Normally when people decry golf, they talk about golf being bad for the environment or how elitist it is. Simply put, I don’t care about these things. The reason why I am advocating against golf is because I think for most people, making an investment in the sport is a poor use of resources. If you like golf and enjoy playing, more power to you; I merely think that when zoomed out from a macro perspective, it becomes a bad idea for many of its players.
When most people make the decision to play golf, it goes something like this: Saturday is forecasted to have gorgeous weather, I have no plans and Joe just asked me to join his foursome; of course I will play golf this Saturday.
Most people do not ask themselves – over the next five years, is spending $4000 dollars and 325 hours on 48 rounds, 17 practice sessions and 100 golf balls the best use of those resources? In other words, what else could I invest those $4000 dollars and 325 hours on and how does that compare to an investment in golf?
If someone is a casual golfer and has never played tennis before, the opportunity to play golf with friends on a gorgeous Saturday is much more appealing than the thought of playing tennis for the first time and failing miserably. However, if a person decided that they wanted to make tennis a priority, it becomes a strong possibility that investing $4000 dollars and 325 hours in becoming a better tennis player might provide them with greater overall enjoyment over the same five year period.
The benefits of playing golf:
· it provides an opportunity to be immersed in beautiful nature and helps you get away from your stresses for hours at a time
· can be very relaxing
· great opportunity to schmooze
· its healthy
All very good reasons. However, it is only by looking at the costs of playing golf does it start to appear like a bad investment.
Golf is prohibitively expensive. Even if you can afford to buy the fancy clothing, the expensive clubs, the accessories and everything else, you are still spending significant sums of money every outing out on the course.
Golf is difficult. This is a more significant issue than first appears. Even if one is good at golf, in order to stay at that level, there needs to be consistent practice. Rust exists in all sports, but it is magnified in golf. In order to maintain one’s level of skill, routine practice must take place. Even if you are good, it is incredibly easy to play below one’s standards and have their outing ruined. Moreover, because a round of golf consists of many important shots that can never be made up for, one shot into the water is enough to turn a person sour.
Most sports do not have an objective level of difficulty because you play against similarly skilled opponents. For golf, if you are below average, you will feel the wrath of the golf course. A subpar golfer playing a great game will still hit a significant amount of noticeably awful and potentially embarrassing shots.
Golf is hard to improve. Even if one practices (which is very time consuming and expensive), it is very challenging for many people to make the growth in their golf game that they would hope for. This is two pronged: firstly, if one is not physically gifted, it will likely take an enormous investment to get them to be at a level where they are satisfied with their level of play; secondly, the better one gets, the higher their expectations will be for their performance.
Golf takes a long time to play. Even if one ignores the slow pace of play at many courses, the 45 minute trip to get to the golf course, the time to warm up, 18 holes of golf takes on average 4 hours to play. This makes an outing on the golf course a near full day commitment.
Golf makes people angry. While the aforementioned factors contribute to this, a lot of this has to do with the variability in a golf swing. If a player hits an awful shot 10% of the time, they will be frustrated between 8–12 times per outing. Additionally, golfers are prone to blaming external factors for their poor shots. If someone is talking during a shot, gave bad advice before it or moved their shadow, there is a good chance they will be yelled at.
While golf is a better exercise than sitting at home on the couch, it is inferior to almost all other sports one could be playing.
Despite all these costs, its important to understand why golf is so appealing to certain groups of people. For adults, most team sports are impractical to play due to the difficulties in organizing large groups and the lack of competitiveness. This means that the list of sports adults are likely to play is already limited. Moreover, people are looking for a combination of athletics and strategy. While chess might be very stimulating and competitive, it lacks the physical or outdoor component that players seek. Conversely, hiking is very physical and enjoyable, but it lacks the competitive nature that many people find attractive.
Most other sports adults could play (ie tennis, cycling, running, squash etc) require high levels of physical intensity. Many people either do not want to or cannot engage in such activities. For people unable to push their body, golf begins to make a lot more sense. If one has more than enough money, the price of golf becomes a non-issue. Similarly, if one has large amounts of time on their hands, the commitment to playing and necessary practice becomes not only a negative, but an actually asset. If networking is important for work, or a person has a large desire to be engaged in social conversation for hours at a time, the length of the game can be quite appealing. Looking at all of these factors together, it becomes clear that if you are a moderately well off retired person, golf begins to make a lot of sense to play.
When deciding if you want to invest in golf, realize that it will cost a huge amount of time and money, many outings will leave you unhappy, it is not great exercise and you will likely never become good at it.