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Golf bag

I was laundering two weeks of clothes when I noticed something crazy. Nearly everything in my golf wardrobe is pink. My bag, my shoes, my clothes for the past two weeks––all pink. I even have club grips that bear the pink breast cancer logo. I deliberately added the grips in homage to my mother, a breast cancer survivor, but the rest of the pink explosion just sort of happened.

Even if you care nothing for golf, you’ll see the social significance of what’s going on in the sport. Golf is in a lot of trouble these days, in part because Americans like golf the same way we like our clothes and food––easy, cheap and fast. Two articles, this one and this one, explain why some people in the U.S. golf industry think it’s time to dumb-down the game. Personally, I think some of these proposals are heresies, but who am I to say?

Shake N’ Bake Golf

On the grounds these new versions of golf could draw more people and revitalize the game, even Jack Nicklaus doesn’t object. The problem, he says, is that Tiger made traditional golf look so easy. Younger generations thought it was like Shake N’ Bake. When they tried golf and realized they couldn’t easily achieve the same results, they weren’t intrigued. They were frustrated and soon lost interest.

Amidst all this is a set of elite players who want to increase green speeds. Their desire is pushing courses to achieve speed at the expense of turf health, especially on grand old courses built in the 1920s and 1930s. The experts who maintain golf courses say these vintage courses lack the correct architecture for fast greens. Besides that, bowing to the demand for faster greens is like giving assisted suicide to a patient who is already on life support. (Learn why by reading this, this or this—a series of articles and tips I wrote for golf course maintenance professionals.)

Call me a crabby old geezer, but I object to both trends––faster greens and a dumbed-down game that’s more appealing to “the masses.” Originally, I wrote a long post to explain what’s at stake, and then thought, “Not another long post. Remember, the world wants fast and easy.”

golf shirts

So I’ll get right to the point. Golf is a character-building game that’s as cruel as it is beautiful. I don’t regret anything about the time or money I’ve spent on golf, despite how difficult the game is or how poorly I play. I only wish I had discovered it sooner. By now, I’d be a much better person.

There’s a rule in golf—play the ball as it lies. What that means is that there aren’t many circumstances where you can move your ball to a better position just because you feel like it. That’s what makes the traditional game one of life’s best training grounds for handling adversity.

A lot of people seem to think that golf as we know it will soon be relegated to traditional people. (READ: old people.) Those of us who cling to that game will be considered elitists. That’s hardly how I’d like to be defined, but that’s not my real beef.

I’m sorry for generations of kids who won’t know the thrill of chipping a shot into a tiny hole from 20 feet off the green or getting a hole-in-one. I’m even sorrier that many kids will miss an opportunity to develop the mental stamina and grace to recover from their own lousy shots. I’m no expert on kids, but I know this much: it’s a tremendous disservice to give them the idea that a cushy life is the ultimate goal. What will they do when they are called to suffer?

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pink Sweater
It’s been a while since I shared the latest news on the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pink Sweater, a cooperative project with my friend and fellow blogger Jody DeFord, who just so happens to be a veteran golfer. An entire year of fundraising to benefit local breast cancer patients will soon come to a close. Wouldn’t you like to know where the sweater has been?

For an update on the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pink Sweater project, stay tuned to Jody’s blog and mine. Meanwhile, you can track its progress here. And, since we’re in the home stretch of this fundraising campaign, please help us finish strong by making a donation to The Pink Ribbon Connection, the non-profit organization we’re sponsoring.

Have you ever been tempted to give up something you love because you weren’t any good at it? Or do you apply yourself even more when something is difficult? My personal philosophy on golf probably won’t surprise you: if you can’t play well, at least try to look good doing it.

Life is short. Wear the good stuff.