There’s a lot of talk about bifurcation in golf. Should the pros have different rules, different balls, some other issue? However, I think a different bifurcation may be happening right in front of us, and while certain aspects are the subject of comment, they are only the symptoms and not the driving force behind it.
Music on the course, what you’re “allowed” to wear and let’s not forget “proper” comportment everywhere, from the parking lot to the course and clubhouse. Many golfers have opinions about these issues and more. Let’s also remember how “growing the game” plays into this. There are those for whom only collared shirts, tailored pants, proper headgear, putting everything out – the rules must be observed religiously. We all know someone who fits it: music, drinking, skipping stroke-and-distance in casual rounds.
The split on much if not all of this is generational. Speaking as an aging and decrepit hacker who plays with his son’s cronies quite a bit, I find that many of them, even the ones with handicaps hovering around scratch, have no problem with a very casual attitude toward rounds outside official tournaments. Music? Sometimes. Attire? Golfy to very casual to – gasp! – jeans and rock-group T-shirts. I could go on about where you’re allowed to change your shoes, but you get the picture.
Golf is changing. The young people of today have grown up in a world completely foreign to anyone older than 50. Things happen and change in the blink of an eye. They have been connected to music and every other imaginable experience anywhere, at any time. There is more of a, We’re here to have a fun experience playing a game, not a test of endurance and fortitude against the golf gods.
Let me be clear: If you like old-school, stuck-up golf where the club rules are longer than the Rules of Golf, I’m sure there’s a private club that fits the bill. I play at some of them occasionally and follow all rules, as a polite guest should. But at public and especially municipal courses, either suck it up or go elsewhere.
Golf's future is with the young. They will change the game to fit the milieu of the mid-to-late 21st century. Some will maintain the old-school priorities, but I believe that outside of private clubs the game will change to fit new lifestyles in ways I can’t even imagine. If you really want to grow the game, try not to throw too much sand in the gears today, because it’s on these public courses where the game will be grown. Some may even join private clubs later, but I think even many private clubs will end up bending, with the possible exception of the most prestigious.
If this horrified you, breathe into a paper bag and try chanting “Change is good. Change is good.” It’ll be OK. I promise.
“Revolutions are the locomotive of history,” Karl Marx said. We live in a revolutionary time for golf.
St. Paul, Minnesota
I loved John Steinbreder’s article (“High-tech intrusion,” November 6 GGP). Very well said, and I could not agree more.
My home course just acquired a fleet of golf carts with the GPS in them that “stop me” from going where I shouldn’t. Add that one to your list. Ugh!
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