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Hacking Golf

Hackgolf.org hopes to improve golf’s relevance by crowdsourcing "random and radical ideas," reports Christian Chensvold in The Wall Street Journal (1/29/14). The initiative is "designed to address the calamity of the sport’s rapidly diminishing number of participants. The sport has lost five million players in the US over the past decade, according to the National Golf Foundation, including a 30% drop in golfers age 18-34." The central question, as articulated by Hackgolf founders Mark King and Joe Beditz, is how "to make golf more fun."

However, Christian Chensvold says this is the wrong question because nobody expects golf to be fun. He writes: "Is learning the violin fun? Is becoming a competitive chess player fun? Minigolf, with its colored balls and Ferris Wheels, is fun. But the satisfaction derived from real golf is much more profound than the word ‘fun’ would suggest." “Golf," Christian continues, "is beyond fun. It is the ultimate sporting test of physical coordination, mental focus, strategy and nerves."

This, he says, is what makes golf "an elite sport, but not in the old-fashioned way of country-club expense and exclusivity." It’s an elitism born of "individual temperament" forged by today’s technology, which makes it so easy to learn new things that Christian thinks it "has eroded our collective willingness to take up long-term challenges." He suggests playing to that idea with a pitch like that used to recruit for the Armed Forces, such as: "Have you got what it takes?" Or, as Bob Hope once said, "If you think golf is relaxing, you’re not playing it right."