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A great way to socialize... if you have the time

“Some say there’s no better way of getting to know people than walking 18 holes with them,” says Chris Wilcynski, founder of the Ann Arbor based C.W. Golf Architecture and a member of the American Society of Golf Course Architects. “There is simply no other sport out there that allows us to interact, share stories and develop relationships while we are playing the game.”
Couples can also benefit from some together time on the course. Pam Fiebig, who coordinates the Cochlear Implant Program at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine says it’s a way to spend time with husband Doug Dow, a V.P. at IBM who frequently travels overseas. “We’re not typical in that way. We don’t belong to a club. We’re not on a league. We tend to just play golf with each other. We like being outside, getting a little exercise and it’s a nice way to be together.
Yet golf participation continues to decline. Albeit the economy is one factor but many Americans just don’t have the time to spend hours playing golf.  Long work days leave little time for the sport and weekends are spent catching up with other responsibilities. According to columnist Michael Fitzpatrick of the bleacherreport.com, the number of core American golfers has fallen between three and 4.5 percent every year since 2006. And the number of golf courses closing in America has outnumbered any new courses being built.
Young people aren’t going to fill in the short fall. According to the National Golf Foundation, golfers aged 6 to 17 dropped 24 percent between 2005 and 2008. What are they doing? Playing tennis. From 2003 to 2009 this age group increased their numbers to 9.5 million from 6.8 million. The Sporting Goods Manufacturing Association says all age groups have grown by 43 percent since 2000.
But those hooked on the game will find a way, according to Gary Lambert, a Chicago civil engineer who plays golf once or twice a week and doesn’t even let freezing weather keep him off the course. “Usually we walk when we’re playing,” says Lambert about winter golfing. “And when you walk it keeps you warm.” He plays both Cook County and Harbert, MI courses, sometimes by himself, scoring his last hole in one last March when no one was around. He used to hit the greens with clients as well.
For others, golf is part of family life. “I do think that golf helps deepen the social fabric of a community and family and friends,” says Wilczynski. “The Old Course at St. Andrews is a great example of this. The course sits right in the center of town and pretty much everything revolves around the golf course. There are other fine examples of this at other courses around the world too. Golf is the only sport that I am aware of that can be played by an entire family together.”

 Connecting with Social Media
 It is easier these days to connect with other players due to social media. A myriad of websites offer ways for golfers to connect online. Sites like the U.K.-based thesocialgolfer.com and  stracka.com offer free memberships which include ways to connect with golfers and golf businesses, track personal golf scores as well as the USGA Handicap Index® and stats, view golfer profiles, make tee times throughout the country, get discounts on gear and playing time, form fantasy golf leagues and learn about tournaments and leagues.
Oobgolf.com, another online site that estimates it serves over 200,000 golfers a month, says that golfing creates a complex social network that has the capacity to connect more than 50 million golfers worldwide.

Published: June 10, 2012
Issue: Summer 2012 Issue