‘A good walk spoiled’ is one of the most famous descriptions of the game of golf, attributed (wrongly) to Mark Twain, but I don’t think much could spoil anyone’s walk around a golf course as we started to emerge from lockdown last week.
All around the UK, private and public courses alike reported tee times booked up all day as enthusiasts took to the fairways again, looking to emulate their heroes.
And, with perfect timing, along comes The Masters this week to further whet golfers’ appetites and hopefully get as many people playing the sport as possible in the coming months.
Yet there are some in authority in the world of golf who seem a bit fearful for their beloved game right now.
The reason for this fear is one player, who appears to be re-inventing the game as we know it. His name: Bryson DeChambeau.
The 27-year-old is ranked fifth in the world and already has one major to his name (out of 17 majors played) – but it’s not what he has done in the past that is making the powers-that-be so afraid. It is what he is proposing to do…
DeChambeau, as has been well documented, has ‘beefed up’ to such an extent that he is threatening to win this week’s Masters by belting the ball that much further than any other golfer in the field. The way he has changed his physical appearance and the way he plays golf has led many to believe – himself included – that he can tear Augusta National apart. Although he has had the good grace to say that 68 would be a par score for him on the course now, as opposed to the 67 he claimed last year.
Is this bad news for the game? Not from where we are standing, at a grassroots level, at Sportside.
People talking about Bryson DeChambeau creates more column inches, more social media posts, more interaction with the game – and ultimately more people playing the sport. The last thing they need to be told at this moment is that golf doesn’t approve of someone coming along and trying to tear up the rule-book once in a while.
There was a time, not so many years ago, that people worried that Tiger Woods was going to be so powerful (both physically and metaphorically) in the game that that would lead the game down the wrong path.
The actual result was the most extraordinary boom time for the sport as people the world over – from all walks of life – decided to give the game a try.
Rewind a bit further still and see what some were saying about a certain Seve Ballesteros, who so sadly died 10 years ago next month, as he burst onto the scene in the late 70s and early 80s with his wondrous array of shots and his cavalier approach.
Golf has always needed its game changers to excite the crowds – and turn spectators into players to grow the game. Every sport needs them.
And golf clubs would do well to celebrate the fact up and down the country in Masters week this week.
It has been frustrating to hear that some members only clubs – despite not having all their tee times booked, are still not allowing any pay-and-play custom – and that others maintain an overly rigorous approach to when juniors can take to the fairways. Surely now is the time to open up and invite all newcomers in?
Golf Business magazine reported completed its own survey this year which highlighted three interesting trends since lockdown began 12 months ago.
The first was that the demand for nine-hole rounds of golf has far outstripped 18 in the last year. The number of rounds booked more than doubled in 2020 compared with 2019, and the format was, for the first time, played more by members of clubs than visitors.
Another, more dispiriting, finding was that golf course vandalism had soared. With empty golf courses and bored teenagers in communities, perhaps this was unsurprising and hopefully a trend that will die out now golfers are back on the fairways.
The survey also found that some councils have not grasped how strong the demand for golf now is, with some clubs not reopening on March 29 when they were allowed. Again, with the upsurge being felt as the first major of the year is played this week, we sincerely hope that all council courses will be opened for the public to enjoy.
And for those who don’t want their good walk spoiled – then there is no better time than to get out and do just that for Wednesday April 7 is National Walking Day.
It is celebrated on the first Wednesday of every April and this year shares its day with the World Health Organisation’s World Health Day.
National Walking Day is exactly that – a celebration of the easiest way to be healthy. Walking for thirty to sixty minutes per day can drastically improve your health and even help prevent ailments such as type II diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.
So whether you spoil it by stopping every now and again to hit a little white ball with an iron club, we at Sportside urge you all to get out there and have a good walk this week – and safely enjoy the next steps of the easing of lockdown.