The slow play debate is still marching on at an ironic pace. Nobody seems to be able to universally agree on what the best course of action is, to ensure golf remains one of the World’s major sports. And by the ‘World’ I mean wherever there is plentiful wealth. I’m here to argue something possibly controversial; that in fact, nothing needs to change.
I’ll start by asking a question; What’s changed more over the last two decades, the game of golf, or society?
Other than the ball (!!), golf really hasn’t changed very much. We still play 18 holes, we still use 14 clubs and some of us are even now finishing with 14 clubs. Golf, to its credit, has survived World Wars, recessions, depressions and even Mark Roe’s commentary. (I feel bad about that joke) Society on the other hand has changed immeasurably, even in the small time I’ve been able to observe it as an adult. 20 years ago there was no Facebook, no Amazon, interest rates lived closer to 10% than 0%. There was no selfie stick, footballers didn’t dive, although Donald Trump probably was still a narcissist.
Why do we now need to change golf? We would be changing it in the belief that society is on a conveyer belt that will only move in the same direction it has in the last decade. I only found out recently, that free trade between countries was never really a thing before World War 2. Tariffs were the norm for centuries before this period. However, if you are unaware of this, you’d think free trade is sacrosanct to humanity and must never be challenged. It has become abundantly clear to me over the last few years, having read and learned about more than how to hit a fade, that we humans have poor memories and are way too indulged in the present.
Countries and individuals are dependent on cycles. Whether that be in the food we eat and when it can be grown or the businesses we can start and grow, depending on business cycles and/or credit cycles. These things become easy to forget as we are so busy consuming, working and living generally. Therefore I think we need to address whether we believe the current cycle we all find ourselves living in, is likely to be sustainable.
Yoga, Mindfulness, Spiritualism and Meditation are all becoming more and more popular, along with Veganism and a general move towards holistic living. These are the signs to me that the balance of our lives are wanting to shift back towards a centre point. Drug abuse, depression, obesity and stress related illnesses have been on the rise over the last two decades. This is another sure sign to me that we have pushed ourselves too far, in too short a period of time. We are finding managing our health, and subsequently our lives, tricky. Now, there is the argument that things will keep moving in the same direction, and that ultimately we will adapt because we have to. But dying, isn’t adapting, and there are too many people dying from chronic illnesses because they are unable to cope with modern day pressures.
I would therefore suggest golf doesn’t need to change at all. I believe there is as much chance, if not more, that society rebalances and slows down, as there is that it continues to move at its current break neck speed. Golf has major therapeutic qualities, whether that be the fact it’s played outside, and so therefore it is effectively more in tune with nature. Yes, it is slow in its nature, unlike football, tennis and rugby, but this is a good thing as it can therefore be played by anybody. It is incredibly stimulating mentally, once you begin to grasp the movement of the golf swing. The social aspects of golf can be fantastic, and help people remove themselves from screens and technology. All of these things I believe have huge potential in dealing with chronic illnesses, whether that be physical or mental. I would imagine golf as a form of healing from depression could be enormous due to what I’ve outlined above. Plus, why change a sport to simply ‘conform’ to what we believe society ‘wants.’ Conformity is boring, each sport is different in its nature and we should celebrate that, not the opposite.
When it comes to the changes we can make as professional golfers to ensure the viewing experience is better, I do believe like many others that there are things that can be done. We should be making an example of players taking way too long to hit simple shots. We shouldn’t be advocating pre shot routines where you close your eyes, breathe slowly and pretend to be a Power Ranger. Golf can be played faster at tournament level, as well as club level. But it can never be played in 2 hours. And I don’t want golf to change itself in such a way to make that possible. I think it would ultimately be a bad move for the game and risk dilution, the same way Cricket has done. We may currently have an ‘image problem’ in golf, but we don’t need to add schizophrenia to that. 40 second shot clocks may reduce a round of golf to 4 hours from 4 hours 30 minutes in a 3-Ball, but that’s still 4 hours, and in my opinion that’s not enough of a change to direct attention away from our sport being ‘too slow.’
Of course I could be wrong and all I’ve written above may end up being way off the mark. I hope it’s not though, and not because I want golf to be popular, but because I don’t want to live in a world full of over stressed, chronically ill human beings.