Golf can tell us a lot about the realities of modern life


Even a three-year-old child understands that, in the modern world, boredom is the worst thing that can happen to a person. “I don’t want to go to bed, it’s boring!” – a protest that would chime with people of all ages.

The modern world demands that we must be entertained at all times, sometimes by three devices at the same time. The proposition that we might simply… be is anathema to us.

This feeds into the idea that something that isn’t immediately thrilling is of increasingly limited appeal.

With this in mind, we get to the finding that 70 per cent of Britons find the royal and ancient sport of golf boring. Thus say the pollsters at YouGov, who have surveyed 1,600 adults about which sports they find interesting to watch.

Golf comes bottom of the list, below even basketball, cycling and Formula 1, the three most flawed and tedious sports in the history of the world.

A sport from another time

None of this is in the least surprising.

Golf is so at odds with contemporary tastes it almost defies belief that it still exists.

It is slow, painstaking, quite expensive, takes four hours to play, and still retains an air of exclusivity. Yet it is, for us devotees, the most complete of all sports, a majestic challenge of mental fortitude and physical ability.

But I get where the respondents to this survey are coming from. Like many sports it is much better to play than to watch. And indeed much better to watch on television than as a spectator at the actual event.

This is a sport that requires patience and resilience, qualities in short supply away from the golf course

Professional golfers make very few concessions to the watching public. It’s an all-consuming game that requires formidable levels of concentration and single-mindedness, so the thought that you could play golf with a view to entertaining other people is madness.

The pros take just as long as they want over their shots, and it’s possible to finish a Sudoko puzzle while they line up a putt.

Watching it live has further drawbacks, too. Wherever you are on the course, you have the disturbing feeling that something more exciting, or even interesting, is happening elsewhere.

Those who administer the game, the forward-looking chaps at the Royal and Ancient who only three years allowed women to become members, will be rightly concerned by the results of this survey.

Generation gap

The sport has no future unless young people are attracted by it, and there are enough barriers to entry – cost and accessibility, primarily – without the added aroma of tedium hanging over it.

Cricket successfully reinvented itself as a smash-and-grab game, accompanied by loud music and colourful uniforms. Golf faces a bigger challenge.

There have been several attempts to make the game more attractive – a friend of mine is developing a quick-hit version, over 90 minutes, and in which players have to score as many points as possible in the time, running to each shot – and while it may catch on, we golfing purists will dismiss it as a gimmick.

This is a sport that requires patience and resilience, qualities in short supply away from the golf course.

We embrace its long-form nature. And we rejoice in the fact that it may seem to the outside world, yes, a bit boring.

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