This year has just been different, as the headlines today have become centered around the business and the money of the game. As we follow the game of golf we cannot overlook or overcome the transformative dollars being mentioned in every single facet of this ‘gentleman’s’ game, which leads me to ask. “Has the ‘game’ of golf outgrown the ability to grow the game?
Let me be perfectly clear up front, I am not against any individual profiting from their abilities to earn a rate that is available in the marketplace. I am aware of the issues within the professional game that have caused considerable discord when one takes a stance on one side or the other. I also understand that an evolving marketplace is inevitable – this is a global game literally whereas the other major sports leagues based in the US may have foreign-born players golf has championships contested offshore that are integral to the legacy of the sport. The issue today is rooted in the most fundamental aspect of economics, supply and demand.
It has become obvious that the supply of money flowing into the game from ALL sources is more than the game has ever seen. Professional players are now earning purses, annual winnings, and career income at historic record levels. Due to the pandemic players that had more to do and weren’t getting out for their regular foursomes have come back in large numbers along with newbies who have long been interested in golf but now view getting outside and being around friends is a valuable usage of time after enduring the dreaded ‘Q’ word.
In many instances, a bucket of range balls has gone up in price, and the latest golf shoes for those who believe in looking good from head to toe are pushing $300 a pair. All these examples equate to the demand for golf increasing, yet there is also an undercurrent of supply and demand that many do not account for which is the increasing supply of money in the game making the demand amongst those with access push out those who don’t have access.
The existing efforts at hand to grow the game of golf are happening at multiple levels. Youth are an obvious starting point, while tours in Canada, Latin America and the APGA are now sponsored by the PGA of America. When collegiate players can now sign on for multi-million guaranteed money deals one has to expect that the upcoming ranks of junior golfers will be highly populated by those who have the ability at the early levels to afford the coaching, equipment and courses necessary to make strides toward cashing in. One must wonder if the game of ‘money golf’ is even relevant to the masses or has the financial evolution made the game appear to be for none other than the funded elite.
If attention is not given to the current direction of the game, golf could end up with the type of issues that now affect Major League Baseball. You know what I’m speaking to, and you know the questions as to why MLB no longer has a growing contingent of African American ballplayers following in the footsteps of Jackie Robinson. It starts at the youth level and baseball is now considered an expensive sport due to the cost of equipment and the travel baseball element that allows players to develop their skills against the best players throughout the country. In the same decade that MLB has been trying to build for its future players the game it has also seen hundred-million-dollar salaries, and work stoppages all over discussions of money.
The caretakers of golf have got to be careful, vigilant and steadfast to the mission of growing the game. There are questions today regarding the direction and delivery of assets to place golf in the hands of the masses. If the focus becomes solely about the money that is earned at the highest level, this game could really become stale and nothing more than a traveling billionaire boys club of matches. Even worse, the lack of a diverse younger generation to populate the professional ranks at some point will cause the viewership to fall and sponsors left to question if investing in the game provides the return they are looking for.