Growing the game. A phrase mentioned quite a bit in golf over the last few years by the ruling bodies with various activities and plans in place to assist in this. Getting golf back into the Olympic Games, highlighting the sport on a World stage, was one with the hope more people would take it up. This lead to controversy where some professionals decided not to go saying it was not there responsibility to ‘grow the game’.
Augusta National started the ‘drive chip and putt’ competition, aiming to get younger children involved in the game. This has taken on a life of its own and seems quite successful.
I had my own ‘growing the game’ moment a few weeks ago. Heading down to my local municipal course for some late afternoon practice, I was teamed up with another pair. I quickly learned they had never touched a golf club in their life and were apologising before we had even started. My response ‘we all have to start somewhere’. We all go through the same thing. Nothing to be sorry about’. How bad could it be?
That soon became very apparent with topped balls, shots going sideways. Within two holes we had let three groups through already. There wasn’t going to be much meaningful practice today. I don’t like to tell people how to play, but today was going to be a little bit different. After assisting both these newcomers with a couple of simple changes in alignment and stance, there were some half decent shots being hit. Some of the rules and etiquette were discussed, not to complicate but to explain how the game is played.
I have played with quite a few people over the years who would have exploded being put in this situation. They have no tolerance for people not playing to their standard or moving too slow. I’m sure playing with such people would be enough to scare away anyone starting out. I remember first starting to play, at the time with family and friends and how encouraging they were. So that was my aim, to make sure they felt comfortable and enjoyed the game. By the end the two newcomers were extremely appreciative of the help, claiming they couldn’t wait to get back to play again.
This might not have been some major effort, but it sure felt very satisfying. Knowing that these two players had a great time and would be back did help growing the game just that little bit however.