The Wall Street Journal's Golf Journal column carried an a great interview with Frank Thomas, the former technical director of the U.S. Golf Association (USGA). Thomas makes some great points about the impracticality of state-of-the-art golf technology to the grassroots golfer. The quote that jumped off the page for me was this:
...the thing that concerns me is how commerce now dominates golf and is trying to squeeze the last dollar out of its most avid customers rather than trying to open the game up to more participants. If the goal is to improve the overall health and enjoyment of the game, that's the wrong direction.
I see the same kind of issues happening in sports that I am more involved in, namely ice hockey and road cycling. All three of these sports have grown rapidly in the past ten years, and are arguably having difficulty sustaining that growth rate because they are all expensive sports to play.
The media that helps people follow these sports focus on the personalities at the top of the elite pyramids (people like Tiger Woods, Sidney Crosby, and Levi Leipheimer), and the technology that makes greater achievements possible.
I'm in favor of talking about the technical advances in sports-- Operation Gadget wouldn't be what it is with out them. But, the key to continuing the growth of technologically-driven sports in North America is driving the technology into progressively less expensive equipment.
If all technological advances stay at the high end, growth of these games will stagnate and the gear manufacturers will fight over the people who are willing and able to pay top dollar for the latest and greatest. Some people would argue that's where we are today in all of these sports.
I was really impressed with what Frank Thomas had to say in this interview. The column mentions two places where we can hear more from him: