Friends have asked me why I haven’t been blogging lately. In addition to the interruption of my daily life by a nephrectomy of my left kidney (that was over a month ago, and is no longer a valid excuse for not blogging) I have been busy writing an essay about golf.
In its final form, the essay runs to 31 pages and something over ten thousand words.
I’ll summarize it in a sentence: it is an argument in favor of playing golf as a team sport -- all the way from little leagues for the kiddies, to professional major leagues representing the metropolitan markets that support professional basketball, baseball, and football.
It’s a big idea, admittedly. But then I have been known to dream big dreams, sometimes even with a modicum of success.
Anyway, the gist of my essay, entitled “Golfball Now” is that team golf should be played in a standard format; nine player teams playing nine matches over nine holes.
I call the game “Golfball.” That name fits with all the other major team sports: Baseball, Football, Basketball.
Tykes as young as 4 years old – that’s when little league baseball starts – can play golfball on a putting green. By nine or ten, they would be competing on pitch and putt courses and from ages 12 or 13 on, they could play on standard nine hole layouts.
The scoring of the game is simple. Your team gets a point for every stroke by which you win a hole. Thus, if player A makes a four and his opponent, player B, makes five, Team A gets one point.
But that is not all.
In Golfball, every ball must see the bottom of the hole. If A is on the green in three and B sinks a birdie putt for three, A must still putt, and keep on putting until he holes out. Every time he misses, a point is scored for B’s team.
It is, I suppose, a diabolical scoring system, which punishes the yipes without mercy. But then, isn’t that the core genius of the sport of golf itself?
Certainly even four year old beginners will experience the pangs of frustration that torture their parents and grandparents.
Still, it is necessary, after all, that the each generation learns to cope with the exquisite pain of frustration. That’s the beauty of golf.
A lot is being said and written these days about the decline of golf in America. While it is still the most popular sport, in terms of player participation, it is true that the construction of new courses is at a practical stand still, that many courses and clubs are closing, and that the number of rounds of golf being played continues to decline as the average age of players creeps up.
I, for one, am sanguine. Golf has too much to offer in terms of exercise, fellowship, character development, tradition and old fashioned fresh air for it to disappear from our national culture.
Tournament golf: the Masters, the U.S. Open, the Players Championship, and a host of other established and popular tournaments are not about to dim the lights and close the doors. If team golf prospers as a professional sport, it will be in addition to those important events, and indeed will enhance and augment popular interest in golf at every level.
The PGA Tour is dominated by young players. Eighteen holes a day for four or five days running dictates that players be in top athletic condition. Nine hole Team competition is best suited for popular players who no longer compete at the tournament level.
Indeed, I am convinced, and Jack Nicklaus agrees with me, that there will one day be successful and popular major league golf teams in all the metropolitan markets that now host the NFL, MLB, and the NBA.
And if I have anything to say about it, they will be playing Golfball.