Ivan Morris – Golf's future seems to be uncertain

Ivan Morris – Golf's future seems to be uncertain

How could anybody dream of criticizing an exemplary young man like World No. 1 Jordan Spieth? Even his mild, outbursts of temper on the golf course are endearing.

They mainly consist of him slapping his thigh or talking severely to his golf ball in the royal 'we.' By far his biggest fault is a tendency to be fidgety and too deliberate when making on-course decisions but not as soon as he decides to hit his shot. 

Only 500-players worldwide can make a comfortable living playing golf professionally. At the increasing rate that 20-year olds burst their way onto the scene these days, it means that the old guard are pushed off the edge of the cliff more quickly than ever before.

That's good up to a point but it's not all good. A lack of familiarity due to shorter careers damages the marketability of the game. Fans have been known to turn off their TVs if they see too many unfamiliar faces on leaderboards.

We all like a bit of familiarity. Besides, and far more serious and threatening is the fact that there is a growing trend that more and more coverage of 'everything' is moving to YouTube channels on larger screens.

That means a massive shift from domestic TV to the likes of Netflix, Amazon and YouTube. It would make you wonder where all the sport on TV, let alone golf, will be seen in our homes in 10-years time?

Do you think I'm exaggerating? Anyone remember Ceefax? There was a time when I relied entirely on Ceefax for my up-to-the-minute sports news. Where's Ceefax now? We are where we are and it is what is!

When fans watch golf these days, they can reach for their smartphone to see what is being said on Twitter or Facebook about what is being played out right before their eyes. I remember a time when TV was black and white. I can remember when there was no TV, for heavens sakes.

Technology is changing people's habits at a dizzying rate. If audiences are finding new ways to watch sport, the advertisers and sponsors will follow. If golf as we know it disappears from out TV screens where will the mega bucks that drive the pro tours come from?

Leaving the pro game aside, golf’s future seems uncertain. Club membership numbers are shrinking and golf courses are closing. Jordan and Rory could be among the game's last superstars.

Many experts whine that the golf ball has contributed to making the game too hard, too expensive and too slow (because it takes so long to complete 18-holes.) The golf industry (as it likes to call itself) responds with silly gimmicks like foot golf, enlarged cups and simulators. The game is difficult, pricey and time-consuming but there is a more insidious danger; one that has infiltrated every aspect of our lives and it is bad for us! It’s the Internet!

This may seem like a curmudgeonly argument, but take a moment to consider the extent to which the Internet has invaded every facet of our lives. What’s the first thing that many of us do when we get up in the morning or before we go to bed?

When we are waiting for something, which could be anything, a cup of coffee or watching our children (Or grandchildren) at play? Mobile Internet access is destroying the most vital traits necessary for living let alone golf: patience, concentration, focus and the willingness to interact with others. A lot of golf is played with 'others.'

Everyone has become more impatient, more distracted, and more self-absorbed. Is it any wonder that young people say they are not interested in golf? The idea of walking around in the fresh air for four hours (often with strangers) without using one's phone freaks them out.

Why would anyone “waste” that much time when there is so much to be done?

In Nicholas Carr’s chilling book, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to our Brains, he argues that the Internet is rewiring our neural pathways and we are experiencing the world differently from our predecessors.

Specifically, we’re conditioned to crave instant gratification, distraction, and artificial light. Such habits are leading us away from a scary place (like golf) where silence isn’t golden and nothing is worth waiting for. In today's age, it's hard for 20-somethings to avoid social media that makes them temperamentally unsuitable for golf.

It's scary that I have no idea how something I am passionate about 'saving' can cope with social media and technology.

Let me finish by repeating something I wrote here a few weeks ago: I have seen too many industries put out of business during my lifetime due to 'new technology' and I fear that it will be the fate of the game that I love within two generations too.

It won't be the technology of the game's equipment that will apply the final blows but the technology of the Internet and all that comes with it.

Words of the Wise

Whenever there is a carry offered, two things are essential. First, there must be a way around the obstacle for those who are unwilling to accept the risk, and there must be a reward awaiting those who take the chance successfully. Without an alternative route the situation is unfair; without reward, it is meaningless - Bobby Jones.