Old? Slow? Outdated?

It has been a week of reading overlapping articles. In one, solutions for not only slow play, but an entire reformatting of the game of golf is in the experimental stage, where one can play two or three holes in record time. Another questions whether the game has left the elderly behind, or whether it has been planned that way by the courses themselves. If we think there’s a problem, Nature must think so, too. Either that, or she just hates West Virginia. The Greenbrier Classic is kaput for the year after the horrible floods in that state. Any way you look at it, the traditional game seems to be on the ropes.

slowThe question of elderly golfers surprised me, as they are more often the ones with the money and leisure time. More of them ride than walk, and all of that should make them a prime market. Literature abounds on how to adapt a swing to age, and a lot of older players are doing pretty well on the scorecard. Perhaps, then, the “senior” thing plays into the second problem – slow play, and then again perhaps not. Regardless, The golf industry is obsessed with picking up the pace of the game, as if it’s always been a problem.

Yes, there has always been a problem of people desiring to play through, but that has just as often been a matter of etiquette. I read this morning that a person who refused the group behind him in Connecticut pulled a gun on them out of indignation. The point here is that the length of a round of golf was perfect once upon a time, because a long, leisurely walk in the woods was what people wanted, and was what they thought to be good for their well-being. It is our society that has changed, a society with little patience for thoughtfulness or anything that smacks of a meditative quality. Product industry is very often based on the disposable, or stressing the need for constant and regular upgrades. In the old world, you expected years and years out of a pair of shoes. Now, they go as soon as they an obsolete fashion.

So, in a sense, we have left the game behind by robbing it of its meditative benefits. Hurry up and have fun. There are people waiting for you two hundred yards back, and they’ve been waiting thirty seconds. Courses like the revenue of crowding more foursomes in per day, and the obvious scapegoats if it doesn’t work are women, seniors, and kids. That’s why I don’t play as much golf as I once did, because I am now in the category of “Oh, great! Here comes another old dude.” On my side of things, I wonder when they’ll start checking my times in the 40 yard dash to see if I qualify for a round of 18

If all of this is true, we are faced with a choice or revving the game up to a speed at which its benefits no longer exist, or call it a day, and let what was once a widespread, beloved game go the way of history. Perhaps age restrictions will come into being, a ban on walking, a limit on chips and putts – a gimme 10 putt if you can’t get it in by 5. The idea is a penalty – not out of bounds so much as out of time.

I believe that I know what will happen if golf goes the way of the dinosaur. We’ll start over when a farmer somewhere in the Americas, Europe, or Asia, gets bored and starts mapping out primitive fairways and holes in his fields after the corn has been harvested. Then, it won’t matter how slow or old you are, you will be playing a game on the rise, and you can meditate as much as you like.  Maybe I’ll wait for that.

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