May 24, 2005


Golf Club Prices Are Up; Scores Are Not Down (BILL PENNINGTON, 5/24/05, NY Times)

New and technologically advanced golf balls fly farther than ever. Oversize golf drivers hit the ball straighter. Space-age materials make irons easier to swing. Ergonomically engineered putters roll the ball more precisely. Golf courses are more plentiful and maintained better. Instruction is more accessible, at public and private clubs, not to mention every night on a cable television channel devoted entirely to golf.

There is even a better golf tee, revamped to let the ball soar longer and more accurately.

The only thing in golf that has not changed is the average score for 18 holes. Neither the average weekend player nor the world's best golfers have managed to get the ball in the hole any sooner.

The average 18-hole score for the average golfer remains at about 100, as it has for decades, according to the National Golf Foundation, an industry research and consulting service.

Among more serious recreational golfers who register their scores with the United States Golf Association, the average handicap index, a scoring tool, has dropped 0.5 strokes since 2000. On the PGA Tour this year, the average score of players has risen, by 0.28 strokes, compared with the average 10 years ago.

"Maybe we're all supposed to stink at this," said David Feherty, a columnist for Golf Magazine and a commentator on CBS's golf telecasts. "It's our punishment for playing this insane game."

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 24, 2005 12:00 AM

Why spoil a perfectly good walk?

Then again, why walk when you can just relax in front of the telly with a cooll drink watching some footie -- or baseball?

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at May 24, 2005 10:47 AM

I tried golf when I was younger. I couldn't do it -- sprayed the ball all over the place in unpredictable ways. Beyond that, it is expensive, time consuming, does not provide any exercise unless you walk (which many courses discourage), or any chance to spend time with your family. Beyond that, I never meet anyone who was happy after a round of golf. They were always cursing and swearing, angry that they had muffed one shot or the other.

Where is the upside?

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at May 24, 2005 11:46 AM

The problem with golf is that there isn't ever a real feeling of victory. You essentially are playing against your personal best by trying to lower your score (which rarely happens). Even when you play "against" other players its more a kind of playing together. Real sports provide real opportunities to relish real victory. Golf never provides that temporary high of absolute triumph.

Never fear though yuppies - tennis does - and you can play that and still fit in (sort of) with the soccer-dad crowd.

Posted by: Shelton at May 24, 2005 12:13 PM

Golf is like life--very difficult to do well, entirely up to you except for the inevitable bad breaks, etc.

If courses were the same length as they were ten years ago, the pros' scores would be lower.

And yeah, we're all supposed to stink at this, which is why I dislike Tiger (especially during his run a few years ago). It's not supposed to be that easy.

Posted by: jsmith at May 24, 2005 1:24 PM

Golf is great game that you can play through your entire life. Very few of the courses I have played (mostly munis) discourage walking so there is more exercise than one would think. It is as much a social gathering as a sporting event, and if, as Robert explains, nobody is happy after a round of golf, you are playing with people who cannot laugh at themselves.

Shelton, if you want a real feeling of victory in golf, just win the majority of the money being wagered.

Then again, it may simply be an acceptable form of man date.

Posted by: Pat H at May 24, 2005 1:35 PM

Winning a twenty dollar nassau decided by the last putts on the last green in the twilight hours of a beautiful day after multiple presses is as exhilirating as any other sport. Walking and carrying your bag is great exercise. The qaulity of the match is the key.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford,Ct. at May 24, 2005 1:55 PM

Our scores haven't changed, but the golf courses have changed a great deal.

Courses, even for the average player, are being built longer and with narrower fairways, in part to compensate for new technology.

Even established courses have been changing tee boxes to increase length.

Posted by: AML at May 24, 2005 2:12 PM

See, by your own admission it takes money to make the victory exciting. Blackjack is exciting too but it ain't a sport. In tennis we play to see who is the better man - mano a mano - two men enter, one man leaves. It doesn't matter if you played the best game of your life if you didn't beat your opponent. Besides, any game in which one can drink beer and smoke during play isn't a real sport.

Posted by: Shelton at May 24, 2005 2:13 PM

I guess that knocks out softball, fishing, dirt-track racing, bull-riding, and a few others.

Posted by: ratbert at May 24, 2005 2:50 PM


Golf is a unique game. The rules are fairly involved and most folks don't play by the rules. The "average player" stuff is almost meaningless since they tend not to know the rules. If you have regular matches with other guys the rules must be adhered to particularly if money is involved. Knowing and playing by the rules is good for one's game. The best way to learn the rules is to wager.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford,Ct. at May 24, 2005 2:57 PM

ratbert - I don't think you can drink or smoke while riding a bull or driving a racecar. Yes fishing is not a sport and softball is barely a sport - same for baseball. Softball and baseball would be much better if the players waiting to bat were allowed to rush the field on flyballs to try and tackle the outfielders before they could make the play.

Posted by: Shelton at May 24, 2005 3:27 PM

"Golf courses and cemetaries are the two biggest wastes of real estate. Both are full of dead people."

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at May 24, 2005 3:50 PM

I'm with Robert. I tried, but couldn't shake the feeling that I was holding everyone up. Since then, I've fallen into morning coffee circles with avid golfers who can't talk about anything but golf (even in winter) and complain incessantly about how much they hated their: a) last game; b) last season; c) last hole; d) last shot; or e) last golfing trip. They were also incapable of talking about anything other than their: a) next game; b) next season; c) next hole; d) next shot; or e) next golfing trip. A game for neurotic misanthropes.

Tom C/Pat H: Exercise? Sure, and I read Playboy for the articles.

Posted by: Peter B at May 24, 2005 7:03 PM

My boomerang slice actually won me $5 at the driving range back in '91 or '92 -- I bet my shop chief I could aim for the left foul pole and get past the right foul pole, which I did. When I hit the ball people behind me duck. Other than that it's a great game.

Posted by: joe shropshire at May 24, 2005 7:44 PM


Try walking 18 holes in the 95 deg. summer South. It may not be aerobic, but it's exercise. I used to play once a week for several years - it kept me in shape enough to race-walk several miles without any drag. Today? Let's just say no.

People who always talk golf probably don't appreciate it. And if they are complaining about not making that 5-foot putt, well - GO PRACTICE until you CAN make it.

Posted by: jim hamlen at May 24, 2005 9:37 PM

I know it's not an experience everyone can have, but if you've ever played golf the way it was invented - on a windswept expanse of linksland along the coast of the North Sea, whether it's at St. Andrews or Carnoustie or Dornoch or Brora or one of a dozen others - you'll find that the game can be exhilerating, exciting, maddening and unbelievably fun.

Posted by: Foos at May 25, 2005 2:18 AM

Peter B.-

What can I tell ya? Walk and carry your bag a couple of times a week. Your legs get stronger and it keeps the lbs. in line.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford,Ct. at May 25, 2005 2:17 PM