Countries, the Citizens of the United States Term Paper

Pages: 30 (9757 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 37  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Sports

¶ … countries, the citizens of the United States enjoy a wide range of amateur and professional sports, with golf consistently ranking among the top five sports in terms of participation and spectatorship in national surveys. Since its introduction to the United States in the late 19th century, golf has experienced a number of boosts in its popularity, including most recently the superior and unprecedented play of Tiger Woods. The scandal surrounding Woods, though, and his recent announcement that he was temporarily retired from the sport, have some observers concerned that golf's halcyon days are over. Moreover, golf courses require enormous amounts of prime land, as well as water and pesticides to keep them in the pristine condition that players prefer. Some critics suggest that these resources could be used better elsewhere. To determine if golf's rising popularity in recent years can withstand these challenges, this study provides a brief history of the sport of golf, some of the innovations in golf equipment design and changes in the rules and that have contributed to its popularity, the sport's mental and physical requirements, and an analysis of the future of golf in the United States. Based on a review of the peer-reviewed, scholarly and reliable online literature, it was determined that it will be possible for golf to survive these challenges, but golf course managers and tournament operators should take certain steps to counter the constraints described above.

The Evolution of Golf and an Assessment of Where the Sport is Headed

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Today, professional golf is one of the few sports that functions strictly at the individual, rather than a team or national, level. In golf, an individual's success or failure has the potential to attract international media attention, but the golfer is essentially representing self or sponsors (Polley, 1999). Prior to Tiger Woods' recent sex-related scandal, golf had been enjoying an enormous amount of popularity in the United States and abroad (Hardin, 2008). In fact in 2006 alone, almost 30 million amateur golfers played the game on the country's 16,000 golf courses. Not surprisingly, this level of active participation was also responsible for generating more than $76 billion in 2005, with the golf economy including $6 billion that was invested in equipment and supplies (Hardin, 2008). All told, the multiplier effect that resulted from these expenditures meant that the total economic impact of the sport of golf on the U.S. economy in 2005 alone was at least $195 billion (Hardin, 2008). Moreover, golf has experienced consistent growth in its television ratings for the past decade, a trend that may continue notwithstanding the Tiger Woods debacle. For instance, the television ratings for the Monday playoff round of the 2008 U.S. Open were reported to be the highest ever for golf on cable television (Hardin, 2008). At the time, Tiger Woods was ranked as America's favorite athlete (Hardin, 2008). By sharp contrast, though, Woods is now is seclusion having announced his retirement on national television as well as his official Web site, and many observers are wondering what impact this event will have on the future of golf in America, a question that is also the focus of this study.

Historical Background

Based on the best historical evidence, golf was first introduced in Scotland based on the traditional game of shinty, which is a type of field hockey developed by the Celts (McComb, 2004). The early version of the sport resembled the modern version in the manner in which it was played, but the equipment used was vastly different. For instance, in the earliest versions of golf, elite Scotsmen employed clubs that were constructed from thorn trees and small leather balls that were packed with feathers that had been boiled; however, the play was comparable to the modern version in that there were long, grassy fairways that featured a small hole on a manicured green area (McComb, 2004). The goal of the earlier versions of golf was essentially the same as the modern version, which was to sink the player's ball in the fewest number of strokes possible (McComb, 2004).

While historians differ in their opinion concerning the precise origins, the Scottish connection is supported by the fact that the word "golf" is derived from Scottish word "colf," which refers to a stick or club (McComb, 2004). Further support for the Scottish origins of the sport can be traced to 1457, when James II outlawed golf because he feared it was taking time away from archery practice, which was deemed essential for national defense purposes (McComb, 2004). Things changed, though, in 1603 when James IV of Scotland assumed the English throne as James I and constructed a golf course at Blackheath and introduced the game of golf to upper-class Englishmen (McComb, 2004). The Royal and Ancient Golf Club was form in 1754 at St. Andrews and established the initial rules of play for golf, and assumed a governing function for the sport as well and many of the rules of the modern sport can be traced to their efforts to standardize the game; for instance, the Royal and Ancient Golf Club established 18 holes as the official number for a game (McComb, 2004). Other aspects of modern golf, such as course layout and appearance can also be traced to these early origins. For example, the staff at St. Andrews created their golf course parallel to the coast where the landscape had been transformed into a series of sand dunes, grassy patches and natural depressions; however, unlike their modern counterparts, the greens keepers at St. Andrews used grazing animals to keep the grass well maintained (McComb, 2004). According to this golf historian, "These open 'links' became an embedded part of the worldwide architecture of golf and so the contemporary fairways, greens, rough sand bunkers, and undulating mounds pay constant tribute to a Scottish heritage" (McComb, 2004, p. 42). In fact, given its relatively recent introduction into the United States slightly more than 100 years ago, the increasing popularity of and interest in golf during the late 20th century and early 21st century represents a significant trend (Hardin, 2008). Once again, although historians disagree on the precise numbers involved, there were a few golf clubs established in the United States by the late 18th century, but none of these has endured to present day (Hardin, 2008). In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a series of events occurred that helped to fuel interest in golf in the United States, including the establishment of the first permanent golf club, St. Andrews located north of Yonkers, New York in 1878, the creation of the first governing authority for golf in 1888 (Hardin, 2008) and the growing number of golf players from Scotland who immigrated to the United States in the late 1880s (Napton & Laingen, 2008).

Other factors contributed to the growth in the sport's popularity as well. For instance, although women were banned from professional competition at the time, St. Andrews established a section of the course for women around the fin de siecle that would also have lasting implications for the sport. According to McComb (2004), this separation of the genders by St. Andrews established a standard that remains firmly in place in many private clubs today. This golf historian adds that, "Women had to remain in their place and rarely gained any sort of control or voting right in the club even though on weekdays they often outnumbered the men on the premises. But golf with its pleasant surroundings and moderate physical demands quietly spread and attracted middle-aged and middle to upper-class players" (McComb, 2004, p. 42).

Other events helped to fuel interest in and the popularity of golf during this period in the nation's history as well. For example, around 1895, there was a groundswell of effort by golfing enthusiasts who wanted to promote the sport for the average person rather than just America's elite and that municipal golf courses would be a good investment of scarce resources (Kirsch, 2007). Before America's entry into World War I, these golfing enthusiasts were joined by golf course architects, newspapers, and golfing publications that also clamored for the construction of public golf courses (Kirsch, 2007). According to this golf historian, "In 1913 one writer declared, 'Public interest should now be developed in golf and public links as a national asset, a builder of better and hardier citizens ... golf is and ought to be brought within the reach of all -- poor or rich, as a mental and physical developer, and in the interest of a better and saner citizenship'" (quoted in Kirsch, 2007 at p. 371).

Prior to World War I, in response to this general demand for golf courses in the United States, municipalities across the country began to construct public golf courses that were well attended, and even crowded, with many aspiring golfers arriving at courses before the sun came up during the week as well as on weekends, which was a clear indication that golf had generated sufficient… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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