole, I’m far less aggravated now adopting this point of view. Keep in mind, if it takes close to 5 hours…all bets are off…you can race Daytona in less time.