Admittedly, I am not the target audience for either live or televised professional golf. I am not a golfer, nor do I have any affinity for the game.
But, over the last year, I’ve seen my partially infirmed father spend an inordinate amount of time watching golf on TV and I’m, to say the least, baffled.
My dad never once played golf and mostly made fun of people who did. “Why would anyone waste their time chasing a ball around a field like that,” he’d argue. “It’s a waste of good pasture,” and so on.
The only “golfers” I was exposed to in my adult life usually fell into the category of pudgy middle managers that lingered around the water cooler on Monday morning, spinning tales about the great weekend ball hunt. What it said to me was that they had apparently chosen to use their time off to get liquored up at the clubhouse and chase a ball around a sand trap rather than spend time with their families. Just made no sense.
But, as my father’s interest in the game seems to have increased, at least from his view in an easy chair, I figured I’d learn a bit more. So, ever the open-minded journalist (most of the time anyway) I wanted to try to find out why people are so drawn to what seems to me a game that caters to the rich.
From odd clothing and cleated shoes to whispering announcers and the apparent inability of grown adults to carry their own luggage, golf is one of those “sports” that you have to just take at face value.
In my research and discussions, I was mistaken about a few of my preconceptions. I can’t go through every revelation in a short article like this, but here are a couple of my observations.
First, I need to point out that I’m not much of a sports follower in the first place. But, as a spectator, golf always seemed painfully slow. I learned, however, that the slower pace is attractive to those who use the game for relaxation. They say it offers a bit of a slowdown from daily life and at least a little exercise.
I did have one thing right, however. Golf is definitely a game more suited the wealthy and affluent. For example, you can’t play without clubs and just one mid-quality driving club can start between $300 and $600.
A top of the line set of irons (a shorter-shafted driving club) can cost into the thousands and putters can drain your wallet at the rate of a few hundred each. If you want to use all this expensive hardware, you’d better get a second mortgage.
A few years ago, Golf Digest took a survey of 200 private golf club members and discovered that the average cost of dues is around $6,200 per year. And that’s not including the initiation fees (into the thousands of dollars), food, tipping, and other incidentals. Sorry, that’s just nuts for the average person.
For many business people, however, a game of golf and a private membership can provide access to a professional network unavailable in any other way. The expenditure is simply the cost of doing business.
For those of us with less expensive tastes and no ladder to climb, 18 holes at a public, privately owned golf club is a bit more affordable. The average is around $50 and often includes a cart. The newer and more popular and elaborate the facility, the higher the cost.
Lastly, to me at least, the exercise value of the game is precarious. I’m not sure having someone else carry your golf bag and then driving around the range on a cart qualifies as exercise. My advice to the aforementioned pudgy middle managers is to get off the cart and carry your own stuff.
Although you still won’t find me on the back nine anytime soon, golf does seem to have its place. As long as my dad gets some enjoyment from watching the game I’m OK with it.
I still prefer Happy Gilmore’s style to the usual way.
Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications Ltd.