The golf world worries that its game is somehow in decline. Participation is, or has been, down. When Tiger's not involved television viewing figures are down. Overall profits may or may not be down. Even Nike, the all-conquering Greek Goddess of Victory, could not find a way to make golf equipment pay, despite the significant support of Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy. The expensive endorsements and associated advertising which were meant to make golf sexy, or at least appealing, failed to land, or deliver sufficient sales.
But here’s the deal. Golf isn’t sexy. It never has been. Never will be. But that shouldn’t matter as long as it’s good.
So is golf actually any good? No, it’s better than that. It's brilliant.
Golf’s really hard, although when we’re playing well it appears, briefly, simple. It can be utterly soul-destroying, yet golf’s mostly very good for the soul.
Attempts to change the game, to make its appeal wider, its profits deeper, only mess it up.
The governing bodies, the tour organizers and sponsors, they want to see steep growth charts, big successes. But people who love golf still love golf. They’ll always love golf. Let them get on with it. Maybe golf will never be as popular as soccer. Good. I've got a pile of ideas to grow the game, to increase its fame in its heartlands and in new territories. (I'm a publicist and content marketer with a load of experience in showbiz and entertainment.) But none of them change the game in its entirety. We mustn't be so fickle. Let's not lose whatever so many people already love about golf.
I don’t want to wear a heart-rate monitor and listen to music on the course. I might do that when I’m running. But when I’m golfing I’m doing something quite different. (Saying that, I quite like the idea of pro-golfers wearing heart-rate monitors on TV...)
We can’t make golf appeal truly, madly, deeply to those who only like stuff that’s big, bold and on television. They’ll just stop liking it as soon as we stop feeding them this stuff.
Golf is subtle and is interesting to those who will let themselves fall for it. It’s a lifelong romance. We golfers know that. But we can’t force others to fall for our sport. Love affairs cannot be forced. We can try to make ourselves look sexy but people, sooner than later, will see through it.
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