Golf needs a positive plan of attack that’s not from the seat of our pants

It is the weekend of the final tournament of the PGA Tour season, the Tour Championship, the one for the FedEx Cup. That should have been the news.

But what really interested the TV people was why Jason Dufner was letting his caddie take his ball out of the hole. Was his back sore? Was he trying to emulate Jordan Spieth’s now famous “Go get that!” gesture at The Open Championship?

Nope. Neither. Dufner had split his pants.

Sure, it was worth a laugh or two, but it got me thinking: Dufner was embarrassed – the same word that seems to keep coming up when people tell me why they’ve stopped playing golf.

They’re not worried about anyone seeing their underwear. They’re petrified about someone seeing them exposed in another way. They associate golf with failure, and they have all the failure they can handle in their lives. They want to be fail safe.

It has been drilled into our heads for years that golf is hard.

Think of all the TV commercials you’ve seen where someone playing golf is hitting one bad shot after another or being disappointed in some way. Many times, those same ads show the actor chucking his clubs into a pond or just storming off.

I think back to an old “Mr. Tweedy” comic strip that showed the lovable loser discovering that his perfect shot had landed on the cutout of where the hole was the previous day.

I’ll bet if you asked 10 people what word comes to mind first when they think of golf, three of the answers would be difficult, maddening and frustrating.

We’ve got to change this perception. We need a culture shift, and it starts with those of us who adore our great game. If we aren’t talking it up, who will?

I find it interesting that some people shy away from golf even though they once played baseball, where even a good hitter succeeds only three out of 10 times.

They are concerned about looking foolish on the golf course, but as teenagers they ran around a basketball court in short pants and ran the risk of missing the game-deciding free throw, with everyone in the gym staring at them.

They played football, where you might get pancaked by an opposing player or give up the game-winning touchdown.

They thought nothing of doing these things in front of thousands of people. They are natural athletes, but they also have the right attitude for succeeding in sports. They are positive, driven and seemingly impenetrable mentally.

Except when it comes to hitting a golf ball consistently well.

But here’s the thing: How many people do you usually have watching you on the golf course? The answer, most of the time, is three unless the group behind you is waiting for you to tee off.

Have we gotten so sensitive, we’re concerned that three people – probably all friends or family – are going to think less of us because we hit a bad shot? Really? (Especially when you consider that they might step up and do the exact same thing.)

This negative thinking drives me crazy. If you’re playing in a group that makes you feel that way, maybe you’re playing in the wrong group. Maybe you should be in a group that’s more supportive – a group that celebrates your good shots (you WILL have some) and sympathizes with your errant ones.

I’m sick of TV ads that negatively depict our great game, and if I could run an ad campaign for golf I’d try to present messages that show a sport that’s clean, fresh, wholesome and just plain fun.

That’s Marketing 101, but it’s not stretching the truth at all. There’s magic in this game, and there should be magic in the message.

So go ahead and laugh along with everyone else when a pro has an embarrassing moment on the course. Dufner’s air-conditioned trousers were funny. But whenever someone tells you that they can’t play golf because it’s just too hard, be sure to tell them what they’re missing.

They’re missing the point. And they’re missing out.


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