By John Coyne
Copyright © John Coyne. Used with permission.
WITH ALL THIS TALK OF MILLENNIALS not taking up the game, and golf courses closing for lack of membership, I am saddened to think of what will be lost, in terms of tradition, architecture and history if there is a death knell to country club life.
By the 1900s, country clubs had become "country estates" in suburbs where the wealthy showed off their social status. The country club was viewed as a suburban playground for the family which promoted their own health by playing golf. Anyone could play—men and women of any age—and the handicap system leveled the playing field.
In the 1920s, the game expanded further, with the advent of professional golf architects and increased discretionary time and income. There was a shift as well, away from the Protestant ethic of deferred gratification toward values that justified increased leisure and pleasure.
The Depression years brought the expansion of golf to a screeching halt. These years were followed by World War II, and then golf became a popular game, with public and private daily-fee courses, corporate country clubs and gated golf communities and also the demands for equal access by minorities and women.
All of these shifts in our society have in many ways been played out on the fairways of country clubs, these "nineteenth-century villages" where lives were controlled and what was considered recreation within a society of equals.
I'm afraid Moss, a retired professor of history of social and intellectual life at Colby College and a player himself, wrote his book too soon; or better, he might write a second volume, one that considers the Millennials.
Here I'm all worried about the belly putter and what, if any, havoc that rule change will mean on the PGA Tour as well as for matches played out on private clubs across the country, having just read where four million golfers have walked away from the game just within the last decade.
That all said, if so few golfers are now playing, then why does it still take me five hours to finish a round on a warm Sunday afternoon?
Do you think it's my short game?
John Coyne is a bestselling author of three golf novels and more than 20 other books. Pay him a visit at John Coyne Books.