By Craig Eissler, CFP®, CIMA®, AIF®, Wealth Advisor
“Golf is deceptively simple and endlessly complicated; it satisfies the soul and frustrates the intellect. It is at the same time rewarding and maddening – and it is without a doubt the greatest game mankind has ever invented.” – Arnold Palmer
With last week’s 85th Masters Tournament recently completed, I figured this would be a good time to discuss my love for golf and why it is the best sport. More than ever, people are agreeing with me.
The Masters golf tournament provides golf with one of its biggest global stages of the year. This year proved that decisively: The winner, Hideki Matsuyama, is Japan’s first-ever golfer to win a major tournament. According to Nielsen live-plus-same-day ratings, the final day of the tournament at Augusta National averaged 9.45 million viewers and a 5.5 household rating. That was the highest TV audience for a golf tournament since 2019, when Tiger Woods captured his fifth Masters title.
The coronavirus pandemic and social distancing has ignited a comeback in golf’s popularity. The National Golf Foundation reports there’s only been one other year that saw a bigger rise in interest in the sport: 1997, the year Tiger Woods became a massive sensation.
Back in 2008 after the financial crisis and economic downturn, golf courses around the country closed and the number of rounds played dropped for 13 straight years. But last year, as cabin fever gripped the country, the two most popular activities were binge-watching TV shows and playing golf.
Everyone should play golf, here’s why:
Playing from Five to Eighty-five
What other major sport could you conceivably consider playing for the majority of your life? Golf is not as physically demanding on your body as most other sports. One could even get some exercise out of it by choosing to walk the course rather than ride a cart. I started playing golf at the age of five and God willing I will be playing well into my twilight years.
A common goal sought by many retirees, one that very few actually achieve, is to “shoot your age” on an 18-hole golf course. With the typical 18-hole course par of 72, someone in their 70s would have to have quite the round in order to achieve such a feat. The older you get, the more fleeting that notion becomes with declining physical capabilities. But nevertheless, if I am able to play until I am 80 years old, the vast majority of my life I will have spent playing golf. And I will consider myself blessed.
Golf can teach you how to handle adversity and build character. Anyone who has played golf knows they will face adversity – sometimes multiple times in one round. Or one hole! How do you handle that? Do you dwell on it and have it negatively affect your next shot? Or do you learn from it, let it go, and move on to the next?
Golf has no referees to call fouls or throw flags or make determinations of in/out of bounds – unless you’re playing in a sanctioned competitive tournament. But even then rules officials are only called in if a player requests it. Rules infractions are dependent on each player to call on themselves with their playing partners. It’s a game of integrity. One could argue that golf doesn’t actually build character – it reveals it.
Not only is the game physically challenging, but the hand-eye coordination and overall physiological coordination it requires to hit a golf ball and make it do exactly what you want it to do in a variety of conditions is equally if not more mentally challenging. In most sports, you are directly competing against a particular opponent. In golf, you’re competing against yourself and the golf course.
Another favorite quote from Arnold Palmer is his claim that “Golf is a game of inches. The most important are the six inches between your ears.”
In baseball a pitcher can pitch a perfect game retiring every batter faced. In football a team can go undefeated or a quarterback can complete every pass thrown in a game. In basketball it’s conceivable a team could go undefeated – yet that’s never happened. A player could shoot 100% from the field. But in golf perfection is unattainable.
It’s you against the course. You’re not going to win every tournament you play even if your name is Tiger Woods. You may hit every green in regulation and you may make every putt you hit. But no one has ever or will ever ace every hole they play. On the PGA Tour the score that is sacred to achieve is a 59. That is 13 under a par 72 golf course. Not even the pros on a “perfect” day can even birdie every hole they play. So the opportunity to chase the unattainable and always trying to improve and better yourself is a metaphor for life. You will never reach perfection but you can keep attempting to shoot for it.
Building Relationships & Networks
If you are in business or just need to make contacts, the golf course is the perfect place. Golf is a game played by many businesspeople. It should be no surprise since it’s a great way to exercise and get out of the office for a while. You can take colleagues or bosses out for a round. It’s a great opportunity to enjoy their company and have a neutral location where it’s easy to talk about just about anything.
It can also help you forge new business relationships. As you’re making new friends on the course, you may end up finding other networking opportunities in similar industries. Golfers experience a camaraderie that extends beyond the golf course and into other social situations. If you go to the course alone and join in with other players, by the end of the round you may find yourself having dinner or a beer with new friends while talking about every hole.
Golf is far from perfect. In fact, there’s much that the sport needs to address to further grow the game, as well as to support and protect this latest resurgence. These include, but are not limited to, slow play, affordability, and antiquated rules about strict course etiquette.
The late Mr. Palmer was right – golf is without a doubt the greatest game mankind has ever invented. Here’s to hoping that growth trend continues.
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Halbert Hargrove Global Advisors, LLC (“HH”) is an SEC registered investment adviser located in Long Beach, California. Registration does not imply a certain level of skill or training. Additional information about HH, including our registration status, fees, and services can be found at www.halberthargrove.com. This blog post is provided for informational purposes only. All opinions or views reflect the judgment of the author as of the publication date and are subject to change without notice.