Where we grew up, high school kids used to earn college money carrying rich people’s golf bags around the courses. It was called caddying. It built character.
These days, there’s a program called "First Tee" that stresses articulated core values—honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy, judgment. It introduces kids of all means to the sport, and builds character.
The number of golf rounds played per year is linked to age, but even seniors are playing less. Yet it was just in the 1990s that many new courses were built as the sport’s popularity boomed, each year breaking previous attendance records at the PGA merchandise shows. Society now values quickness and busy-ness; and golf, with its four- and five-hour time commitment for 18 holes, represents (unthinkable?) leisure.
In Minneapolis, officials spend only about 75 percent of the person hours needed to maintain courses acceptably, and the courses show deterioration. Officials treat golf as an enterprise, but they admit they need to run the enterprise differently, to bring it back to at least break-even.
Minneapolis taxpayers may be asked to invest up front or long-term in the solution. There’s been no serious talk of closing any one course. There’s been some talk of "re-purposing" but the most interested public, the golfers, see little merit in that. While they love their home courses, they already also play the field of other metro area courses in better shape for about the same price per outing.
Think about the landscape without Columbia or Gross Golf Courses; how these green oases enrich our daily walks, runs, and even our driving commutes. Do we treasure them even if we don’t personally use them to chase a ball around with a cart full of sticks? We think so, just as we treasure those icons of the gentler and more genteel years, our golfing friends.