Cleaning my office this winter, I found an old scrapbook I made. In the first years of Royal St. Patricks; newspaper, phone book, just about any kind of print ad was still the rage. I assembled everything we created in this binder, but I also gathered everything the competition was doing too. It was a way of keeping tabs.
When you revisit that 15-20 years later, one thing struck me as pretty funny considering my evolvement into what I think the essence of 200 years of golf really is. Let me humor you with some of the boastful verbiage from these ads. “18 Holes, Watered Fairways, (that one kills me) Fully Stocked Golf Shop, Paved Cart Path, Outdoor Patio, Full Service Bar (still don’t know what that means), Electric Carts, Fountains and Waterfall, Competitors Coupons Honored (way to sell your soul), Lessons Available, Shirt Required (how valuable ad space was spent on that, I’m not sure).
When you go through all these ads, there is something remarkable missing. No one ever mentions the golf course. In the end, everyone comes to play golf, but the 80’s, 90’s early 2000’s were all about promoting the fluff. Each course trying to out-do the next… with fluff. Ironically they were all adding the same fluff. Who could be bigger, longer, bolder, cleaner, harder, more decorative, more like a country club, offer more items, more polished, be more welcoming. Why is it that no one actually focused on the reason customers came to the property in the first place? Why has the idea of simply selling “good golf” not been good enough? Why was little to no focus ever placed on the one thing they had that was different than everyone else? The land, the environment, the holes.
This past winter, I saw it happening again. The new commodity race… is the installation of a 12 by 12 black fabric box, with a white projection cloth exactly 10 feet in front of you. You can play every course in the world, and eat the biggest plate of chicken wings at the same time. Even though you shouldn’t! Everyone is doing it, and touting their atmosphere is the best. In the end, it’s still a fabric box. Too much following, and too much of the same, can never be good. The game of golf has lasted 200 years+ because the act of playing a fickle game, in varied conditions, on varied courses, over varied land, never gets old. In the end, you want to play the course. The rest is a bonus, or simply background noise.