The Pellucid Perspective - August 2018 - 5
Municipal golf: What's in a number?
By Craig Kessler
wrong question, and you're sure to get an answer as accurate as it
is irrelevant. In this case whether the total number of municipal
golf courses in the United States tells us much if anything about
the health of that sector. To be fair to the NGF, golf 's great clearinghouse didn't exactly correlate the municipal high water mark
with "health," but it did announce that high water mark with fanfare redolent of good news.
But before we get to the meat of this particular matter, the
health of the municipal sector, let's take a look at what is arguably the most tragic application of the fallacious inference in our lifetimes. Those
of you old enough to remember (I was a
boy) are likely to recall the horrific statistic cited by Walter Cronkite at the end of
each week's CBS national newscast during the 1960's. It was the "death count,"
or more specifically the precise number of
Americans, South Vietnamese, Viet Cong
and North Vietnamese who met their demise the previous seven days. Suffice it to
say the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong
numbers were staggeringly large, which
led many to conclude that at that pace it
wouldn't be long before the United States
would prevail. Indeed, the very centrality
of the question begged the conclusion. It
turned out to be a question the answer to
which no matter how accurate or "staggeringly large" was irrelevant to winning
a war that most historians now conclude was lost at precisely the
moment the United States enjoyed its greatest military victory,
the 1968 Tet Offensive. "Lost" because the other side understood
that the right metric for them didn't involve military victories, an
arena in which they couldn't really compete, but political victories,
where if they had the stamina and will to incur massive losses of
life they might ultimately prevail. "Stamina," "will," - add geography and you have three key "things" that Einstein could have
told that generation's "best and brightest" counted more than
those things that could be counted.
The good news for us is that no matter how badly we miscalculate or ask the wrong questions, we can't do that kind of harm,
although to the degree to which the municipal sector has been
the game's great engine of growth, we can certainly do irreparable
harm to the golf industry.
First off, there is no single right question or set of metrics;
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA GOLF ASSOCIATION
ere we were in Southern California going to great lengths
to shore up the municipal golf sector and restore a measure of its past glory, and along comes the National Golf
Foundation (NGF) to inform us that we have been wasting our
energies on the game's most robust sector. Not to worry; there
are more municipal golf courses today than there have ever been.
What were we thinking? Why all the concern? Why all the
meetings, community outreach, organizational responses, symposia, growth strategies and messaging focused on municipal golf?
Were we misreading reality that badly?
Four aphorisms from four very different quarters come to mind - literary, scientific, religious and legal. And all four
of them say pretty much the same thing.
First the literary. Mark Twain wrote in
1906 of three kinds of lies - "lies, damned
lies, and statistics." He attributed the
quote to 19th Century British Prime
Minister Benjamin Disraeli, but no one
has ever been able to find it in any of the
great Tory leader's writings or speeches.
Disraeli was a gifted writer in addition
to a gifted politician, something he had
in common with his American contemporary Ulysses Grant, albeit Grant's great
literary and military talents were not
matched by any particular political talent.
Second the scientific. Albert Einstein
was a prolific coiner of aphorisms, but the
one he hung over his desk at Princeton University read: "Things
that can be counted don't count; things that can't be counted
Now for the short but sweet religious aphorism. It's from the
Babylonian Talmud: "For example is not proof."
Finally, jurisprudence's contribution to the genre. In a consequential 1st Amendment case dealing with pornography U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart wrote, "I can't define it, but I
know it when I see it." While Justice Stewart had a distinguished
career, he will be forever remembered for that line.
These are not briefs against empiricism. Nor are they briefs
against the scientific method or the efficacy of mathematical
proof. But they are reminders that when someone's numbers contradict everyone else's collective experience and common sense
itself, the problem might be in the numbers - not so much the
numbers as the conclusions being drawn from them. Ask the
Ask the wrong question, and you're sure to get an answer as accurate as it is
irrelevant. In this case whether the total number of municipal golf courses in the
United States tells us much if anything about the health of that sector.
The Pellucid PersPecTive
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Pellucid Perspective - August 2018
Real estate golf supply contraction: Someone’s gotta’ pay
Municipal golf: What’s in a number?
We can do better at welcoming new golfers
Golf - easy to be hard?
July golf weather impact: Solidly sideways
MN operators doing well against tough odds
Back surgery recovery is Tiger’s greatest achievement
The Pellucid Perspective - August 2018 - TOC
The Pellucid Perspective - August 2018 - Real estate golf supply contraction: Someone’s gotta’ pay
The Pellucid Perspective - August 2018 - 3
The Pellucid Perspective - August 2018 - 4
The Pellucid Perspective - August 2018 - Municipal golf: What’s in a number?
The Pellucid Perspective - August 2018 - 6
The Pellucid Perspective - August 2018 - 7
The Pellucid Perspective - August 2018 - We can do better at welcoming new golfers
The Pellucid Perspective - August 2018 - 9
The Pellucid Perspective - August 2018 - Golf - easy to be hard?
The Pellucid Perspective - August 2018 - July golf weather impact: Solidly sideways
The Pellucid Perspective - August 2018 - 12
The Pellucid Perspective - August 2018 - 13
The Pellucid Perspective - August 2018 - MN operators doing well against tough odds
The Pellucid Perspective - August 2018 - 15
The Pellucid Perspective - August 2018 - 16
The Pellucid Perspective - August 2018 - Back surgery recovery is Tiger’s greatest achievement