Mac Engel

Dads’ new role helps explain golf’s declining numbers

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Mickelson won the 2008 tournament with a remarkable shot.
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Mickelson won the 2008 tournament with a remarkable shot.

One of the benefits of parenthood is the unchallengeable built-in excuse that it gets you out of every single prior commitment known to man. Alas, there is a downside.

Fellas, there simply is not that much time to get out on the links any more. Blame your kid. If you want, blame your wife, too.

A first-world “crisis” plaguing the sport, the PGA and the United States Golf Association is the drop in participation in the game of golf.

Everything from decreased attention spans to smartphones to a wealth of other opportunities has been blamed for this reality, but allow me to add another — the kid.

My own theory about why golf participation has dropped is that dads of recent generations simply must do more at home than ever before. Dad does not have the luxury of four to five hours necessary to play 18, and then lounge at the 19th hole multiple times a week.

Women in the workforce and the need for two incomes have completely changed the needs and expectations of men at home, thus reducing discretionary leisure time.

Before Felicity Feminist or Carol Conservative comes at me with a tire iron: This is not a complaint, merely a societal observation based on my own parents, who were born in the 1930s, and my contemporaries.

According to a survey conducted by the Sports & Fitness Industry Association in 2014, overall participation in the game fell for a fifth consecutive year.

In 2014, retail giant Edwin Watts Golf filed for bankruptcy, blaming a decline in golf’s popularity. That same year, the president of national retailer Dick’s Sporting Goods said in a conference call about lagging golf equipment sales, “We don’t know where the bottom is in golf.”

That golf is too exclusive, too expensive and takes too much time have been excuses to avoid playing it since this maddening game was invented.

“I’m getting my 8-year-old into [golf], and he’s good for an hour,” PGA tour pro Ryan Palmer said Tuesday at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial. “And then he’s ready to go play.”

A portion of this “crisis” is caused by today’s new normal.

In 2010, the Current Population Survey stated that the number of dual-income homes had jumped from 47 percent in 1967 to 66 percent in 2008.

In the once traditional single-income home, Dad went to work; in his spare time he had the freedom to play golf. My dad didn’t play much golf, but I’m fairly certain he knew where the 19th hole was … on every corner.

The feminist movement of the ’60s prompted a generation of women to wise up and ask, “Why am I the only one doing this?” when it came to the thankless task of running the home. Then came the continued spike in inflation and, more recently, the absurd rise in fixed costs of education and healthcare.

Add it all up and it has made all of us dudes look at our daily clock differently. There are not enough hours in the day to play one round of a game that is the time equivalent of an amateur running a marathon.

Walking around Colonial this week at Crowne Plaza Invitational is fun and a reminder that the game has to create a new train of thought — that to play golf does not require four hours.

We are nearly all annoyingly distracted by our phones, so rather than fight it, take advantage of it. Courses should be aggressively promoting the fun in chipping and putting, and push the nine-hole round, roughly the same as a feature-length movie. There should be more pitch-and-putts and par-3 courses.

That’s what golf can do and is trying to do. The rest is on us and our schedules.

For an increasing many, getting a round in is simply too time-consuming, and for that you can just blame your kid. Or, if you really want to have some fun, blame your wife.

Listen to Mac Engel every Tuesday and Thursday on Shan & RJ from 5:30-10 a.m. on 105.3 The Fan.

Mac Engel, 817-390-7697

Twitter: @macengelprof and The Big Mac Blog

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