By Ryan Laverty
The world of professional sports revolves around competitor versus competitor. The winner is the one who is bigger, stronger, faster or more talented. Arenas are often filled with large salaries and even larger egos. And victory occurs by dominating the challenger.
But there is one professional sport that does not pit competitor versus competitor but rather competitor versus nature. The winner is not always the biggest, strongest, fastest or most talented. In contrast to most major sports, payment depends on weekly results. This sport is golf, and it is currently one of the most popular games on the planet.
"It’s a sport anyone can play and you can never be too good at it," explained Brian Rattai, second-year Canadian Professional Golf Association member.
Sandy Macdonald, the diminutive Head Professional at Calgary Elks Golf and Country Club, jokingly expresses golf is a sport "even little guys can do." And while he was jesting in his comment, in it lies a key to the sport’s popularity.
Golf is not a game that can be overpowered by great size and strength. It is one that requires judgment and good timing. Every shot sets up the next, and having the longest drive doesn’t help if you’re never in the fairway.
For those who haven’t played, if you’re planning a career in any facet of business, you’d better start. It may be a case of the chicken and the egg, but the popularity of the game is intertwined with the corporate scene these days.
"The corporate push is a huge reason for the growth of the game. Businesses use it as a way of both entertaining clients and a way of getting things done," says golf professional Shelley Qually. "Businesses pay for employees to take lessons so that they can advance customer relations on the course."
Families are another large fragment of the market today.
"People can take their entire family out to a course and everyone can play," explained Qually. "Plus the kids really love Tiger Woods. He raised the level of awareness of the sport to a new plateau."
While national media is saturated with Tiger and he may be part of the reason for the influx of people onto the links, there is undoubtedly something more than golf’s icon that keeps people coming back.
"Golf used to be a very elitist sport so most people didn’t have access to it," remarked Macdonald. "I think people just started to discover the beauty of golf courses.
Being outside and enjoying nature is a huge draw for a lot of people."
For some people it is simply the challenge of and the love for the game that keeps them coming back for more.
"Despite what some people may think, golf can be a very tough and aggravating game," explained Rattai. "So, there is no better feeling than when you go out and play well."
And for others, including those of us not fortunate enough to have single digit handicaps, it is the simplicity of being surrounded by friends that makes the game so much fun.
So whether you’re a scratch golfer or a 40-handicapper; whether you play every day or have never played before, there is no time like the present to immerse yourself in the world of golf. And if you do, you will see that before long it will immerse itself in you.