Recently the United States Golf Association launched a campaign for “hurry up” golf. They've enlisted Tiger Woods, Arnold Palmer, a few other pro golfers and even Clint Eastwood for a series of public service announcements that encourage people to speed up their golf game. The Association says that rounds of golf are taking too long and slow play detracts from the golf experience. Five-hour rounds, they say, are “incompatible with modern life.”
While I'm not a golfer, it seems to me that speeding up the game isn't the most brilliant of ideas. I understand that pace is important in golf and it's frustrating when the person ahead isn't ready to play their shot when it's their turn. But do we really need a national crusade to hurry up the game?
It doesn't take an expert to know that golf is a popular sport. There are many reasons for this including its many health benefits. Playing golf is good for your heart, it can improve your fitness and strength, and it can help you lose weight and body fat. Playing golf can make you feel good because you connect with other people during the game and it can reduce your stress levels (as long as you don't get too wrapped up in the score.) The five hours or so people spend on their favourite course is a nice way to wind down from a challenging week. There is fresh air to breathe, sunshine to enjoy, wind in your hair, and meditative moments while you focus your attention on your little white ball.
We are harried and stressed humans. There are never enough hours in the day to do all the things we know we should do. We don't sleep enough, eat well enough, exercise enough, or spend enough quality time with our kids. We have significant demands from our jobs and huge pressure to make ends meet, raise our children and care for our aging parents. We are “extreme workers” (a term coined by Sylvia Ann Hewlitt and Carolyn Buck Luce of Columbia University). Our lives are governed by tight deadlines, constant availability and crushing workloads. We are a “No Vacation Nation” (according to CNN). A typical North American worker gets two or three weeks off per year while a typical German worker gets six weeks of paid vacation plus national holidays every year.
In a world where we are busy and stressed beyond belief, we need all the stress reduction, mental health breaks and meditative moments we can get. The last thing we need to do is to speed up our leisure times too.
We live in extraordinary times. Technology has streamlined our lives making us routinized, mechanized and efficient modern humans. Never before have we experienced such rapid change in our world. We don't need more knowledge or faster computers, more scientific analyses or a “dynamic play” golf model that contours the game for us. We need to slow down and reconnect with ourselves every once in a while. And if we like to do do this by chasing a little white ball around a golf course while taking our time to move our bag, read our putt, and do our score, then so be it.
Rather than launching a campaign for “hurry up golf,” I suggest we start a movement for “savouring golf” much like Time magazine hero of the year Carlo Petrini did when he launched the “slow food revolution.” The art of savouring golf would look something like this. When the guy ahead of you is taking his time to set up his shot, you step back and enjoy the wind in your hair. When the woman on the next hole is marking her score card, you close your eyes, breathe in the fresh air, and feel gratitude for the beautiful day. When the 14 year old in the group ahead dallies, you enjoy the shade under a beautiful tree and commune with the crickets. The art of savouring is seriously lacking in our world today. It isn't about keeping a certain pace or even about slowing down. It's about breaking out of the rhythm of our fast-paced world every once in a while in order to maintain our sanity.
We have to learn to control the rhythms in our lives and determine our own tempos even when we are playing golf. We can't rely on golf course owners, architects, national campaigns or even Clint Eastwood to do it for us. If we don't learn the important skill of slowing down and savouring the things in life we enjoy the most, we won't survive the constant barrage of the world today. While the world keeps getting faster and faster, we'll become more unconscious, more stressed, more unhealthy and more easily bothered than we already are.
I'm not a golf fan and I hardly every play. Yet even I can see the insanity of rushing our most enjoyable past-times. Launching a national campaign to “hurry up golf” is a really bad idea.
Debbie L. Kasman
Author of Lotus of the Heart: Reshaping the Human and Collective Soul
Subscribe to Debbie's blog and get a free chapter from her book. Sign up below.