There is much hand-wringing and serious conversation these days about the state of the game. Rounds are down, and so are the total number of players playing. The talk revolves around how to get the game growing again through future-forward change and progress.
Making the game more fun is certainly part of the solution. Initiatives like Tee It Forward, Play 9, and Relaxed Rules are well intended and, hopefully, effective. However, efforts to make golf more fun are, by their nature, superficial. If golf wants to remain healthy in the long run, its stewards need to guide current and potential players to connect at a deeper-than-superficial level. Golf can touch minds and souls with its unique magic, but the current golf culture often distracts players from discovering that magic.
And that is why Golf Channel should have a show dedicated to Golf Course Architecture.
I’m a businessman and realist, so let’s get the business case out of the way first before returning to the idealism. Golf Channel makes money when it engages its audience. The digital era has allowed media outlets to target content toward ever-finer niches. The existence and success of Golf Channel is evidence of this trend. So, the question is, is there an audience for GCA content that could be engaged? And even further, is that audience one that could be monetized by Golf Channel through advertising?
First, the audience size. There is ample evidence that an audience interested in GCA exists:
- Matt Ginella’s course design and development updates are highly anticipated and never fail to cause buzz.
- Morning Drive’s themed “Architects Week” was a smash hit.
- Architects like Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw, Tom Doak, and Gil Hanse have not only become widely known, they have become icons.
- The rabid engagement of communities surrounding websites like GolfClubAtlas.com is at a peak.
- Thought leaders like Geoff Shackelford and Brad Klein are no longer “niche” – they have reach and power.
Second, the audience quality for advertisers. GCA devotees are the people who get on planes and travel to places like Bandon Dunes and Streamsong. They buy golf equipment and clothing. They have considerable spending power beyond their golf habits.
The audience exists and it is a good audience for the right advertisers to reach, but that is only the commercial argument for Golf Channel’s GCA show. The intangible, yet larger, argument is that as a force in the game, it is in Golf Channel’s best interest to cultivate the game’s magic. It is golf courses that are the source of that magic.
The course provides us with an outdoor adventure, exercise, and connection to nature. The course also provides us with quiet space in our hectic lives to connect with family and friends, and ourselves. The course is the opponent, providing us with endless challenges, both obvious and subtle.
Beyond the basics, great courses touch us at the deepest level. When witnessing the beauty of man’s artistic vision merged with mother nature’s creation, it is hard not to be stirred. Great courses also stimulate the mind – they give us options, sometimes confounding options. They bait our egos. They test our ability to think strategically, as well as remaining focused and confident in our strategic decisions. Great courses are marvels of design, planning, engineering, technology, agronomy, and attention to detail – they are a magical blend of art and science.
Without the course, golf is a trip to driving range. Without understanding of and exposure to the depth of great courses, people will not know why golf is the greatest game ever invented. Superficial fun won’t keep people engaged without the deeper connection.
So, among informative and entertaining programs that Golf Channel produces, this is my call for them to give golf course architecture and golf courses their due attention. The audience is there, and the game needs it.
I’m conducting a Twitter experiment to see if we can create a groundswell to get a show on the air. GCA nerds and stewards of the game, join me in tweeting to @golfchannel to ask them to create the show. Use the hashtag #GCAonGC so that we can track progress. Let’s make this happen.
(Feel free to share your ideas for GCA show episodes as comments to this post, or tweet them to me at @JasonWay1493 and I’ll do it for you.)
If you are not Twitter inclined, you can also post to the Golf Channel Facebook page here. Use the same hashtag in your post if you do: #GCAonGC.
Or, if you are just not into social media at all, you can email Golf Channel at firstname.lastname@example.org and/or email@example.com.
Regardless of what media you use, if you think that a GCA show would be great TV (and good for the game), share your thoughts with Golf Channel. If you don’t feel comfortable expressing yourself, then send them a link to this post and let my words do your talking.
If enough of us speak up, they will respond.
UPDATE: While we’re working on getting this show aired, I have started to compile links on this GCA Video Archive page for exploration. Hope you enjoy!