A New Leaf
MAY 7, 2008.
Northern Ohio is awakening. After a six month slumber mother nature has blessed Yankeeland with the symphony of sights and scents we call spring. Spring in the north awakens a part of your soul that went dormant the previous fall.
Everywhere I go in my little Midwestern world I feel like I’m in a botanical garden at the peak of its glory. Trees that have been gray since October have flowered forth with their best new spring outfits in vibrant pinks, reds, whites, yellows, and purples. The air is sweetened by their finest perfumes, scents that last a fleeting few days. The air is clean, the sun bright, and the scenery surreal. Our psyches are refreshed and invigorated. Life has begun again, all around as well as within us.
The feeling of spring in the northern Midwest cannot be fully described. I know I just about wouldn’t trade it for anything. Six often dreary months of the wet and the cold are a small price to pay to be able to experience these amazing few weeks. Each year they add intoxicating moments to our life collection.
I pity the poor folks down south in the great wasteland, where the sameness of their surroundings blurs nature’s glorious endowments. They have no symphonies, no moments of sensory overload to fire the soul.
“Up North”, the Masters defines the advent of golf’s “spring”. As with Cinderella-boy Carl Spackler, this is when our most transcendent golf fantasies race through our minds. As with the poet, who never saw the west coast until he moved to the east, each spring gives us the precious opportunity to be reintroduced to the game we love and see it again for the first time.
Many of us race to the pro shops (for those of you younger readers, golf courses used to have stores where you bought all your golf stuff–I use the term “pro shop” metaphorically here to refer to your local big box golf store), ready to find that newest best putter, to pick out the latest in super-long, high MOI modulus rhombus humpus bumpus drivers, and stock up on the new hexagonal dimple, high flying, max distance balls that know not to spin on drives but on approaches spin like Brian Boitano on Red Bull.
My twelve-year-old son, as has been the pattern the last few years, frequently disappears during the Masters telecast. He can always be found on the hitting tee I built in our backyard, where you can hit up to about 135 yards before shots find the woods and the creek beyond. He hits until the balls run out (no self-respecting twelve year old would think about grabbing the shag bag and actually retrieving the balls). A growing boy, he finds that his new-found size has added about twenty yards to his shots, meaning there’s no reason to go pick up the balls–they’ve all found the thick woods or the creek.
I, myself, can’t resist the temptation to head out and see if I can hit a few stiff to the makeshift pin set about 115 out. I actually take the time to dig out my clubs, reintroduce myself to the six or eight putters in my harem, and check the status of all my gear. This is when I notice that the fifty or so Top Flites (I can’t afford Pro V1’s) that I thought were in my bag are suspiciously missing–the zipper to the ball compartment wide open.
I ask my son if by chance he took my balls to hit on the backyard range, to which he tentatively replies… “Maybe…”.
There are somewhere around 24 million golfers in the U.S. That’s about 8% of the total population. However, in four contiguous states that border Canada–Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and North Dakota–nearly 20% dig the sticks out each spring.
In Canada, where there are only two seasons–seven months of winter and the five month golf season–over 25% of the population play.
Around the world in markets where golf is considered by many to be a new-age sport–places like Korea, China, India, and the Czech Republic–there is an enthusiasm for the game of golf we’ve not generally seen in this country for generations. Golf is growing at the rate of 25% per year or more in some of these markets, where the game is new and exciting. The U.S. golf market has remained flat for many years. One might say golf here has lost its luster…
…except in the cold north, where at least for a few days each spring we embrace it like a newborn child.