I've long thought that growing the game of golf, given the late-2000s recession and an increasingly digital world, would be a slow, gradual though ultimately fruitful process. But the coronavirus pandemic, of all things, has made me question that position a little bit.
On Thursday, the National Golf Foundation reported that juniors and adults are both taking up and returning to the game at a 20% higher rate so far in 2020 than over the same interval in 2018 and 2019. While most of America remains cautious about spending much time in public due to the threat of COVID-19, golf has started to look more and more interesting as a safe diversion. Occasional surveys of my friends Instagram feeds have turned up more photos and video clips from a golf course or driving range than I recall seeing in the past. A fraternity brother of mine who didn't play much golf when we were in college has recently been sending me videos of his own forays into golf at a packed Chelsea Piers range in New York.
Turning people from non-golfers to golfers has always struck me as a much bigger challenge than keeping them interested once they get into it. The essence of the game doesn't change much over time - thank goodness - but the circumstances surrounding people making the step into the game have changed in a big, strange way in the last four months. It's a little moribund to think that a global health crisis has, in a roundabout way, helped the golf industry, so I'd rather remain grateful about every new convert to the game I and millions of others love. If you're new to golf, let me know what you think of it so far, either in the comments or on Twitter.