Golf is booming.
Talk to just about anyone in the golf industry or adjacent to it, and this is the story you are likely to hear. Golf is booming, at least economically and with respect to tee-time demand (I remain somewhat unconvinced that golf is booming in other ways including a permanent shift in the diversity of the game within the US market. But I leave that musing for another post). A visit to your nearby course or club makes this apparent. Public or private, tee sheets are filled. Pro shops are hustling and bustling with equipment sales and lesson bookings. At country clubs, Initiations are increasing and the prevalence of waiting lists suggests that bouncers might be needed in the not-so-near future. The story is clear, people are consuming all things golf at a clip we haven’t seen in quite some time.
A byproduct of the current boom in golf is an influx of cash, and with that influx of cash more places seem to be completing renovations than not. Hardly a day goes by without hearing of a course or club executing a renovation or restoration to their golf grounds. Similarly, facility builds, renovations, and upgrades are seeming to begin before the previous ones are finished. Clubhouse upgrades, wine cellars, pools, locker room enhancements, Pickleball courts, bars, etc. abound. The response to the influx of cash has obviously been finding new answers to the question, “What should we spend this on?”
To what end?
This is the question I’m left with as we see the byproducts of the golf boom in the US. As much as the news of a golf course renovation or restoration drives me out of bed, and as much as I love a post-round hang at the course grill room or patio, I cannot help but think we are caught in a vicious cycle of wanting more, creating more, and wanting more again. The logical conclusion of such a cycle, which is unsustainable in numerous ways, is a culture permeated by excess and consumption.
A culture built on excess and consumption chips away at the fabric of golf and, more pointedly, a golf club. A culture built on excess and consumption stands diametrically opposed to the task of establishing a club built on communal goods and good faith decisions with mutual benefit in mind. A culture built on excess and consumption promotes asking, “What is in it for me?” while dispelling a need to ask, “What can I contribute to our club and community (beyond that of the monthly drafted dues)?” A culture built on excess and consumption enables a sense of entitlement to stand in place of a sense of duty. A culture built on excess and consumption leads to making decisions solely for the sake of "growth" and "progress" without inquiring into what is sacrificed or compromised in return.
Is this your club? Maybe, maybe not. Consider it a spectrum, with your club leaning one way or the other. If you’re not sure which way your club leans, take note of how members of your club interact with and approach your club, its workers, its members, and its guests. Do the majority look at their relationship with the club as merely transactional, with decisions and actions justified via dogmatic and pragmatically vague economic constructs (i.e., member as customer)? Or, do the majority look at their relationship with the club as a form of belonging and duty, with decisions and actions justified via a balance of culture, sport, and long-term health (i.e., member as contributor)? The former moves with the tides, having no identity beyond what is imposed on them by the current at-large economical and cultural trends. The latter has a backbone, owning and defining their identity and direction in a way that embodies the true meaning of a club or society. The former breeds ostentatiousness and egotism. The latter breeds constraint and humbleness.