Each week we ask our panel of writers, PGA members and golf industry experts to weigh in with their views on the hot topics of the day.
Augusta National Chairman Fred Ridley recently spoke about the upcoming Masters and various changes to this year’s event that include no patrons, cancellation of the Par 3 Contest, a split tee start to accommodate shorter days, the ability to curate and view your own featured groups and the inclusion of a College Football Game Day show. Are any of these changes significant and will they make a difference to players or fans once the tournament starts on Thursday morning?
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): Sounds to me like they’re mostly one-time-only changes, although the “view your own featured groups” thing might be very popular, and therefore permanent. I’ve got to hand it to Augusta… who ever would’ve thought they’d be the most proactive force for innovative thinking in the game, as they have been for a few years now?
Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): Just give me the Masters, that’s all I need. Did I ever sit down and watch the whole par 3 contest? Nope, saw some clips, looks like fun. Will I miss it this year? Nope. Do I care about College Football Game day? Has nothing to do with the Masters, do I need it? Nope. Will I watch because of it? Nope. I watch the Masters for the course, and the players and watching the tournament unfold. That’s it. It’s that simple. I don’t need anything else. And I’ll be glued to the TV every round until Sunday’s Champ gets his jacket. So, I don’t see any of these items on the agenda significantly impacting the tournament, people watch it because it’s the Masters, full stop.
Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame member, PGA of Canada: Nothing will replace The Masters as the ‘alarm clock’ announcing the arrival of Spring. Fred Ridley can pipe the sounds of cheering crowds through the speakers normally reserved to replicate chirping birds, but he cannot replace the heavy green pollen that coats your throat and lungs for days after a Springtime visit. However, once the ceremonial tee shots are struck all distractions will disappear.
TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): The only thing that will make any difference is the lack of patrons. Although that will likely help many players. The split tee is interesting because 10-12 is a much tougher start than 1-3, but everyone has to do it once, so there’s no advantage to anyone. It’s going to have a different feel, but I’m excited to watch it, nonetheless.
Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: I bet Finau’s happy about the Par 3 cancellation, or at least his ankle is. None of this icing is going to change The Masters in any long-lasting way, but the 20-30 somethings might like the featured groups curating for betting. The split tees will affect the players more than anything. Starting on 10 is not going to feel right, especially for first time qualifiers. Feel sorry for them.
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): It’s all unnecessary distraction. While I enjoy the Par 3 contest, I won’t really miss it once the tournament starts and I have no idea what College Game Day is and frankly, couldn’t care less. Just cue the schmalzy music and let Jim Nantz do his thing. It’s the Masters. I can’t wait.
We Are Golf just released its latest Economic Impact of Golf in Canada study (2019) showing that the industry generates $18.2 billion in GDP spending, a 14% increase over the last study in 2014. The industry also employs 150,000 people directly and another 100,000 indirectly, which makes golf a pretty sizeable contributor to the Canadian economy. Do you think golf gets the recognition it deserves for its economic impact and employment of so many people? Or if not, why not? Note: You can view the study here: https://fairwaysgolf.ca/2020/11/02/we-are-golf-releases-economic-impact-of-golf-in-canada-2019/
Deeks: I will read the report, promise. But to answer the question, no I don’t think golf is understood or appreciated for its impact on the economy, or sports in general. To the vast majority of non-players, who make up the vast majority of people, golf is still an elitist, snobby game, in which “knocking a ball around a field” is considered downright silly. Infidels, they are!!
Loughry: Golf is not seen as the juggernaut it is, the golf industry in general needs to do a better job of telling this and many other stories. The health (mental and physical) benefits and the economic benefits far outweigh any other narrative naysayers try and drum up. Its just that group is a LOUD minority voice that helps garner interest in the media to sell news/ads, etc.
Schurman: Over the past 15 years or so the golf industry has been granted a better recognition of its contributions, but it wasn’t always like that. In 1972, the Ontario Government organized a Commission to review ‘Fair Market Tax Assessments’. I registered the be heard and was granted a hearing which I attended, testified and delivered my written synopsis. Only one other person from the Golf Industry made a presentation. Everything changed with the advent of the Course Owners Association, which now provides information to its members, develops a coordinated effort and financial backing. One big loss that has come over time is the reduction in the number of fundraising charity events which used to raise $M’s and were a ton of fun!
Rule: It’s important to note that this study does not take into account the significant increase in golf participation in 2020 due to the pandemic. So, these numbers would likely be higher now, and perhaps that is what will get golf the recognition it deserves, given the lack of other activities permitted during this crazy year. It’s hard to quantify those numbers against other sports and activities without knowing their numbers, but it’s impressive to see the number of people that are involved in the game nationwide. Golf is in a good place.
Quinn: Pandemic days (I do a couple a week at North Van GolfTown) have given me a new (late-coming) appreciation of that economic impact. As mentioned before, sales numbers are amazing to a newbie to retailing, and so is the enthusiasm of folks of all ages getting into and loving golf. The only complaint has been that it’s almost impossible to get a tee time at the Vancouver munis and public/semi-private courses. No, the game does not get the recognition it has earned on so many fronts because it is still used as an easy political ‘elitist’ target, a label long past its best before date.
Mumford: I think golf gets a bad rap in this regard for two reasons. The first is that golf isn’t really one big business, it’s thousands of small businesses which are important locally but not on a national scale like a bank, a big mining conglomerate or retail chain. The second reason is that golf is considered unnecessary; it’s a leisure past-time; it’s not serious business. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth, especially for the quarter million people whose livelihood depends on the sport, but that’s the perception. It’s easily dismissed by non-golfers.
As someone once said, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.” What’s the best piece of golf apparel you ever owned?
Deeks: I’m sure if I could find a photo of myself playing golf in the 70s, I’d have a very suitable answer for you. I just shudder when I think of playing golf for 6-7 years wearing bell bottoms with garish colours and large patterns… and shirts with 747-wing collars. But for some reason, in the early 60s, I thought I would look cool and establish a unique image for myself as a twelve-year-old, by tucking my pant legs into knee socks and folding them over the rim to create plus-fours, per Gene Sarazen. (This was well before Payne Stewart and the fizzled attempt to bring back the plus-four look in the 1990s.) Imagine seeing a 12-year-old at Don Valley wearing plus-fours! What a dork.
Loughry: All I just need is descent pair of rain pants and I’m good for any cold, windy or inclement weather. The advance in clothing technology/materials is just as impressive in many cases than golf technology itself. You can find thin warm clothing so as to not restrict your movements. Rain gloves are some kind of invention too. I’ve been known to pull them out mid-summer in hot humid conditions, they work like a charm.
Schurman: Some of the best golf opportunities came in November and December. We rarely had snow until the 2nd or 3rd week in December, but it could get cold and windy. We didn’t have the warm lightweight clothes available now. So, we cut ‘arm and head’ holes in a green garbage bag and wore it over a tee shirt. Then a long-sleeved turtleneck and a wool sweater covered by a wind-shell. We were never cold.
Rule: I use that saying all the time to our clients who have never been to UK or Ireland to play. I also tell them to buy the best rain gear, because then it probably won’t rain! But in all seriousness, I do spend a good chunk of my time (in a non-Covid year) in Scotland or Ireland, so rain and wind gear is a staple. I do love my Galvin Green jacket and rain pants, one of the best brands in that space, but the best golf clothing invention in the last number of years is definitely the rain gloves. Those things are magic. No more worrying about the club flying out of your hands on a rainy day, they are a must-pack on any golf vacation.
Quinn: My late uncle, a scratch at Vancouver’s iconic Marine Drive back in the day with a 66 card to prove it, and I were playing in North Carolina. A storm off the Atlantic surprised and suddenly soaked us, and he tossed me a pair of rain gloves. They were dry out of his bag, so he said “Wait!” He took them back and tossed them in a puddle. “They work better wet,” he said, and he, as usual, was right. Have had rain gloves in the bag ever since, and rounds in Ireland, Wales, and Scotland have proven my uncle right again.
Mumford: Tough question. I could easily write an article on the Top 10 Worst Pieces of Clothing I’ve had the misfortune to own. Everything from shirts that fell apart after the first wash to shoes that blistered my feet to 100% waterproof clothing that wasn’t. However, the best piece of apparel is a toss up between my Galvin Green Gore Tex rain hat (which really is 100% waterproof) and a pair of MacWet rain gloves that some guy at the PGA Merchandise Show insisted I try about 10 years ago. He said they were awesome and it turned out he was right.