I recently attended the PGA Show in Orlando for the 16th time running. Our little crew of friends were all there and we had some fun. We did’nt look around the show very much. The whole thing feels disingenuous and miles away from the game. The best way to describe the show is that the majority of the products are based on one assumption; golfers will buy anything. My hope is sometime in the future we find a new generation of golfers who just want the game, who just want to experience the game. Maybe this will rise out of the ashes of this world of golf we see at the PGA Show. The one that seems doomed and to be honest deserves that fate.
Golf is a competitive game but maybe golfers have got their competitive desires out of whack with the realities of their situation. After all unless you’re a tour player and its life and death we play this game for recreation and the experience should be treasured. It feels like most golfers have been asked to buy into the message being served up to them. They’ve been told they should approach the game in the same way as the pros: performance with in the rules and get any edge you can. If its all about winning then fair enough but any recreational golfer who approaches the game that way is missing out. The professional game we watch on TV is a show made by the world of golf. The game can be what ever we want it to be. What about playing the game with out a range finder and no yardages? Being able to look at a target and hit a shot on line and the right distance with nothing more than the senses we were born with is a great pleasure and great skill. Most golfers today can’t play with out exact yardages. What’s magical about golf is every now and again we surprise ourselves by hitting a shot we could never achieve through conscious thought and calculation.
Recently I started playing more and more rounds using persimmon woods. Obviously its lead to a frenzy of persimmon purchases which has been fun! In terms of playing all I can say is it gives me more, its more juicy. The good ones are more rewarding. They’re not as far behind the modern stuff as you might think, 20 back on carry but more run out. The bad ones however, the ones you miss just a little bit, they’re not only way back but curve a lot more. When I stand in the car park at the golf club selecting clubs from the boot selection I’m reaching for the blocks more and more. I feel like I am addicted to the good ones. Its making me better, when I don’t catch the drive I have to scramble, hit long irons and chip and putt well. Its more fun and I’ve had some decent scores. Maybe its time to take a different view on performance and consider what we really want from the game. If I decide to use the blocks all season this year maybe my handicap will be higher (maybe it won’t) but will I be less competitive? There are no shortcuts in golf because the game has integrity, the message being sold to golfers chips away at that integrity and eats away at the soul of the game.
The hot topic at the moment is whether the game’s governing bodies with gain some level of competence in regulating the equipment for the pros but what about a bit of self regulation? What about golfers deciding what they want the game to be? What we watch on TV seems to be considered as the ‘game’ but in fact it’s a TV show sponsored by manufacturers taking a short term view on profit. The future of the game is just not in the mandate from the their shareholders. The game is being played all over the world by millions of golfers and they can do what ever they want. If 30% of the golfers on the planet decided they wanted to strip the game back, get rid of the buggies, the power trollies, the alignment sticks, the range finders, the resort courses etc. the future of the game would be safe in their hands. All we need to do is play the game in the spirit of its founding fathers. This massive bulbous side show provided by the ‘world of golf’ is actually just noise and irrelevant if golfers can get back to paying the game the way its meant to be played. Healthy competition but first and foremost going about it in the right way.