From the days of English aristocracy and class warfare, through racial and gender inequalities and to today’s technological world, golf has reflected the world of the day, not shaped it. In this age of instant gratification, instant information, instant accountability, instant decision making and instant blame, we find that the game of golf is still moving slowly and selectively-embracing change.
Some people consider today’s golf to be boring. They say it relies too much on power and technology while reducing the skill requirements of the player. But that’s a simple, easy conclusion to a much more complicated issue.
Today’s golf isn’t better or worse than the golf played 20, 50 or even 100 years ago. It’s just different, just as our lives and our world are different. To try and roll back golf to some better time is like saying that life in the 1950s was, across the board, better than it is today. In some cases maybe it was, but in many other cases today’s world is far preferable. This concept of yearning for a return to better times has been around forever and coincides with a reluctance to accept change. Dismissing all change as bad is stupid.
When steel shafts were in the process of replacing wooden shafts in the 20s and 30s, traditionalists of the day cried out that equipment was going to reduce the skills required to play the game.
When the Haskell ball replaced the gutta-percha, traditionalists cried out that this was going to make golf courses obsolete and the game too easy.
With metal shafts replacing wood shafts, was there any doubt that eventually metal club-heads would replace wooden club-heads? No! Neither was there any doubt that traditionalists would bemoan this innovation as bad for the game.
But golf survived.
Finally, graphite is replacing some steel and the solid-core, muti-layered golf ball has replaced the wound, balata ball, and, you guessed it! Traditionalists are saying golf has become too easy and courses obsolete.
Golf will survive. It will just be different.
Golf will survive because a quick look at today’s world shows how golf is still reflecting the world we live in.
The world of 2006 is vastly different from the world of 1906. Planes have replaced trains. Cars, freeways, radio, television, computers, cell phones, i-pods, Blackberry’s … everything leads to me, me, me, and faster, faster, faster. We have become accustomed to shortcuts and instant gratification.
Thus, it should be of no surprise that trying a few different clubs and using trial and error to find one that suits you is not the way you go anymore. Today your clubs must be custom-fit with a launch monitor, a computer and assorted other technological innovations. Is it better? Maybe, maybe not, but it is faster and more efficient. Is this process the result of manufacturer’s greed? Or, is it manufacturers reacting to society’s need for speed? That conclusion is left to the individual. Is there as much love and pride of workmanship in a cast-titanium metal wood as there was with a hand-crafted persimmon driver? Probably not but, they are a heck of a lot more efficient, consistent and readily available.
Almost all equipment changes through out time have been the result of manufacturing processes and material availabilities in the “real world”. When we landed men on the moon, we began the process of changing the world of golf. It is the consumer who decides whether or not these innovations make it. Remember the “feather-light” golf clubs? Seemed like a good idea at the time!
Golf has, seemingly, been proactive only when it comes to preserving traditions. Golf should be proactive against performance enhancing drugs too, but it won’t happen. The, bury your head in the sand, “we have no evidence to indicate a drug problem,” philosophy will prevail and golf will lose another opportunity to be a leader. That’s a reality that I find revolting and at the same time, laughable.
We need to be diligent in protecting the game of golf. We also have to realize that just as the world around us changes; the game of golf will reflect and not lead those changes. Golf is not a social game. It is society’s game. Look to the way we lead our lives and the way the world is evolving, if you want to see what the future of golf will be. There are many who claim golf to be the beacon of civility and reason and, as such, steadfastly reject change. Those people feel strongly that tradition is a commodity to be protected. That thinking kept women from clubhouses in Great Britain, blacks from the PGA Tour in America, and will allow for drugs to invade the game in the future. Golf, because it changes so stubbornly, will always be a follower and never a leader. That is the price to be paid for traditions.
|Peter Kostis is a golf analyst for CBS Sports, a GOLF MAGAZINE Top 100 Teacher and co-founder of the Kostis-McCord Learning Center in Scottsdale, Ariz. You can e-mail him your questions and comments at [email protected]|