Greg Norman is 60 years old. In a recent interview with Golf.com Norman touted that the game needs to become more relaxed to attract more players. No longer one of the game’s “young guns” Norman’s comments take on a new meaning as it is not typically the “old guard” that encourage change and in the case of golf, the relaxing of the rules and customs that so many associate with the game. For several years, I have promoted more relaxed dress codes, fewer rules and free golf for kids as a way to grow the game.
While there is widespread agreement on the need to grow the game, there is considerable disagreement as to how. As we all know, recently the USGA banned the use of anchored putters beginning January 1, 2016 and more recently determined that scores from rounds played “solo” were inadmissable for handicap purposes. Both of these rulings are shortsighted and discourage those people from playing that are just the ones we need. The serious golfer isn’t who we need to appeal to.
My daughter, 23, intelligent, fun and athletic thinks the golf atmosphere is stuffy and too full of rules. Because she can’t wear Lulu Lemon and a hoodie, she simply doesn’t play. I’ve seen her hit 200+ yard drives, make 40 foot putts and have infectious fun doing so that would be an asset to any club. Golf needs more of that. I consistently hear that the game needs more women, yet the atmosphere is very male dominated and uninviting to them. In Scotland, where they dreampt up this crazy game, dress codes are more relaxed, dogs roam the fairways with their masters and trolleys (motorized and not) are the norm.
Golf is an inherently inefficient use of real estate resources. Too few people use too much land. Therefore, to be economically viable (and affordable) golf needs a broader appeal. Of course, there will always be clubs where “tradition” can and will reign supreme but more and more some of the games traditions need to be allowed to evolve or the game will suffer irreperably. Some desire for golf to be aspirational and accessible only to the wealthiest few. When the discussion about relaxing some customs in favor of growth there will be those who ask “why”? There need to be more at the highest levels of the game asking “Why Not?”