There are few sights more depressing than an abandoned golf course overgrown with weeds and the humiliation of neglect.
But the great boom that began with the rise of Arnold Palmer is clearly waning with the decline of Tiger Woods. No two players ever brought more charisma and enthusiasm to the game. Arnie has left us and Tiger’s best days are long gone.
A generation of public-course hackers who spent childhood days skinning kneecaps playing sandlot baseball and hopscotch, climbing trees and running with the wind — eventually learning golf — watches with concern as a new wave of ankle-biters chooses video games, hand-held devices of every sort, and listens to earplugs and nothing (and nobody) else.
The everyday golfers of tomorrow are out there, but are there enough of them to keep the game alive?
Golf may not be the most vigorous, robust of sports, but it does require getting up off one’s behind. You have to move around and you have to do it outdoors.
It also creates frustration and temper, but in dealing with those things golf creates character and, to a certain extent, vision and planning. Inasmuch as the sport requires — and thrives on — policing oneself, it also builds integrity, willpower and grit.
Simply put, golf is the greatest game on earth.
And you cannot master it on a computer on your butt. Or by walking into things because you’re dangerously, singularly focused on an expensive hand-held toy while listening to syncopated confusion in your ears.
The world tomorrow will be filled with artificial intelligence and, hopefully, brilliant minds who know what to do with it.
But sadly, there will be no Arnold Palmers or Tiger Woodses. And who knows? Golf may be played by robots or by a keyboard triggering animation on a screen.
Or maybe not at all.
Golf is not a perfect sport, but is there a perfect anything other than
politics, filled or partially so, by perfect idiots?
The sport has become so expensive that it can no longer claim to be a game the common people can enjoy often. But as traffic thins out on the links, upkeep and maintenance must continue. And it ain’t cheap.
As far as the professional tour goes, a wave of mostly faceless and nameless champions hardly inspires a sea of emerging stars of the future.
And we might as well be honest about it, there are few inner city courses and a scarcity of superstar talent to motivate, energize and convert the always-teeming tide of young basketball talent in this country. College and professional basketball is dominated by magnificent players from the poor side of town.
When kids from those neighborhoods show up on a golf course, it’s usually to carry somebody else’s clubs.
Golf promoters and all who love it need to find a way to invest in the future by taking the game to kids everywhere, urban and suburban, big city, small town and reservation.
By convincing them a walk from tee to fairway to green is more fun than hiding inside a noisy, flashing, beeping, bleeping world of claptrap make-believe, perhaps a new nation of golfers can emerge.
In my very low-level playing days, there were times I wished for a nice depression when overcrowded courses would have fewer people who stood over a putt till they turned to salt. A hearty recession sounded pretty good, to thin out the ranks of maniacs behind you who demanded to play through so they could do the same thing to the slower group ahead of you — and the still slower one
ahead of them.
Maybe I wished too hard, along with a few million who felt the same.
But golf has slipped too far. It needs a new Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Lee Trevino, Billy Casper, Johnny Miller, Tom Watson, Ben Crenshaw, Tiger Woods. And on and on.
And it needs to continue efforts to attract youngsters from all neighborhoods ...
Before the fairways and greens of our land are covered with tumbleweed and brambles.
Corky Simpson is a veteran journalist who writes a monthly column for the Green Valley News.