I realized why I had so much fun: The rules and boundaries were being adjusted so I could be competitive.
At the end of May, I played in the KemperSports event at the Glen Club in Glenview, Ill. It’s one of the clubs Kemper owns or manages, and everything about it was done in a first-class way. The forecaddies knew what they were doing, the course amenities and refreshments were outstanding, and the cocktails and dinner afterwards were top of the line. This is an annual event where Kemper invites a hundred or so local people connected to the golf community. And I had a great time.
(It should be noted that when Dan Ramella and I started Club & Resort Business in 2005, I was a 17 handicap. Seven years later, I am now a 21. So much for having a golf magazine and access to some of the greatest courses in America.)
One of the reasons I had fun at the Kemper event was that the tournament rules stated I could use the silver tees instead of the blue tees if I was 65 or over. When we teed off, I debated whether or not to take advantage of the rule because a) I wanted to be macho and act like I wasn’t 67, and b) I didn’t want an artificial advantage, even if the chances of winning were remote. But I soon said nuts to that and teed off from the silver tees, which gave me about an average 20-yard differential. And boy, am I glad I did. I was competitive on the drives, played with confidence (and still lost), and all in all, thoroughly enjoyed my golf game. And I realized why I had so much fun: The rules and boundaries were being adjusted so I could be competitive.
I play golf just about every weekend in the summer and the last few years, I have been ready to stop at about the 15th or 16th hole (never, however, when I am shooting a good score). This has led me to think about some of the things that may revolutionize the game and revitalize it for younger and older players alike.
Innovations that the PGA, USGA and other groups have sanctioned, such as “play it forward,” which encourages players to match course lengths and the tees they play to their average driving distances, are helping to make the game fun again. This is true not only for duffers (for which I certainly qualify), but also to help attract new players of all ages who find many 18-hole courses, and the four-and-a-half hours they require, too daunting.
The best part about this trend is that some of the real icons in the game are saying and doing the same thing:
- Jack Nicklaus, in Golf Digest last year, suggested that we look at shortened courses and fewer holes.
- Mike Keiser has put his money where his mouth is and built a 13-hole, par-3 course at Bandon Dunes, called “the Preserve,” that he’s made every bit as beautiful and breathtaking as Bandon Dunes, Pacific Dunes, Bandon Trails and Old Macdonald.
No one has to play golf, and if we want to build the game, it has to be fun. Moves like this are making fun legitimate—and I, for one, am encouraged.