Traveling in my trusty, imaginary time machine, I have just returned from a quick tour of golf a century from now. Here’s what I found.
First, I discovered a very few people trained to be professional athletes and they were bigger, faster, and stronger than most anyone playing sports today – truly something to behold. They were schooled in the field of entertainment and adept at pleasing their audience, though they never make any political or social statements with their play. Thus they commanded large government fees for sharing their lives with their fans through sophisticated communication devises – almost becoming virtual family members with their fans. (They were no taxes for them.) This included “elite golfers” who the government included with other “sports ambassadors.”
These elite golfers played a ball that travels much shorter, but they are still able to hit it nearly 300 yards in simulated conditions or outside on the few occasions they play there. (This ball was initially developed for The Masters many years earlier.) Everyone else has become more sedentary. Medicine has resolved obesity and diabetes, but with people able to manifest any informational or visual experience instantly on a wall or a piece of cloth, there is little incentive to walk, let along run. Why travel when the world comes to you?
Recreational golf is almost entirely played in sophisticated simulators and the percentage of the total population that plays this has grown. There are simulators in places of worship, food dispensaries, and in the any places where one might have to wait. As a result, for nearly four decades, indoor simulated 3-D golf has overtaken outdoor golf courses. This happened as land, water, social, and political pressures rendered the outdoor use of such large, precious properties for the few an unacceptable tradeoff. Indoor golf was run by the government, which was also the sole supplier of equipment. (The United States Golf Association apparently dissolved in the latter 2070s, as did many other sports governing organizations.)
The game is marketed as a “wonderful social and health interaction for citizens” as the simulated golf includes therapeutic rejuvenating light frequencies, filtered smog-free healthy breezes, and whatever weather conditions the golfer desires. Golfers can call up a crisp autumn morning in the mid-latitudes or a humid day in the tropics, but are never threatened by lightning. Sun and Vitamin D intensity can be dialed in minus the harmful ultra-violet waves. Soothing aromatherapy in the form of salt air to complement a links golf or azalea and dogwood are just a few of many options to accompany your round. Advanced mineral and vitamin supplements, and calming prescription agents approved by the State are misted into the golfing booths. Soothing bird noises, rustling leaves, and ocean waves can be ordered, but all come with subliminal messages from the government.
The government’s Health Services Department oversaw golf and anyone was eligible to enjoy the facilities for free in return for a few hours of surveillance monitoring or other volunteer service to the State. (All services were electronically monitored, as there was no money exchanged.) Competitions were devised between different clubs or individuals via social networks, and in lieu of community service, play could be purchased in lots of 15-minute intervals, but anything more than 90 minutes was rare. Approximately 30% of golfers could play in their homes and that number was expected to double in the next ten years as the technology would make the price more affordable and the government wanted less congestion in public places.
Scoring was handled automatically, and the machines dictate the rules of play so that the participant doesn’t have to know or worry about them. This eliminates cheating. Thanks to GPS data chips inserted into every newborn baby, a complete history of play and pay for every person at every simulated course over their lifetime is immediately available to anyone – virtually eliminating “sandbagging.” It also allowed the government to know exactly play occurred and where new simulators would be needed.
The visual experiences of these simulators were amazing and I was able to re-visit and play many of the masterpiece golf courses of the first-half of the 21st century before they began to rapidly disappear. As a matter of law, all of the less than 900 outdoor golf courses that still remained were required to be duplicated for simulation so that all citizens could enjoy them.
Speaking of golf courses, several of the St. Andrews golf courses including the venerable Old Course were lost to the North Sea as were several along the US Atlantic seaboard and the Caribbean. Most of the multiple-course clubs such as Merion, Los Angeles CC, Olympic Club, and Winged Foot were been long ago forced to close one of their courses while most of the other courses simply disappeared. By actual count there were fewer than 900 outdoor golf courses that exist throughout the World. Those that do are well guarded and are the preserves of the very wealthy and powerful heads of the worldwide government. Government taxes for outdoor golf are high and the annual cost of belonging is in excess of $5 million (2010 dollars). It was anticipated that by 2150, there would be less than fifty American golf courses, though that was debatable because the leaders of the government are usually the only outdoor course members.
Professional golf was funded by subscriptions and visually streamed to all sorts of communication devises that included body parts and implants as well as walls. For about two decades there was a tussle between the PGA TOUR and the INDOOR TOUR, but this disappeared with the disappearance of outdoor golf courses and became a moot point once the Government took over, not wanting the game to perish. Now the Masters at Augusta National remained the only outdoor event played in the Western Hemisphere due to the fact that its members essentially control the Government. Interestingly the already mentioned “Masters Ball” was still very much alive as the standard in the simulators as well due to the overwhelming power and influence of its members who were akin to the aristocratic elite controlling world trade and government and destroying those who might oppose them through their iron-fisted control of the media.
Most of the other few outdoor events were played in Africa and Asia. The LPGA and the PGA TOUR were both swallowed up by the Sports & Recreation Department, which has also taken over the Ryder Cup and PGA Indoor Championships. (The PGA of America and Golf Course Superintendents Associations disappeared with the closure of most of the golf courses approximately 40-50 years earlier.)
Interestingly, the Government did maintain a Golf Hall of Fame, but only a small section is devoted to the outdoor game and that only extended to the Masters tournament. Youngsters are quick to point to Datar, Woolfey, and BlackWhite who have both won all the indoor championships, but will stare blankly at the mention of men who had not won the Masters and women. The names of Morris, Vardon, Hagen, Wright, Whitworth, Zaharias, Sorenstam, and Berg were available with advanced archival research, but I could not find a single “expert” that even knew a thing about them.
Women also still played the game professionally and in fine style might I add. That said, I came away with the distinct impression that they must have passed through a process akin to Hollywood casting because they all looked like Angelina Jolie or her counterparts around the World. While they played for their own purses, they played for the exact same amounts of money as the men. With people living much longer, the Champions Tour was dissolved decades earlier and it is presumed that in the next few years there would be 100-year old men and women athletes competing at the highest levels. This proved a boom to the women’s game with the remarkable and charismatic 93-year old Pixy Fish still combining her skills as the all-time women’s tournament winner with 112 victories with being one of the world’s best regarded dancer/singers. She was still hitting the ball as far as the 25-year olds. On a side note, with people living past 200, there were not only economic concerns, but also how might these new “middle-aged” folks adjust for such a long remainder of their life.
I would tell folks about the 1960s and 70s when people would actually trek several miles outside around a golf course, often through all kinds of weather, and actually speak, joke, and cajole their playing partners. I would recount how weather could cancel rounds or impact the very condition of the courses themselves. People were fascinated to learn that there were people who sole job was to maintain a golf course or that there were dozen of companies that manufactured golf equipment. They would laugh when they learn that clubs were made from trees or that anything but a good strike would put a “smile” on the golf ball rendering them useless. They were amazed at a ball retriever, a shag bag, and a pull-cart for what possible use could they have?
Sure those 3-D simulators were pretty amazing, and their superstars Datar and BlackWhite were as exciting as Arnie and Annika, but I am glad that I lived in an era during the 1960s and 1970s when golf was still natural, walkable, and a fun, fast outdoor experience.