How is youth affecting the sport of golf?
My first thought when considering how the game is being stewarded by the “youth” of today always goes back to my pre-wedding round of golf with the (mostly) guys. Almost everyone (except my dad) was younger by me, many by a couple of decades. They seemed to play a different game than me, and I’m not just talking about the Happy Gilmore cuts from the tee box.
It was far more social, and the time invested was in the relationships, not the actual golf. “Grip it and rip it” was certainly alive with this set, but it was more of an afterthought; something you had to do to get back to more socializing. Think midnight bowling, where the drinks and flirting are the order of the day, and a roll that inspires laughter is as valuable as a strike… perhaps more.
That’s my first thought, but it’s not really indicative of the reality I’ve witnessed over the past few years. What I’m seeing – and really enjoying – is young golfers taking the game very seriously; and, more importantly, taking a few thousand of their “closest” (and most distant) friends along. In my mind this can only positively grow the game.
In the post-Tiger era, while there are great golfers; there is no transcendent personality to bring the non-golf masses to the game. This presents the risk of not just stagnation, but the actual deterioration of the gains made in the 90s and early aughts. Fortunately, though, golf seems to have made the switch from “blockbuster” to “viral.”
There is an Instagrammer (or Facebooker, or Twittererer???) out there for almost everyone. From lloydigolf across the pond to Coco and Fallon of 2girls1hole (completely SFW (“safe for work”), no worries); from Hailey Ostrom to Craig Salter, whatever personality you are looking for, it’s out there. You want to follow aspiring LPGA hopefuls (former college players, so, legit golfers) as they trudge through mini-seasons in an attempt to get to Q-school, it’s there. Fun loving duffers (or just as fun-loving low handicappers), who’s only objective is to improve their game and have a good time, that’s there for you as well… and you don’t have to wait for Sundays and hope the event is big enough to push football aside, these guys and gals are at this every day.
You also get to see things you just didn’t get with traditional golf information outlets. Inside looks at some of the best, most sophisticated training facilities and equipment around, innovative swing adjustments, and yes, occasionally the slightly tipsy foray into the land of Topgolf. Growing up, what I got to see was polished professionals annihilating courses I couldn’t fathom getting through with 5 sleeves of balls; but I had no context regarding the work they put in. I had no idea what went into firing a final round under par on Fathers Day and now I know that, retroactively, I missed that.
What really gets me excited though, is the dedication to the game and the commitment to go about it the right way that I’m so often seeing in today’s younger golfers. I’m looking at early to mid 20s players who are spending the majority of their time on the range. They are sharing their range experiences by an order of magnitude more than their on course experiences; and this, again, can only be great for the game. When was the last time the range was cool to anyone but Hogan?
The long and short of it is that I think the game is in great hands. I certainly think it is going to look a little different (and I’m not just talking about Under Armour and yoga pants), but that’s okay. I don’t know that golf, as I grew up with it, was ever going to survive the shrinking attention span and associated faster pace of the coming generations. However I feel good about the direction in which it’s going.
Follow Soren on Twitter @fn2017
Soren is a 50 year old (soon to be itinerant) golfer, pursuing his lifetime dream of playing a round of golf in every state (over the course of 50 days), blogging about it www.fairwaysandfreeways.com/
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