| Bunker Men­tal­ity

With par­tic­i­pa­tion lev­els stag­nat­ing and me­dia in­ter­est on the wane, the game of golf is ap­proach­ing its day of reckoning, fast ap­proach­ing a fork in the road, as Mike Wil­son writes, what few agree on is what di­rec­tion to take.

HK Golfer - - Contents - By Mike Wil­son

With par­tic­i­pa­tion lev­els stag­nat­ing and me­dia in­ter­est on the wane, the game of golf is ap­proach­ing its day of reckoning.

It’s clear and in plain sight what’s wrong with golf; it takes too long to watch or play, is in­con­sis­tent with a con­tem­po­rary cul­ture of in­stant grat­i­fi­ca­tion and, for the Mil­len­nial gen­er­a­tion, too ex­pen­sive, time­con­sum­ing and far from cool. Like all cul­tural as­pects of so­ci­ety and cen­tral to the hu­man con­di­tion, life goes in cy­cles, gen­er­a­tional ups-and-downs. But, if club mem­ber­ship fig­ures in tra­di­tional golf mar­kets such as the UK and the USA are an ac­cu­rate bench­mark, down on av­er­age 7.5% year on year; and pay-TV au­di­ence rat­ings fall­ing at an alarm­ing rate of around 9% per an­num, golf has got a sig­nif­i­cant prob­lem. And one it needs to deal with PDQ.

Al­though those re­spon­si­ble for the broad de­vel­op­ment and macro-mar­ket­ing of the game, such as the R&A, the USGA, the Euro­pean Tour and the PGA TOUR agree that golf take too long to watch and/or play, they ap­pear, like rab­bits caught in the head­lights, un­able to find either in­di­vid­ual or col­lec­tive so­lu­tions.

Most agree that slow play is the curse of mod­ern golf. Pro­fes­sional and there­fore recre­ational too, given we all, es­pe­cially younger, more im­pres­sion­able play­ers like to mimic the top pros, pac­ing out yardages, de­vel­op­ing pre-and-post-shot rou­tines, read­ing the greens to within an inch of their lives.

At a re­cent PGA TOUR event, the Farmer’s In­surance at Tor­rey Pines, the lead­ing group’s three-ball fi­nal round took six hours, and still could not con­clude, car­ry­ing for­ward to a Mon­day play-off.

Iron­i­cally, the win­ner was the self-ac­claimed ‘Snail’ of the PGA TOUR, Ja­son Day, who, asked about the pace of play by Bunker Men­tal­ity re­cently said, “It doesn't re­ally worry me too much,” adding, “To be hon­est, I don't re­ally care what peo­ple say.”

Slow play se­rial-of­fender JB Holmes was once again at the heart of the mat­ter. Tak­ing 4’ 10” to play a sin­gle shot from the mid­dle of the fair­way into the green, forc­ing the nor­mally tac­i­turn Luke Don­ald to take to Twit­ter to say, “The last group was over a hole be­hind, we can

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