Sunday, July 22, 2012

Golf and Banality

No fun
The British Open (or "The Open", as the Brits like to call it) is drawing to a conclusion, and there's some disappointment amongst the great and the good that the wind hasn't really blown, the rain hasn't fallen, and whatever wind has actually blown has not been of the prevailing disposition.  All in all, it's been a very ordinary golf course, although at least the bunkers have provided some variability.  And therein lies the crux of it.

American golf, driven by the sponsors, has become more and more dull and mechanical as sponsors and brands have increasingly driven out variability from the game.  Few significant competitions are played in difficult weather; bunkers are generally benign; and "the rough" is more like the fairway at my local club.  Technology in clubs and balls has accelerated to be more forgiving, sports psychologists minimise the yips, and the game becomes less of a lottery and more of a predictable "event".  And the more predictable it becomes, the easier it is for brands to invest.

The majors - at least the British and US Opens, along with the American PGA (but not the US Masters at Augusta) - are the exception, usually.  They command excitement because they introduce genuine variability, with courses the pros aren't used to playing, often in conditions they're not used to playing in either.  I played Lahinch once, probably the best course I ever played, and I think I learned that day what golf should be.  It's not just a statistics game, a yardage game, a technical project.  It's about feel, sensation, variety, and agility.  Not just strength, accuracy, and execution. It's about fun, and living, not just about work, and scoring.  That's why Tiger fell from grace - he's all work and scoring (no pun intended), and doesn't - still! - know how to live, and have fun.

No comments: