Winter 2018

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I 'd like to discuss with you why golf is boring and dying, but I can't hear you right now over the sweet sounds of my Pandora reggae station playing on my Bluetooth speaker in my golf cart. It's quite relaxing. You should try it sometime. The golf cart is parked greenside, where I just planted my high-flying, long-distance Titleist on the green. I planted my high-flying, long-distance Titleist on the green because my sleek Garmin GPS watch gave me the distance to the flag, essentially, to the inch. Now, let me go pull my personalized UCLA Bruins putter out of the bag and go make this birdie putt, will ya? OK. Done. Now. Where were we? Golf is dying and boring and old, you say? Ha! Au contraire, duffer. Never at any time in the game's history has it been more inclusive, more accessible or more fun. Faced with the challenge of declining numbers, the game is reaching out to you in unprecedented and welcoming ways. Private clubs, which for decades took pride in their Bushwood-ian stuffiness, are relaxing both rules and fees. Once the prohibitively priced enclave of family money and, later, techies who filed their IPO at the right time, private clubs are now willing to work with you on initiation fees and monthly dues. One buddy of mine, who I'd bring to every used car lot I ever walk on, drove such a hard bargain with his private club, I think he might own 40% of the land. Now, he's a delighted member and brings his junior-high age son out weekly for epic father-son bonding. Mobile phones at private clubs used to nearly call for tranquilizer darts. Now, clubs look the other way, and allow you to text at will. Heck, you might even be able to tag your club on your Instagram post. Some- where, Judge Elihu Smails recoils in horror. And when you're on the golf course, lo and behold, some are even letting you wear—gasp!—something other than the creased slacks of a Skull and Bones meet- ing. Denim and a collar-less shirt won't get you tased. No longer are some clubs playing from the parochial- school handbook. That's why you can bring that Blue- tooth speaker and have the smooth sounds of Bob Marley and The Wailers take the edge off that three-putt bogey. The game is better than ever. Course conditions, fueled by a wave of information and cutting-edge equip- ment, are at a peak. I can't think of the last time I played a course in terrible shape. Truth told, all these sleek greens are a problem. What can I blame now for the lag putt left eight feet short? Golf balls have been flying for two decades now. We simply accept the highest level of performance from the little orbs, whereas those of us over 40 remember a time when the 'smiley' was part of life. Used to be, you struck a ball in an impure way, and that golf ball had a cut in it to make Morton's Steakhouse envious. Nowadays, golf balls are indestructible, and hell-bent on scraping the clouds. The only time you need to buy a new sleeve is when you pump three tee shots O.B. Not that I know anybody like that. New rules taking effect in 2019 are expected to cut you so much slack, it's like your favorite babysitter is over when you were a kid. You're staying up late, and eating all the cake in the fridge with new rules governing drops and lost balls and hazards. It's a jailbreak out there, sports fans. And your golf clubs! A computer-based fitting out of the 22nd century now tells you your launch angle, launch direction, spin axis, spin rate, smash factor, height, carry, landing angle and hang time. After all that data is processed, you have to walk on the first tee with the confidence of a circa-2000 Tiger Woods. Once those clubs are fitted right down to your very specs that make you, well, you—you can doll them up with stamped initials, or team logos or, hell, even a skull and crossbones if you want to intimidate the guy in your $5 Nassau. In short, golf club environments are more welcom- ing than your grandmother's kitchen; golf rules are more forgiving than the Man Upstairs; golf technology is so user-friendly it's as fun and easy as your kid playing an X-Box. It's a golden age, fellow linksters. Let's party. Brian Murphy hosts the KNBR morning show "Murph and Mac" and was the San Francisco Chronicle's golf writer from 2001–2004. 104 WINTER 2018 | NCGA.ORG 'We' Never Had It so Good BY BRIAN MURPHY M U R P H Y ' S L A W

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