Golf Industry Warrants Reality Check


The sheer volume of material in circulation about the state of the game of golf could wear a guy out. But it’s also occasionally annoying to note that most of it fails to suggest even obliquely that we might bear some responsibility for the industry’s instability. A modest example from the weekend.


My buddy Marty and I decided to get in one more round for the season, as the forecast was for a prolonged cold snap and Marty was shortly to undergo a bit of shoulder arthroscopy. We chose Columbia Country Club, a private course that, like many in the upstate New York area and elsewhere, has lately opened up to fairly reasonable ($50) daily fee traffic. It’s a pleasant, old-style layout dating to 1919, a fairly strenuous but manageable walk.


When we arrived at the deserted club, the pro, Marc, politely informed us that we wouldn’t be able to play as long as I wore blue jeans. As I explained to Marc, I have absolutely no problem with the dress-code concept and have cheerfully acceded to regulations – a couple of them downright goofy – at clubs around the world.


So great is my reverence for proper protocol, in fact, that I had already consulted Columbia’s website for dress code restrictions. This being a Friday, I was delighted to learn that “we are currently conducting a trial relaxing the dress policy for Thursdays and Fridays, and jeans are permitted…”


Yeah, said Marc, but you didn’t read the fine print, which stipulates that the clubhouse, also deserted, was the only place where blue jeans would be allowed. (Actually, it’s ambiguous, as the only could also refer to Thursdays and Fridays.) Marc remained adamant.


Ordinarily, we’d probably just go elsewhere, but many local courses are already closed; and since Marty’s place is a 10-minute drive, we decided on a quick costume change instead. I didn’t request clown pants or “high waters,” but that’s what I got from the slightly shorter Marty. We laughed about it and evinced no derogatory comments from the two other twosomes we glimpsed briefly during our round.


No doubt some will come down on the side of “a matter of principle” in the rigid adherence to the club’s dress code. My view is that common sense is surely a principle – or at least a virtue – more worthy of aspiration. Plus, it has the advantage of promoting collateral goals like attracting and accommodating more people.


Not to over-synthesize an admittedly trivial example, the incident begs a question that seems to resonate through much of the talk about “growing the game”: Is that really what we want or something we just say in acknowledging our financial concerns?


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