The Pellucid Perspective - July 2018 - 5

GROWING THE
GAME

We're missing the boat on Match Play
By Stuart Lindsay

S

ince this is a Ryder Cup year, we're going to get our biennial chance to provide high exposure to Match Play. In
theory, we get a couple other annual opportunities in the
WGC Match Play event and the President's Cup, but those ratings pale by comparison to the Ryder Cup that usually generates
TV viewership second only to the Masters.
Whenever I hear someone bemoaning the drop in golf participation in the US; it usually includes a paraphrase of "golf is a
great game because it allows people of all ability levels to have fun
competing with each other." The USGA talks about it and Stewart Darling trotted it out in his excellent discussion of the decline
in Scottish golf last December.
The inconvenient truth is that the above common platitude is
really only practical in Match Play - and works the best when using handicaps on a hole by hole basis as intended. And it's time to
recognize that Match Play is declining right along with handicap
participation. As we have previously pointed out, official USGA
Handicap participation has declined about 40% since 2000.
We have also pointed out that Jon Last's latest Sports and Leisure Group omnibus golfer survey indicated over 50% of golfers
engage in Stroke Play vs. 30% using Match Play (the other 20%
are like Jim Koppenhaver who only wants to hit a couple good
shots). We can't blame the PGA Tour for its emphasis on Stroke
Play - Match Play makes for rotten TV - unless, of course, it features 24 of the best players in the world wrapped up in patriotic
blankets on both the American and European sides and most of
the players are out on the course for all 3 days. At the WGC,
Sunday is about only 2 players left standing with 2 more in a consolation match only their families might remember.
My millennial son is coming back to golf. He got some instruction in junior golf as a kid, so he's not totally helpless; but
baseball, girls and college got in the way and he never played a
lot. He ended up getting recruited for an architect's job in a real
estate development firm where two of the principals are both avid
and good golfers. One of his millennial co-workers is also an avid
golfer and has a USGA handicap.
Next thing you know, last year one of his principals suggested
a foursome with him and the two millennials. For the sake of office bragging rights, there was a small wager and the father/son
team had to take on the boss with his 4 handicap and we agreed
to play my son at 18 (even though he'd never broken 100 at our
course) along with my 12. The other millennial was a 16. After
being down 4 at the turn; my son woke up and played some good
holes and I shot an unusual 38 for a comeback win. That essen-

tially set up this year's grudge match.
In the meantime, I took my son out a few more times and for
our last round of 2017, he broke 100 with a bullet by shooting
90 and kicking his father's butt in Match Play. He doesn't have
Stroke Play bragging rights, yet; but I can tell you he was pretty
pleased to have the claim in Match Play.
Our rematch with his office mates was even more fun. Everybody played pretty well, but my son shot 86 and nailed their
coffin shut with a par on the 16th hole. Still no Stroke Play victory; but that Match Play win meant something in the office on
Monday.
Somewhere during the match, there was some grumbling
about getting my son a "real" handicap. With only three rounds
under 100, I didn't feel the least bit guilty playing him at 18; but
I went up on the WSGA website to get him signed up (and pay
for it).
That process went smoothly. I had to fill in his information
and select a course that would allow him to enroll on-line. The
only problem he has now, along with every other public golfer; is
that he has to do an individual course lookup for every course he
plays. Is the $35 I paid a big deal? We'll see if he renews it next
year. What's important is that if he plays 10 rounds this year it
works out to an additional $3.50 a round. A California golfer will
pay $75 for a similar signup and add $7.50 per round if they only
play 10 rounds.
The real net result of this is the way Match Play adds to the
fun and enjoyment. My son will eventually beat me in Stroke
Play, but our handicaps will at least give me a chance at keeping
Match Play pride when that happens. The same is true for the
fact that I may never beat his office principal in Stroke Play, but I
helped get my son get some water cooler bragging rights.
What it all boils down to is that the decline in Match Play
is effectively eliminating the integral part of the game that allows golfers of different abilities to have fun together. If you need
further proof - Match Play is primarily used at private clubs. The
closure rate for 16,000+ courses in the US since 2006 is 11%. The
closure rate for member-equity clubs (about 4,000) is only 2%.
We need an industry wide promotional emphasis on Match
Play. The USGA has provided an excellent system of course ratings and calculations that add enjoyment to virtually everybody
that learns how it works. Unfortunately, we think a biennial Ryder Cup primer is enough - it's not. At the Ryder Cup, everybody
is playing "even" and the hole by hole strokes are missing. We
need more than that.
n

My millennial son is coming back to golf. He got some instruction
in junior golf as a kid, so he's not totally helpless; but baseball,
girls and college got in the way and he never played a lot.
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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Pellucid Perspective - July 2018

TOC
Golf course resurrection: Go big or go home in Salt Lake City UT
We’re missing the boat on Match Play
Golf’s landscape changes
June golf weather impact: Winning streak stops at 1
Pittsburgh, steely in its resolve to climb the top 25
The Pellucid Perspective - July 2018 - TOC
The Pellucid Perspective - July 2018 - Golf course resurrection: Go big or go home in Salt Lake City UT
The Pellucid Perspective - July 2018 - 3
The Pellucid Perspective - July 2018 - 4
The Pellucid Perspective - July 2018 - We’re missing the boat on Match Play
The Pellucid Perspective - July 2018 - Golf’s landscape changes
The Pellucid Perspective - July 2018 - June golf weather impact: Winning streak stops at 1
The Pellucid Perspective - July 2018 - 8
The Pellucid Perspective - July 2018 - 9
The Pellucid Perspective - July 2018 - Pittsburgh, steely in its resolve to climb the top 25
The Pellucid Perspective - July 2018 - 11
The Pellucid Perspective - July 2018 - 12
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