How Will This Historic Game Be Played in the Future?
Nearly every sporting event hearkens back to its histories and traditions. To know the game’s origin fires the spirit of a devotee, and fuels the continuation of the game. However, after all the time we’ve spent looking at 15th century Scotland, and every great course and player since, we still need to ask – Where are we going, and what will the future look like? No sport is an exception. We’ve watched ‘leatherheads, from 1910, Jack Dempsey on old grainy black and white film, and would in most cases jump at a rebroadcast of a Nicklaus, Palmer, Player match. However, as the club, the ball, the course, and the clubhouse have all changed, so will the game, just like all the others.
I went for an interesting article from Golf Guide that I thought might have some ideas. Very interesting and informative, but it took me right back to the questions about decline, suitability, absent ethnic players and need for speed. I didn’t agree with all of it. Instant gratification doesn’t have to last five hours. It can be experienced shot to shot. We haven’t just lost our attention span by gluing ourselves to screens. The screen addiction just means that not enough young people go outside. Get them on the course before they get their first phone, or whatever, and they’ll love it just as much as we did. Lack of speed might be a problem, or it might be the perfect alternative to a wound-up society. I wonder if the statistics have ever been compiled for numbers on the driving range rather than the course, due to the modern green fees. I know that I play a lot less, and practice a lot more.
All right, so the Tiger bubble that brought so many new people into the game has burst. He couldn’t keep it up forever, but every generation has come up with someone compelling, or a group of them. They’ll keep coming around. In the future, we will still have the ingredients necessary for a great game.
If tradition must bend to fit an evolving technological generation and their heirs, what will it look like for them? That’s the question I want answered, not that any of us can guarantee we’re right. Will we follow our drives with an implanted grid for our vision? Will the amount of acreage common to a golf course be reduced to a virtual space where we score by accurate energy charges, like laser tag? Will we keep the space but pick up the pace by hitting the ball from hover boards before racing off to the next shot, cutting the time in half? What part will drones play? Any room for robots in the future? Caddies or opponents?
I hope that some of these things don’t happen. Anything that decreases the human being at the center of participation will eventually produce a great yawn from golf’audience. As Tennyson puts it “Though much is lost, much abides,” meaning that regardless of societal change, there are qualities in this game that are fixed, and always will be.
There will always be an unanticipated winner, an underdog who makes the shot of his life to triumph. There will always be a iconic master in the spirit of Vardon, Jones, Snead, Nicklaus, Woods – a Sorenstam, Wright, and Henderson. There will always be a “can he/she or can’t he/she?” There will always be a moment of truth where victory or defeat is in the balance of a single swing..
Increase speed, and the band-aide might work for a while, but get the children into junior golf before getting them a screen. Our grandchildren can spend one stretch pushing their thumbs onto a pad that resembles a bear’s hibernation schedule. Get them inexpensive junior passes instead. Then, in the future, you can get them the hover board, laser pointers, grids and drones, just in case they become standard equipment.
What the actual game will look like in a hundred years is anyone’s guess, but don’t start experimenting with the essential ingredients that got us here in the first place..