Is Golf Too Hard?
There is a huge amount of discussion going on about growing the game and how we are not attracting new golfers, and losing old ones by the thousands. One of the areas receiving lots of attention is that the 4.25-inch hole makes the game too hard. Is that really it?

There have been some tournaments conducted recently with a 15-inch hole, but is that really "golf"? What do you all think?

We had a lively dinner discussion the other night about just what is it about golf that is running off some believers and making it less appealing to "newbies." The conversation ran through the usual culprits — it costs too much, it takes too much time, etc. But is that really it?

In a marketing research presentation I attended a few years ago, the researchers presented the notion that the game loses players, or fails to capture them, when it ceases to be FUN. That can mean lots of things. But when it fails to be FUN, you'll find other places for your money and time.

But does relaxing the gentlemen's dress code or rules of decorum add fun? Or does it tarnish the game for those of us already devoted to it? Call me old-fashioned, but it does bother me a bit to see guys on the course in all manner of disheveled dress and behavior — shirt tails out, music playing, etc.

And I really have a difficult time with the current fashion trend of PGA Tour players "going to work" without shaving. It just looks disrespectful to me. Disrespectful of the sponsors, the fans and of themselves. Their hosts at these fine clubs — who make it possible for these guys to play for millions of dollars — show up in blazers and ties, to watch tour players not even bother to shave.

But I digress. I do think the game has gotten too hard for too many? This infatuation with high-speed greens makes the last one hundred feet more daunting than the first 400 to 500 yards. Is that really golf? Should the chip, pitch, or putt be more challenging than the drive and approach shot that got you there?

I played a very simple little golf course in Fort Worth the other day — and had a delightful time. There was a good mix of long and short approaches, and challenging drives. I put a 4-iron or longer in my hands on six holes. But what made it fun was that this course didn't beat you up trying to save pars and keep it down to two putts per hole. And that was a change from my own club, which is extremely demanding with our undulating 11-to-12 Stimp greens.

And this club was very kid- and beginner-friendly, too, because every hole had a run-up approach possibility, which many "championship" courses lack.

I might have rambled here, but ask yourself if the course you play is really friendly to a beginner or kid. It takes a long time to develop the short game and putting skills to deal with super-fast greens and deep green-side bunkers and rough. If it isn't fun, that kid or beginner won't last long enough to get there.
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[ comments ]
birdieXris says:
The game is not too hard, it's too expensive. The reason we're losing thousands of old golfers is because it's very expensive to play. that's the only reason i have toned down the amount i play in the last 2 years - and a number of golfers i know as well. A few have even given up the game because they can no longer get on a course for less than $45 each time. Price gouging during peak times is ridiculous. $69 at 9 am to play the same course you would at 3pm, but for $35? No thanks. By the time the "non peak" times come around the course is packed after being empty all day.. Why ? Because it's cheaper. Set the rates at $35 all day and see what happens. The course will be full all damn day and nobody will be whining about 'losing interest".
5/16/14
 
legitimatebeef says:
bX, sorry to be that guy but on my end, I've never paid less for golf that I have in the last year or so. Granted I might be more of a low end consumer, but most of the muni's and publics around here are offering discounts through assorted online booking sites.

However I hear what you are saying about the A.M. ghost town/twilight rush situation.
5/16/14
 
Jattruia says:
I couldn't agree with birdieXris more. I'd golf daily if at all possible, but the biggest deterrent is price. It's gotten ridiculous. Sure, you can find your deals, but then you're at the mercy of the 'cheapest' course. The courses you really WANT to play, those that offer the best challenge, end up being 'special occasion' courses because you just can't justify the price any other way. The game's always been hard, and the little municipal courses and executive courses offering the best layout for beginners have always been there.

But when you get to the level that you start taking it seriously, and really want that challenge and opportunity to score low on a hard course, you're far too often priced out of the desired courses, especially at 'peak' times.
5/16/14
 
birdieXris says:
Jattruia - I find it funny how empty the "peak" hours are. haha.
5/16/14
 
GolfSmith7 says:
From a different perspective golf is losing people because it isn't fast paced enough for the "mush" brain people we now have. I'm not talking about pace of play but the game itself. Kids are use to video games where the action changes in seconds. Extreme sports where it feeds their "need for speed". A game where you have to actually think and strategize, where it's about controlling your nerves, tempo, is not for the younger generation or even for some adults. People's brains are so used to watching movies they don't have time to read a non fiction book. The same is happening to Golf, people want the fast pace sports or the violent ones, it feeds their "rush;" to most people golf isn't exciting enough. Golf is like a great historical documentary when most are looking for Jerry Springer. Times are changing...
5/16/14
 
legitimatebeef says:
About is golf too hard, I think the answer is definitely yes. Otherwise there wouldn't be this "huge amount of discussion". Sure it's an ancient sport that people have enjoyed for eons without ever thinking it was too hard (if they had, we wouldn't be sitting here behind a keyboard discussing it). But now, times have changed. Somehow golf got harder. Never mind the countless advances in club design and engineering, metallurgy, manufacturing, quality control, etc. which have yielded not only superior equipment but dirt cheap prices if you know where to look. Or the advances in agronomy and improvements in putting green surfaces. Never mind the abundance of swing instruction via books, tv, internet, much of it completely free to access. Never mind that everyone now carries a high definition swing recording device in their pocket. Evidently humanity has (d)evolved, and golf has simply failed to keep pace. Shame.
5/16/14
 
mjaber says:
I think "golf is too hard" because people are playing the wrong courses. When I started, the first course I really enjoyed was an 18 hole par 70 that held true to their belief that a good shot should be rewarded, but a bad shot should not be penalized by more than 1 stroke. I broke 100 at that course in my first year playing, and I broke 90 there in my second year. If we take our "new to golf" friends to the easier courses instead of the heavily wooded, extremely penal courses, and gradually move up, you stand a better chance of them getting hooked.

Golf isn't easy, but it's not too hard either.
5/16/14
 
Jattruia says:
Another issue feeding to the 'it's too hard' mentality is the way the younger generations are coddled. We're in the time where everyone gets trophies, no one gets cut from a team, everyone is MVP, etc. Parents even argue the teachers when they get bad grades. These kids don't face ANY adversity, and aren't told no. So they don't expect a challenge on the course. It's not that the game is 'too hard,' it that kids no longer appreciate a challenge.

And as for the speed of the game as GolfSmith said, it's the same reason baseball has been hurting. Unfortunate really. I don't know if i'd even look forward to the warmer months if it weren't for baseball and golf.

Then again, how is soccer getting popular??
5/16/14
 
jasonfish11 says:
Time.

I haven't touched my clubs since April 11th simply due to I dont have time. I have 2 days to spend with my family. To play a full round of golf it takes 6 hours away from them. 15 min to get ready 15 min to get to the course, 1 hour warm up/range, 4 hours of golf, 15 min to get home, then 15 min to take a shower.

So basically I've lost an entire day that I could have spent with my family.

If the game could attract women and kids by either making it simpiler, or more fun (music, colorful things, chick-fil-a-ish kid crap) then families could play and I wouldn't feel guilty leaving for a day to play golf.
5/16/14
 
Jbeck says:
I spent 3 hours walking our course the other day at 3:00. I was out there all by myself, never had to wait and never had someone catch up to me. JMO but I think people try to get their vanitycaps to low. I love a challenging course, Don't know if I want Iron Valley From the Tips again, ( CHRIS ) but I love having a course work me over on occasion. I love to hunt, fish, and golf. Love working in the woods, and I love being outside as much as possible. this is not indicative of today's society. I watch my wife and kids sit in the house on a beautiful day and I just shake my head. I think we are loosing golfers cause people are getting lazy and always want an easy path.
5/16/14
 
bkuehn1952 says:
If I were to pick one of a host of reasons as to why more people don't play golf, I would pick "time". Even playing 9 holes involves travel to & from the course, getting ready (check-in, pay, hit balls or putt) and then the nine holes. In many cases the process is 3+ hours. That is a pretty significant time commitment for many people.
5/16/14
 
GBogey says:
Is golf too hard? If your goal is to get more people to play the occasional round, then probably. If your goal is to grow core players, then no, that is part of the game and part of the challenge. I'm pretty sure that golf is like most businesses in that 20% of the customers drive 80% of the profits. Gimmicks like hole size to make it easier aren't going to do a thing for that core and will probably turn more people off than it will bring to the game.
Should courses do things to make golf more enjoyable to the core and everyone else - pace of play, reasonable green speeds, reasonable distances, yes.
BTW - the few people I know that have given up golf from frustration, putting to a hole not the issue. The issue was frustration over the ability to swing a club - slices, chunks, pitches, - you name it. A larger hole isn't going to help a high handicapper avoid the rough and get out of the bunker.
5/16/14
 
GBogey says:
I've said it before and I'll say it again, we live in a time stressed society and playing time is the number one issue for golf. I play every chance I get and the number one reason I don't play more - time.
The other issue is that the industry has to get realistic - core golfing ages are probably 40-75 and that population goes down every year. The last of the baby boomers are turning 50. That's a trend that can't be stopped.
5/16/14
 
dottomm says:
Regarding golf being difficult; like every golfer I've had streaks of frustration. Golf IS hard. It's insanely difficult. But that is the idea.

I think one way the game can grow and be enjoyed by more people is to change our perception of how the game is played. Most golfers go play golf with the intention of putting up their best score every time they play. Stroke Play is considered the measuring stick of ability, but I think this mentality is one of the key reasons people get frustrated and walk away. I believe if people had a more 'recreational' view of the game it would be much more accessible to many more people. I've been encouraging people I play with to stop counting strokes and just play a game of Match Play, Or 4-ball teams. It is played more like a recreational game, with a winner/loser, but without all the frustration of ALMOST scoring well.
5/16/14
 
dottomm says:
Another thing I think Golf can do to increase participation is to encourage more women to be involved. When you get the ladies out there you will see many more men showing up and showing off. You will also see an increase in getting kids out on the course. Regarding what JasonFish11 said about time with his family, we should all be encouraging our families to get out there. Whether it's on the course or just hitting balls at the range. Kids might need a little prodding, but if you keep dragging them out with you, they will pick up a club. My wife, frustrated by my sneaking off to golf has just picked up the game and with a passion. I played golf 4 times last week (3 w my wife). We don't always play a full round. We don't always keep score, but we do alway like to remember the couple great shots we had and we can share them with each other. Now she is getting her friends interested when they see how much fun she is having. I've never golfed so much and I'm spending time with my wife and kids. Win Win.
5/16/14
 
DougE says:
Golf is only too hard if you play courses or tee sets that are way beyond your realistic ability. But, the fact that golf is challenging from any set of tees, let alone those of which are too long, is exactly what makes most of us want to play. If it were easy, would it really hold our interest that much, particularly if everyone were able to play the game like a pro? Of course not. I don't think we are losing serious golfers because the game is hard. Time and cost, yes. Too hard, no. The fact that the game is hard is definitely why it's worth playing.

You can keep your 15 inch holes. It might work for a beginner or novice, but the people who play golf for a challenge, certainly don't want to see the hole enlarged officially. Historic scoring records could never be challenged. A score of 59 would no longer be any big deal. Hole-in-ones would carry little weight, though I'm sure the club bar will benefit greatly. Taking away the challenge is not the answer.
5/16/14
 
jasonfish11 says:
Why not have 2 holes one a 5 gallon bucket off to the side of the green so my kid can play soccer golf. And the normal one for my game.

We'd both be happy and wouldn't care about time cause I'm with my family.
5/16/14
 
Duke of Hazards says:
I love that golf is hard. I don't mind challenging course layouts, course length or the cost to play. The hole size is a bit too small, in my opinion. I know the whole story about way back hundreds of years ago, they just plucked some ancient implement out of a shed to cut a hole and that became the default hole size. If golf was invented in this century, the hole size would likely be a little bigger... I'm talking maybe 1 inch wider, none of this 15 inch nonsense. That being said, it ain't gonna change. I accept it.

I do prefer when the greens aren't lightning fast, though. I hate 4 putting.
5/16/14
 
joe jones says:
I have written several articles about why golf is losing popularity.High cost, slow play and the financial downturn are the main reason. People just don't have discretionary funds these days.As to senior golf. As one gets older those that used to play unlimited golf now play once or twice a week because of physical limitations. Some have quit the game completely due to their own illness or that of their spouse.Due to arthritis I play every Friday and once in a while I play one of our executive courses during the mid week. My wife is a gardener. She is the management part of our team while I provide the heavy labor as I can.As to a 15 inch hole. My only advantage on the course is my ability to putt.I manage my game as well as possible and make up for my lack of distance with a good short game. Take away my advantage around the greens and I would quit this lovely game.
5/16/14
 
onedollarwed says:
Golf is hard, but not TOO hard. But maybe it's not as hard as mountain biking, or skateboarding. Remember, effort is difficult and precludes participation in many activities. Golf is is the doldrums as I see it, and here are some reasons in no particular order:
1. Fitness matters more to many people - 30min-1hr of vigor.
2. People like programmed activities - with a coach, instructor, etc.
3. Outdated pricing/scheduling/format. Could you pay $100/month to play a couple of "three hole" loops per week, use the range, the treadmill, and shower?
4. Parents (fathers) supervise their kids these days, do their own yard work, and cook many more meals. More women work, and it's no longer cool to take off on the weekends. 9-5 M-F jobs are becoming more and more extinct.
5. Golf is still one of the cheapest activities you can do by the hour and not get hurt.
6. People are lazy - and prefer ethereal activities - like social media, TV drama series, etc.
5/17/14
 
onedollarwed says:
Maybe a better way to think of this is 1) what makes you play less, and 2) why don't your friends (non-players) play.
1. The ONLY reason I play less is the fact that I can't take my young kids, and I can't leave them home. I also want to do things with them - including long strenuous activities like camping and hiking. We spend long days at the shore here in RI and fishing/diving. We'l take a weekend day and visit a paleontology museum at the local Ivy league schools, or seek out cultural/educational experiences.
2. Beginners suck, and can't seem to improve. The initial investment seems like a lot - like shoes. Then when they suck they become ashamed. It's like if they didn't learn young with a bunch of guys who all sucked and learned together, then it's too much to overcome. It's hard to find a place to really practice - like you would for basketball or tennis. Becoming good at many things is either study (like fishing/ school work) or practice (like archery/ fencing/ endurance events).
5/17/14
 
onedollarwed says:
Golf is such an unusual combination of precision/emotion/study/endurance/attention that it's hard to know how/where to get any better for most people. So many guy I know will play in 1 or 2 events a year, and go to the range once before that charity scramble, and that's it.
5/17/14
 
CeeBee says:
I am a discount hunting machine. Rare is the case where I'll pay over $35 on a weekend. With that said I don't play much morning golf. Let alone weekends before noon. Just won't pay the price.

Most of the high end courses around here still get plenty of play early. After all, we are near D.C.

The game is insanely hard and frustrating. Supposed to be. The issue in my opinion is tee box selection. NOBODY plays where they should!!!
5/17/14
 
CeeBee says:
By the way, now that I think about it a little more, to hell with growing the game. I want to move fast. The more people give it up the better for me.
5/17/14
 
slimpks1850 says:
No, golf's NOT too hard. The way you ask the question displays & enhances the problem. "People" are too soft. They're doughy in body & spirit/will. You should be asking what the hell is wrong with these people. Parents & society are making them this way... they're not born like that.
5/17/14
 
c5agalb says:
I just saw Country Clubs offering all kinds of specials to people under 35 huge discounts to join, I bet if one offered this 45 year old the same deal, now that I am at my income earning peak, mortgage under control, a little bit extra to spend, I would join one, but they would rather price gouge me out. And since I would mostly play weekends because of my job, joining a high priced club doesnt make sense because the only membership for me is a full priced membership for weekend play. I still have almost 20 years before I would consider a M-F membership at a lower price. Seems clubs miss their most likely pools of members by trying to get their last dime.
5/17/14
 
Matt F says:
@CeeBee - I'm with you on the cost. I do the same as you using whatever internet deal I can get...golfnow, teeoff, etc.

@slimpks - you got it, people need to take a concrete and harden up!
5/18/14
 
Tim Horan says:
@birdiexris - I live in the Surrey Hills in the UK - If I was not a member at my club I would be hard pushed to get on a course anywhere. The municipal courses won't take a booking beyond a week in advance and when you can book you find it is already fully booked and the course is packed. My £1,000 PA is well worth it. Playing twice a week all year and during the spring and summer months three times a week my golf is costing me under £10 per round. I get involved in playing in the matches against other clubs and play in corporate golf days to get a variety. But with 27 holes at Wildwood I can rock up most days without a booking and get straight on. On the subject of whether golf is too hard - Playing from the tees appropriate for your handicap it shouldn't be. I get my fun from the challenge of playing off the plates. Maximum Challenge = Maximum Fun.
5/19/14
 
kayagum says:
As someone who has started late (and only pretty seriously in the last 3 years), I can list a few factors:

* Don't feel sorry for private clubs. I make a pretty decent living, and honestly you need a multiple of my income to even think to join any of the private clubs. If they want to price themselves into extinction, that's their free market choice.

* Most instruction is horrible. Not just in golf, but in almost every pursuit or subject. Most teachers are pretty good at telling you what you do wrong or what you don't know, but very few (if any) can show and guide you how to get fundamentally better in the long haul, especially teaching you how to learn on your own. I've burned through 4 different teachers, and really I didn't start playing even reasonably well until I reconstructed my grip using Five Fundamentals. The information is actually more available thanks to the Internet, but you have to invest a lot of time researching, time that most people won't spend.
5/19/14
 
kayagum says:
* Time to play- playing outside of peak times is a must. I live in Minnesota, and although our season is shorter, we are rewarded with much more daylight. Playing golf at dawn is not only a much less crowded proposition, I also get to see the wildlife and see putt tracks in the dew on greens to get a better read (hah!)

* Length of time: really, if people would stop taking practice swings and track/find their golf ball quicker, we can get back to the sub-four hour round.

* Getting better: I agree fewer people are willing to get better at any pursuit, not just golf.
5/19/14
 
navykip says:
Golf is not getting too hard. Like everyone else said it's not easy, but takes time and perseverance. As a younger player, all I cared about was how far I hit the ball, and learned to actually "play" better on my own as an adult. But there are just many more options for our time these days, not that people are more lazy, there are just more options compared to 20-40 years ago.

Terry, I think your opinion of the scruffy tour players is just a new style like Jack's longer locks on the 70s. You can't expect people who play a sport for a living to dress the same at their job, as someone who wears a suit to the office everyday. Your opinion on the scruffy players lends to golfs stuffy reputation to others.
5/19/14
 
SpaceMaNy0 says:
No.
5/19/14
 
DoubleDingo says:
I have practiced to strike the ball better and succeeded, but now that the ball is being struck better, for some reason I cannot hit it where I aim it. I practiced to chip and pitch better, with no success as sometimes I can do it with great confidence and other times not at all. I can drive well enough to be pleased with it; and putt at a 1.9-ish average consitently. I stopped playing because of frustration. The scores didn't improve with better ball striking. Just kept ending up in bad places. I haven't played since Oct. 2013 and gave up my membership to the club. Been doing gardening and home projects instead now. I have money to play, health is still intact, time is available too, just got tired of being frustrated each round.
5/20/14
 
DoubleDingo says:
So to answer the question, yes golf is hard, but can be fun and I have many great memories and many great shots to reflect back on. When the game stops being fun, then it's time to stop.
5/20/14
 
bsta93 says:
I would argue the issue is mostly economic. Real incomes have been on the decline for multiple years, so there are no excess funds for families to spend on recreational activities. It's not just golf. I live near Lake Erie. On nice spring / summer / fall days 20-30 years ago, I used to be able to go to the beach and be able to count 50-75 boats on the horizon. Now,everyone in the area is selling their boat and the people that still have one, can't afford to fill up with gas to take the boat out. To understand how bad it is out there, you only need to look on the following graphs on the Federal Reserve website (FRED): real income, median household income, labor force participation rate, and labor force participation rate ages 26-55. The bad news is that millenials are living with their parents at a high rate and can't get jobs in the current economy. More courses are going to have to close their doors if the trends continue.
5/21/14
 
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