Why Do We Play Golf?

The answer to this may influence the future of the game.

“Life is uncertain, eat dessert first” was engraved on a piece of driftwood in a breakfast restaurant in California and having read it, while sipping my coffee, I felt it was extremely appropriate to how I felt about the game of golf.

We seem to be spending too much time thinking about the game and not enough time playing it.

In my book “Just Hit It” I try to answer the same the question. If we didn’t enjoy it, the game would have died hundreds of years ago so what has kept this game alive for so long? Defining enjoyment is tough.

Did I  enjoy my life-threatening sailing adventure half way around the world in a 25-foot boat with my friend? The answer is philosophically the same.

Enjoyment can be derived from satisfying an urge. In the case of my choice to sail without navigational aids – simply because there were none or we couldn’t afford them – was subconsciously to evaluate myself. Golf is the same, we play golf to satisfy a subconscious urge to evaluate ourselves, even though we may feel it is directly related to being with like-minded people, or being out-doors, or getting some exercise, or competing against others, these are all wonderful by-products but not the essence of what attracts us to the game. It is the subconscious challenging of ourselves.

Yes, we do this daily when throwing a rolled up piece of waste paper into a distant basket, and if successful allow the tingle and hair raising  sensation to flow over us with an inward smile. Nobody is there to enjoy it with us but we know it was well done.

We need to understand that for the game to survive and grow we need to focus on a true understanding of why we play and that compromising the fundamental essence of the game, to gain popularity is wrong headed.

Let’s take a deep breath and with a true understanding of what attracts us to this therapeutic activity, conclude that the challenge is what needs our protection and we should consider rejecting all the superficial bells and whistles which are proposed, to appeal to potential participants or those the game has lost.

If we rely on and have confidence in what has kept the game alive for so long, it will survive.

Don’t try to force it, just hit it and let it happen.

Why do you play golf? Share your thoughts with us and other Frankly Friends by replying below.



10 thoughts on “Why Do We Play Golf?

  1. the game is played outdoors – a great place to be. It’s me against the course with no big linebacker in the way. If I play well, then that’s down to me. If I don’t, that’s down to outside influences.

  2. I’ve been playing for over 30 years with the same 4 some. We play a different course each week weather permitting. Why do we play? It’s for the laughter and jokes for the wayward shots we make and for the praise for making the occasionally birdie or eagle. There’s nothing to compare to the competition we have with each other. We are in our late 60s and this game is great each time we play. Hope the younger guys can find a group to play with and play as long as we have. Play on, Ken.

  3. Frank thanks for the opportunity to reply. I’m 73 and have been playing this game since I was 12. After every round when I go to bed that night I re-live every shot. I’m usually asleep before I get to the 4th hole. I thing it was Jeff Sluman who once said “ I hate this damned game….. I can’t wait to get up tomorrow and play it again”. It’s the magic of the pure 4 iron I hit 25 years ago… or that time I hit a drive OB on the final hole of a match that was tied, then re-teed and hit down the middle and holed an 8 iron for a par to win. Its inexplicable to those who don’t play!

    Bill Monger

  4. Why do I play: Trying to master a challenge that is unmasterable. Seeking continuous improvement that is always taking detours. A hope (false perhaps) that I will arrive at a place of contentment & great satisfaction in my game. In the meantime, I savor the pleasures of camaraderie, friendship & peacefully glorious settings in some of the earth’s closest places to paradise – this side of heaven. Denny

  5. I think there’s a happy medium between making the game more attractive to people who aren’t familiar with it, while maintaining the integrity, history, and tradition of the sport.

    Recently there was a televised “Top Golf” contest/show on the Golf Channel. I got bored watching it after about 2 minutes, but if that’s a way for new golfers to gain access to the sport, I’m all for it. Some may never leave the range, but some will graduate onto the green grass of a real course. We’re also seeing an uptick in indoor golf simulator facilities, which can provide easier access to the sport. Another option that I’ve long endorsed is designing courses with three six-hole loops rather than two 9’s. If time is an issue, you can play 6 holes in a little over an hour and get on with your day. Ditto fro more par 3 courses and other options that provide easier entry into the game.

    As for why we play, I imagine that there are a range of answers and most golfers can identify with most of them. What we need to focus on isn’t selling the sport to new players but simply allowing them to ease into the sport gradually, and then they’ll discover how great it is.

  6. Exercise is boring. Really boring. After a bout with coronary artery disease and becoming the new owner of a stent, my doc and I came to an understanding about exercise. He wrote me orders to play a minimum of 27 holes a week, walking and carrying clubs preferred. I already was walking, so I changed to a 2 pound bag, dropped from 14 to 8 clubs, and reduced the clutter to tees and 6 balls. Doc is happy, I can always tell my beloved spouse (a retired RN) “Doctor’s orders!” and then there’s the gang of old liars and cheats at the club to kid with. Golf serves many needs for me.

  7. I agree that we shouldn’t change the game to attract more participants. Why do I play? Because the game is endlessly challenging: Maneuvering the smallest ball (outside of ping-pong) around a huge game-scape to a target less than five inches in diameter! How I got hooked on golf is a lesson in how to grow the game: A four-handicap colleague lent me some clubs he had (most of us have collected multiple sets over the years), and had the patience to go to the range and then to the course with me. This is how we’ll grow the game and keep it flourishing. Not by simplifying it, nor by heavily-sponsored mega-programs run by the golfing powers-that-be, but by one-to-one interaction between a dedicated aficionado and an interested acolyte.

  8. Excellent 6-hour distraction we delusionally claim to be a stress-reliever. Helps keep one’s mind off what we ‘know’ is coming all too soon ..


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