Why are people walking away from golf?

Why are people walking away from golf

As an industry, golf really needs not only to ask this question but spend some time trying to find the real answers.

We have all heard that it takes too long, we have family and work commitments, it costs too much, people aren’t getting any better and no longer enjoying the game. The reasons are many and varied.

While there is no denying that a round of golf can take a ridiculously long time, I don’t really see that as justification for not playing ever again and there is a solution, get a move on!

Golf equipment is expensive but it has never been cheap. Yes people have family and work commitments but hasn’t that always been the case?

If we are to believe manufacturers of golf clubs and balls, the game has never been easier to play. Add in all the social media posts from players and “coaches” alike showing how much improvement player A or student B has made – “look at this position”, you would think we should all be world beaters by now.

Sadly that isn’t the case. Despite better equipment, facilities and technology, golfers on the whole are not getting any better. Worse than that, it would appear people are waking away from the game at an alarming rate.

Results from a recently conducted study in Sweden discovered that the real reason people were putting their clubs away for good (or on eBay) is that they weren’t good enough. I can’t say for sure but I would hazard a guess that Swedes are not unique in that respect.

(Incidentally, the Swedish PGA and Golf Federation have since restructured their coaching philosophy to pay more attention to shots than and human skills swings and participation over perfection.) Well done Sweden!

Who is telling these people they aren’t good enough? Are they reaching that conclusion on their own? Unlikely. So who is to blame?

Perhaps the people or system or culture who are responsible for “teaching / coaching / instructing” them?

As far as I am aware, no one has pointed the finger in that direction thus far. I am not saying for a second that all golf coaching and coaches are bad, far from it. There are some exceptional golf coaches out there.

Unfortunately, there are some pretty poor ones out there as well. When I was growing up and learning to play this great game, you could name all the real, full time coaches in the country on two hands at most. Nowadays, everyone who has access to an iPhone, launch monitor and a range mat is a coach and has their own Academy (which in reality is more often than not, a bay at a driving range).

I recently saw that someone who has just finished their PGA training course is now an “Elite Performance Coach”, claiming to be able to help players of all abilities from beginners to Tour Pros. As impressive as that sounds, they cannot possibly have the knowledge and or experience required to be able to fulfil these fanciful claims.

In addition to the aforementioned iPhone, range mat, launch monitor and “Academy” it would appear one other necessity that no coach worth their salt can do without is a multitude of social media channels to show off how great they are. They use these to post swings and positions of “their players” alongside swing speed numbers and congratulatory messages on great results.

Are they really posting these to congratulate a student on their success or are they using their social media posts to pat themselves on the back? Never has the phrase “Self praise is no praise” been so relevant.

Google golf instruction, coaching, swings or whatever you are looking for, there are literally thousands of golf instructors claiming to have the silver bullet for your every woe.

The number of video tutorials is truly mind boggling. All claiming to have the fix for your fault, the remedy for your pain. They are generally conflicting, complicated, confusing and dare I say by and large crap.

Only last week I heard of an “elite performance coach” (a self appointed title obviously) telling a student to do all sorts of things with his ankles, knees, pelvis etc… which would help get the player’s eyes and various other body parts level through impact – figure that one out.

There was something missing there – at no point did this “elite” coach ask – the player what his intention was for the shot. Surely that has to be established in any coaching / learning session?

Over and above that, there was no mention of the golf club or the golf ball. Call me old fashioned but I would have thought that every single shot ever played on a golf course has involved a club and a ball?!

That being the case, when searching for the “secret” or “magic move” to protect you from bad golf, start by asking better questions.

My good friend and co-author of The Lost Art Of Putting and The Lost Art Of Playing Golf, Karl Morris and I are firm believers in the power of questions. In fact Graeme McDowell, recent winner on the European Tour and a long time client of Karl’s suggested that “Questions are indeed the answer.” Wise man is Graeme.

Stop asking yourself or anyone who is prepared to listen “what is wrong with my swing?” and start asking “what is wrong with my shots?”

Ask about your swing and you will be bombarded with opinions. Ask about your shots and you will be presented with facts.

Be careful about the questions you ask and even more careful about selecting the right person or people you ask these questions.

If you ask any coach what you are doing wrong and they don’t ask about your intention, your thoughts or attention or mention the club and ball, my advice would be to say thanks and walk away. You might just save yourself a lot of time, money and grief and perhaps more importantly, you might not throw your clubs on eBay or in a lake.

Please keep playing and enjoying the greatest game and if in doubt seek out the best advice possible. Coaching is all about the player, not about the coach. I was told many years ago that to be a great coach, you should always prioritise the player’s best interest over your own personal gain. As always, you have a choice, choose wisely.

Gary Nicol, co-author with Karl Morris of the best selling books – The Lost Art Of Putting and The Lost Art Of Playing Golf.