Fighting the decline in golfing — with yoga, and hovercrafts!

I said it and I’m glad I said it. I do not golf, have never golfed, and, barring a brain transplant, never will.

I don’t golf.

There. I said it and I’m glad I said it. I do not golf, have never golfed, and, barring a brain transplant, will go to my reward as a devout and dedicated non-golfer.

Why? Let me list the reasons:

Golf is hard.

Although the concept is simple (take stick, poke ball until it goes in hole, repeat) golf is actually very difficult. There are eighteen holes; practitioners consider themselves proficient if they can navigate the course in fewer than 100 strokes. That works out to five point six strokes per hole. Contrast that with, say, lounging in a hammock, perusing the sky, a potent libation sweating and tinkling at your elbow. Not so hard.

Golf is long.

A full round of golf takes about four hours. Throw in another couple of hours for the commute, locker room chit chat and post-round socializing. Who’s got six hours to spare these days?

Golf is silly.

Well, it looks silly, for sure. Consider pro golfer/vision-in-orange-checks Rickie Fowler. What is that look, anyway – Suburban Pimp? And shoes with tassels AND cleats? Really? In some parts of the world you’d be arrested on suspicion.

Golf is expensive.

Aside from the small fortune you pay for a set of titanium, carbon-fibred, graphite-shafted clubs, a few dozen elite golf balls, cart rental, drinks at the 19th hole and — unless you’re a drug lord living off the avails of your trade and can afford a club membership — there is the small matter of the fee for a single round of golf.

Last time I checked Glen Abbey was asking over 150 bucks for the privilege of cursing your way around 18 holes. Once. That’s an expensive walk in the park.

Oh — and then there’s the fact that the game is mortally wounded. The number of active U.S. golfers peaked in 2002 and has since plummeted by an astonishing 24 percent. Here in Canada, the decline is less precipitous but alarming all the same. The National Allied Golf Association reports that the number of annual rounds played at Canadian courses dropped 14 percent in the past five years.

Blame Baby Boomers for not picking up the slack as old duffers fade away. Lots of newbies don’t have cars and it’s tough to find bus service to most golf courses. Many don’t have the moolah and none of them have the time. They’d rather be on Twitter than a fairway.

Golf is fighting back. Some U.S. courses are offering yoga classes, even hovercraft rides to attract new users. Others are reaming out the holes, tripling the width to 15 inches.

Then there’s FootGolf, a combination of golf and soccer.  Golfers (or perhaps footsters) play with a soccer ball. The idea is to boot, not putt, your way through nine, not eighteen holes. Said holes have been widened to 21-inches to accommodate the larger ball.

I’ve got a better idea. It’s a game that involves no dress code, no expensive gear, no club membership and a minimum of frustration but you still get fresh air, plenty of walking and a chance to escape concrete, hear the birds and smell the flowers.

I call it Going for a Walk.

— Arthur Black lives on Saltspring Island. His column appears every Tuesday in The NEWS. E-mail: arblack43@shaw.ca.

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