The Niggle: Is golf too difficult?

Is the skill threshold too high for beginners?

In recent weeks we’ve had two members of the NCG team begin their golfing journeys.

With our Lady Golfer team member having never picked up a club before in her life, we examine whether golf really is too difficult.

If even the pros have problems, then what chance do us average (and in most cases) below average players have?

Is golf really that difficult? What can we do to improve the ease of entry? And can we make the game easier without it being ‘dumbed down’?

James Savage (JS) – Golf is a tough sport when starting from scratch so you need at least five lessons to get going. 

Damien Wilde (DW) – I agree JS, it’s definitely frustrating trying to make progress quickly. 

You have to give it time to get into the game. Sometimes I’d just prefer to play 9 holes if I’m honest, especially if I am playing badly (which is all the time).

Lee Jones (LJ) – Yes, definitely for beginners. Playing off shorter tees is the main way this could be addressed to keep newbies interested in, and enjoying, the game.

Tom Lenton (TL) – I think playing with beginners at a similar level is important – taking away the embarrassment factor – keeping it competitive and pushing each other to improve.  

Mark Townsend (MT) – Too many of us obsess about playing off the furthest back tees, whenever possible, and see a course being under 6,000 yards as some sort of weakness. 

Too much is made of ‘championship courses’ when we would all have more fun playing more short irons and a variety of clubs off the tee.

I think playing with beginners at a similar level is important, taking away the embarrassment factor TL – Maybe something that LJ mentioned the other day was a good idea – beginner afternoons / evenings over perhaps 9 holes. 

Tom Irwin (TI) – I think golf is definitely difficult to excel at. The challenges the game present are myriad and both physical & mental. 

I disagree with LJ and TL though, I don’t think the sport should be dumbed down or changed to simplify the challenge.

Jordan Elliott (JE) – Golf is a game of time, and I think that the only hindrance people have of getting better is having the time to play! All the facilities / coaching etc are easily accessible for anyone who wants to give it a go!
For example, if you never had to work and could play golf every day eventually it wouldn’t be hard.
With enough practice I think anyone can become more than competent.
TI – The issue on difficulty as a barrier to participation, is how people are introduced to the game. 

If a new player wanders out on to full length golf course with absolutely no guidance, then yes that will be a very frustrating experience and they would be unlikely return. A novice skier dumped at the top of a black run is equally unlikely to return.  
Once up and running, golf has a unique handicap system meaning that relative beginners can compete very early in their playing cycle with more experienced players and win. 

What needs to change is the fear that no golfers have of embarrassing themselves on a golf course, because they perceive themselves to be ‘rubbish’ in comparison to other players.

Karl Hansell (KH) – I’d argue Golf is really hard, as you can tell from my ‘Zero to Hero’ challenge.

Golf is hugely rewarding when you do it well but highly frustrating when you don’t/can’t. 

Not everyone can be an average marathon runner, or rock climber, or canoeist, or footballer, or cricketer – because skill & fitness levels have a minimum requirements, not so in golf, everyone has the natural tools to be competent.



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