How complicated is the problem of growing the game, really? Harold Varner III doesn’t think it’s rocket science, and it’s well worth taking note of his suggestions.
In a piece for the Players Tribune, Varner uses plenty of ink discussing his race and race in golf (only because the American media is fascinated by it). His perspective is interesting, necessary, and well worth a read.
However, it’s his own story of getting involved with the game and suggestions in that vein that truly deserve notice—rather than the fact that he’s “the only black player on the PGA Tour,” as he puts it.
Here’s what HV III had to say about his start in the game.
“Every summer morning from when I was around 9 years old until high school, my dad would drop me off at Gastonia Municipal Golf Course. In my dad’s mind, learning how to play golf was a better idea than allowing me to sit on the couch and play video games…”
“Now, you may be thinking these summer playing privileges cost some crazy amount of money — that only rich kids would be able to do something like this. I mean, it’s a good enough deal to think that. But this program wasn’t really expensive at all: For only $100, I was able to purchase this junior membership to Gastonia…”
“That meant the world to my family. I didn’t know it at the time, but this was an incredible deal, not only for what it did for me then, but also what it’s still doing for me now. Without Gastonia, I would’ve never learned to play golf…”
Varner’s suggestion is simple: Incentivize similar programs at as many public courses as possible. Unfortunately, he sees things going in the opposite direction.
The reality is, you either like playing golf or you don’t. We’re never going to make kids fall in the game who don’t want to spend hours chipping and putting by themselves the way Harold Varner III (and Tiger Woods, for that matter) did. All we can do, really, is maximize access and lay the foundation for lifelong golfing.
Yes, affordable equipment, lessons, people to play with, golf-related games, camps, all these are important. But the lifelong love of the game begins for many young golfers the same way it did for Varner: A parent dropping a child off at the golf course to practice and play all day.
Affordable junior memberships at public courses are vital to making sure this remains possible in the future. The summer day that we don’t see juniors packing the putting green at the local municipal course is a dark one for the future of golf.