In theory, the game of golf has not changed much since its humble beginnings. Sure, the Scottish used to hit a pebble around some sand dunes instead of a golf ball, however, the gist is basically the same.
Once the Gentleman Golfers of Edinburgh, Scotland drafted the first rules of golf in 1744, the basics were established and the core rules of the game are still applicable today.
Keeping your own score, being in charge of the ball yourself, and taking drops when necessary, are just some of the core values of golf that can still be found in today’s game.
When the PGA was formed in 1916, it appears to have been the result of a solid marketing idea by a department store magnate. Rodman Wanamaker decided that golf professionals could boost equipment sales if they came together and formed an association. Sponsorship, anyone?
I’m guessing that when those original 35 charter members of the PGA were on the same golf course together, there wasn’t a whole lot of diversity happening. The main demographic of the game of golf would continue to be conservative white men for at least a half a century.
These guys actually wore suits, complete with a tie on the course. Could you imagine walking 18 holes with a neck tie on? No, thank you.
The squeaky clean image of the PGA would continue with great role models like Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer into the modern era of the sport. John Daly became perhaps one of the first “bad boys” when he stunned the golf world by winning the PGA Championship as a rookie in 1991.
Daly had a non-country club persona and was not afraid to publically smoke cigarettes, throw clubs and drink alcohol- excessively. He brought a different fan demographic to the sport of golf as well as a new breed of sponsors.
The face of golf began to diversify again when a young Tiger Woods entered the scene in the late 1990’s. With him he brought a different sort of work ethic, training and excitement for the game. His success and domination of the sport created a whole new generation of golfers and fans, wanting to be exactly like Tiger Woods.
Woods proceeded to be a dominant force on the tour and in the media for over a decade. He generated millions of dollars for the PGA as well as his multitude of sponsors. That popularity and attention to the game of golf trickled down to the local municipal courses and inner cities, creating a new breed of golfer in America and worldwide.
Little boys and girls all over the world wanted to be and train like Tiger; until of course, the incident. During Thanksgiving of 2009, Woods created worldwide media frenzy when he embraced his inner tree hugger and collided with the one on the end of his driveway in his Cadillac Escalade.
This accident unleashed a firestorm of questions, eventually leading to Tiger’s admission of guilt to being a serial adulterer over the course of his marriage. Understandably, Woods took a hiatus from golf to work on himself and his family.
The absence of Tiger Woods was certainly felt throughout the PGA on tour and in clubhouses across the world. Viewership was down and attendance at events suffered as well. Players on tour had to adjust the way they played and prepared without Woods in the mix. Guys were so used to such a dominant force on top of the leader board that it was different now with a wide open field.
Enter the new hipsters of golf.
Without Tiger Woods in his signature red shirt on Sundays, there was room for a new group of young golfers to step up and make their presence known on the PGA tour. This new crop was flashier, more fashion forward but just as hard working and dedicated to their sport.
Guys like Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler, Rory Mcllroy and Ben Crane have once again changed the face of golf appealing to a younger hipper crowd. They wear brighter and tighter clothes, making the tour less stuffy and much more fun to watch. Their on-course fashion choices mimic the trends in society bringing in a larger demographic than in decades past.
The use of social media has given the PGA a boost in recent years as well. Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler, Ben Crane and Hunter Mahan created a You Tube video sensation under the name Golf Boys, entitled Oh Oh Oh that went viral in 2011. They followed that up with the recently recorded sequel Golf Boys 2.Oh last week. Can you imagine Bobby Jones or Ben Hogan putting themselves out there like that?
The current state of golf is certainly on the upswing. After several years of struggle for Tiger Woods both personally and on the course, he appears to have found his stride again. On Sunday, Woods won the WGC at Doral, his second of the season putting him in great shape heading towards the major events.
The PGA has become younger, hipper and more appealing to this next generation of golfers. These young guys are fabulous role models, as they have solid work ethics and practice core family values.
As a mom, I would so much rather my son takes up golf then some of the other choices for sports out there. Selfishly, for one, it is much safer and easier on the body than contact sports. It also teaches patience, honesty and hard work.
Plus, you get to have a caddie that you can make up a cool nickname for, like “T-Bone”.
Follow Jennifer on twitter @themondaymommy.