Greg Norman and Growing the Golf Game

This week for 78MPH, something happened that hadn’t happened before. “My Bucket List” post – even with a glaringly un-golfish headline – was republished by The Golf Today Digest. Down at the very bottom of the paper was a headline I couldn’t resist clicking on. “Greg Norman’s rant on the state of the game: We’ve really got to get our crap together“. That story is all about growing the golf game.

Greg Norman and Growing the Golf Game

Greg Noman's Rant in The Golf Digest, growing the golf game

Greg Noman’s Rant in The Golf Digest – all about growing the golf game

If you love golf, and are worried about the future of the game, then read that Golf Digest article. To sum it up, Norman says the golf world is too set in its ways and needs to make radical changes to change the game and bring more people in. He likens golf courses to the ski hills who, in the beginning, refused to let snowboarders on the slopes.

I, for one, have tried to get more people interested in golf over the years. As you know, I’m turning 81 next month, so many of my friends aren’t spring chickens, and in truth, my efforts to bring new people into the game were much more concentrated 10, 20, even 30 years ago. Many of my women friends who didn’t golf very often when they were younger didn’t have the energy to golf 18 holes, even back then. And the prices for playing 9 holes were sometimes dear – well over half as much as a full round. When I look at growing the game it makes sense to play fewer holes, but put the price down to make it more attractive.

The Future

My silver-haired friends is not the age group where the future of the game lies. It lies with the youngsters. And even though many clubs have affordable, competitive rates for memberships, the rules they have in place for their Juniors is antiquated and needs to be revised. I’m not just talking about a more relaxed dress for Juniors – Norman suggests board shorts and letting them play music – but changing the stipulations of when they can, and cannot play.

One of my grandsons, for example, plays at a semi-private course, but the Juniors are not allowed to book a tee time until the afternoon on the weekends – and this seems to be a common practice. With the youngsters brimming with the energy they have, it’s not very difficult for them to golf two rounds a day, but limiting them to specific times limits their abilities to play. In turn, that limits their potential to excel and fall in love with the game.

As for after school? The Juniors who want to play need to have a golf course close to their school because the business clubs typically start by 4:30 p.m. and many of those are shotguns. See? It’s pretty hard to squeeze golf into a Junior’s life.

Even crazier yet is they don’t allow the Juniors to compete for the Club Championship unless their handicap is 5 or better. Is that how to grow the game? I think not.

It Takes Too Long

Some of my friends didn’t take up golfing because 18 holes took too much time out of their day, and back when I was trying to convince my friends to start golfing, no clubs were really encouraging players to play anything less than 18 holes. In 2008, Jack Nicklaus told Golf Digest that, “We should consider the possibility of making 12 holes the standard round…Eventually it would be accepted because it makes sense in people’s lives.”

The Greenbryre Golf & Country Club in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, is one of those 12-hole courses. My friend, Bob Fleming, plays there often. He finds it’s convenient to play there after work since golfing 12 holes takes under three hours compared to the four hours it often takes to play 18.  Bob’s company held their annual office golf tournament there this year, golfing 12 holes, and that really makes sense since 18 holes is a lot of golf for people who are occasional golfers. SaskGolfer says 25% of all Saskatchewan residents golf, so, believe me, that’s a lot of occasional golfers going out only once or twice a year!

Too Long

Back to Greg Norman. Something else he talked about in his “rant” was the financial burden of building courses over 7000 yards.  The only people who are going to use the 7000+ courses are the PGA Professional Golfers and you need deep pockets to attract their tournaments.
Case in point: I have played at Silver Rock Golf Resort in LaQuinta, CA., a course where the PGA the Humana Tournament used to be held at. It’s a beautiful course. But since there are tee boxes for playing over 7000 yards, you can bet there will be guys will want to play from those tees.
I play from around 5400 yards, and I check the distance of the par 4s before I decide which tee box to play from. If the distance is too long and I can not get on the par 4’s in two shots then I am playing from the wrong tees.  I played with a couple of guys, who were playing from the blacks (7578 yards) and in almost all cases they could not even get to the fairways.  I know they each lost a dozen balls in the round.  This is where the five hour round came in….looking for their golf balls.  And darkness set in as well.

My Idea: Be Creative With Those Empty 9’s

I know of several courses with 27 holes, but their patrons have a clear preference for two of the 3 nine holes. In fact, they like them so much, they will ask for the two nine’s they want to play by name when booking, and will often decide to go somewhere else if the two 9’s they want to play aren’t available. Maybe you’ve seen courses like this too, I’m sure you have.
I think those golf courses should start to be creative with those empty 9, like making them available to all the Junior golfers in the city at a bargain basement rate — even holding regular Saturday and Sunday morning 9-hole tournaments for them. Juniors are hungry, they’ll eat, many of them will need their parents to provide transportation for them and you may be able to get their parents to play at the more-preferable 18.
It’s time to think outside of the traditional golf course and find new ways for growing the golf game.

4 Comments, RSS

  1. John Armijo

    I like your blog. My wife, Diane, gave me the link. You have rented our place at 948 Sky Mtn, in the past. Let me know if you need some photos around the Sky Mtn golf course. I have a lot of them. Many of the images on the Sky Mtn HOA website are mine. Just send me an email.
    Hit em long and straight!
    John Armijo

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