What's Growing?

While assessing my low self-esteem issues (as diagnosed by bloggers who cower under nicknames!), I keep going back to the gist of E. Michael Johnson's rebuttal to those of us concerned about the distance race in golf.

The game survives when it chooses to grow.  

Okay, set aside the fact that this line doesn't make any sense. Because the game is surviving right not even when all signs point to no growth.  But is "surviving" really acceptable or a healthy long term strategy? Of course not. 

Let's assume Johnson is saying that "growing" distances people hit the ball is good for golf. Now, as you regular readers of this site or The Future of Golf know, this "growing" thing has proven unproductive. Courses are growing in length, they are growing soulless in design, rounds are growing in length of time they take to play, rough is growing in length to compensate for distance jumps, fairway widths are growing in narrowness, cost is growing to play the game, and yet, by Johnson's own admission, longer drives fueled by equipment are not growing much for the average player.

Oh, and television ratings are not even close to growing. The number of rounds played, especially by avid players, has not grown.

So the growth that is occurring is almost entirely driven by deregulation.

As Frank Hannigan pointed out in his letter to this site the day prior to "Bomb's" big stand:

Clubs that want to entertain big events have done what clubs from time immemorial have done when the ball was juiced. They have lengthened their courses significantly and sometimes comically (see the Old Course at St. Andrews which had a tee added on another course.)

As for new courses with thoughts of grandeur, the standard has jumped from 7,000 to 7,500 yards in a short time. That requires more real estate and increased maintenance costs.

The USGA, charged with protecting golf, has caused it to become more expensive.