The Gestalt of Golf

August 28, 1993

It soothes presidential nerves. It adds traction to the climb up the corporate letter. It can be mastered by either sex, making it politically correct. It moves real estate. It bonds males. It's clearly more versatile than Scotch tape, aspirin or WD-40.

It's golf.

Demographics alone would dictate that this sport is primed for a growth spurt. With the average beginner age for golfers below 40, and the country's median age near the mid-30s, this is yet another example of the demographic "pig in the python" dominating changes in American culture. More women in the corporate ranks provide added fertile turf for this game, long a part of business wheeling-dealing.

Marylanders seem to be increasingly involved in this sport 99 years after it was introduced here. Baltimore city and county are ready to go to blows over whether the city can build a new course on land it owns in the county. Golf advocates in Columbia have been battling for years to get a second course built there. And Baltimore County, whose municipal slogan is "most underholed community in America," looks longingly at the preponderance of golf facilities in neighboring southern Pennsylvania and hopes to build more public courses.

Indeed, according to the National Golf Foundation, Maryland is one of the most "underholed" members of the union -- one of 11 states with more than 25,000 people per 18 holes. It also has one of the lowest golf participation rates, perhaps because of the paucity of places to play; according to the foundation, 9.8 percent of Marylanders play the game, the 12th lowest rate in the U.S. But that shouldn't last for long with all the 20- and 30-year-olds we see headed for the links these days; there's even a beverage commercial on TV showing some teen-ager in hip-hop clothes, with the requisite baseball cap on backwards, working up a thirst by driving golf balls rather than shooting baskets. Wasn't this once an old person's game? Doesn't anyone play tennis or jog anymore?

Sure they do. But like President Clinton, they find an escape, a TTC camaraderie and an encounter of skill that apparently this pursuit alone can provide. No wonder the president doesn't care much for Camp David. Did you ever try to drive a golf ball in the Catoctin woods?

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