A lot of golfers ask me why I bother writing about golf because it is essentially an experiential activity and not so much a theoretical study. Firstly, I write for a living and I love writing, so writing about something I love doing makes sense to me. Secondly, writing is a form of communication and it involves a search for meaning. Identifying and conveying some of the more nuanced riches at the heart of the game is, I find, a worthy endeavour.
Sharing the Great Game of Golf
Golf is a great game to play no matter your education or status in life. The fact that Presidents play the game only shows its appeal to the powerful among us. I love that golf is broadening its membership to include a much more colourful array of human beings across the planet. No longer is it the exclusive domain of whiter than white country club folk.
Sahith Theegala and Hideki Matsuyama are furthering the games reach into new parts, along with millions of their compatriots and neighbours.
Digging Deeper Into Golf
Golf is a game played with a small, dimpled ball and more than a dozen clubs. What’s there to write about? Aren’t there far more weighty topics to cover in the twenty first century on planet earth? Yes, there certainly are. Especially now, in the current climate of global pandemics, geopolitical conflicts, and cataclysmic weather events turning up the heat on us. Golf, however, has always been a game that has reflected back to us aspects of human life. It is a microcosm of our aspirations and activities. A glass bead game played on a section of turf and earth. It can tell a lot about how an individual deals with struggles, triumphs, and disasters.
I can hear a few murmurs among readers, “gee whiz one of the reasons I play golf is to get away from real life for a few hours.” Yes, the golf course can provide a temporary sanctuary from worries and cares. A place where bird life and nature are exalted over steel and plastic surfaces. A realm where grass, dirt, trees, and water are the arena for the descendants of monkeys to swing their sticks for a good time. An environment where fresh air is still free on the menu for willing participants. Golf is a great game to play, whether you are young or old, big or small, fat or thin.
Exercise is a healthy pursuit and remains an essential part of maintaining a sound physical profile. Modern life is chock full of labour saving devices. Technologies designed to release us from having to move about unnecessarily and to work too hard. These advancements are actually anathema to our monkey bodies and cause for disease and premature deaths.
Our sedentary lifestyles are literally killing us. Golf is an ancient antidote to this new world scourge.
Walking 18 holes and playing golf several times a week is good exercise. Swinging those golf clubs and getting into all sorts of strange positions over the ball on uneven surfaces is good grist for the athletic mill. It is better to walk a round of golf if you can. The natural rhythms and tempo of your human gait will harmonise with your golf swing. Walking along and breathing in the clean air produced by nature’s foliage is invigorating. Swinging sweetly in tune with the relaxed tempo of your perambulation is a great way to spend a few hours. However, playing golf is good for you whatever your mode of transport around the course. Some folks have to ride in carts and they love their golf just as much. Whatever physical level you can play the game at is of sound benefit to your overall health. Golf is special full stop.
A lot of the focus on golf, especially the media focus, is on the top professional players in competition for men’s and women’s golf championships. This is understandable because we all love to dream about playing the game at an elite level and in a highly materialistic society bang on about winning wealth and the prizes it brings. In actual fact, the latest research reckons there are 66.6 million people playing golf globally. How many make money from the game? Probably only a couple of thousand at most, with just 180 on the PGA Men’s Tour and a similar amount on the European Tour. Add in the women’s tours, the Asian tours, the second tier tours and you get an approximate idea about the few numbers involved.
Perhaps we should focus our attention elsewhere when it comes to writing and reading about golf. The golf industry, the manufacturers of balls, clubs, and accessories want us to buy their products, which is why they sponsor the most high profile and successful tournament professionals. It is the movie star model of using celebrities to sell stuff and it pervades the golf world. Golf gear emblazoned with badges spruiking names like Titleist, Taylor Made, Callaway, and Ping to name a few of the biggest players in this high stakes game. They make the sticks, balls, and associated stuff so they reckon they own the game. But do they really own the game of golf? Do they own your game? They sure didn’t invent the game of golf. They feed off our obsession and enjoyment of the game. Without the 66.6 million playing the game they wouldn’t exist. Writing about golf would be better served focusing on us, the great unwashed, rather than those very few at the top.
In reality golf is what we make of it when we go out and play the game ourselves. It is our own experience of playing golf, the good and bad, which maintains our love of the game. The rest is just outside noise, but we are trained to focus on that by the golf media and the industry.
Writing about golf could and maybe should focus more on the experiences of you and me. The whole celebrity focus is a pretty exploitative and dumb idea. It’s really about flogging more stuff to you and me. How much golf gear do we actually need?
Golf is a great game to play. The special factor, in my view, is the combination of the golf swing and the arena upon which we play the game. The golf course is an aesthetically pleasing maze of fairways and challenging greens. The green cathedral I like to call it. A place where we convene with nature in pursuit of shooting our best score. The consolations provided include quality time spent with your four ball for better or worse. Plus, a sanctuary away from the real world for four hours and change. We come off the golf course mentally and physically challenged, which can be cleansing sometimes.
Every situation is an opportunity to test our game against the course, weather, and the moment. How do each of us cope with the knife’s edge of triumph or disaster? Can we master the demands of the moment? That putt to win the hole in matchplay. The birdie on the last which will make all the difference to our score. Heartbeats drum loudly inside our chest. Voices of doubt murmur inside out head. Yes, there is much to write about in golf.