Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Do Golfers Need Glasses

Golfers are a strange lot. I’ve never understood the attraction in chasing a little white ball around a mile-and-a-half expanse of land for half-a-day, trying to putt the ball into a hole in the ground, something even golfers would admit is difficult and frustrating. There seems to be enough stress in everyday life without voluntarily spending time on a golf course.

Now, there’s another reason to be skeptical of golf and golfers. In an online survey commissioned by the Callaway Golf Company, 78% of respondents said they would rather play a round of golf at Augusta National, home of the Masters, than have a date with 2009 SI Swimsuit cover girl, Bar Refaeli. The survey results are great news for sports business, especially the golf industry and companies such as Callaway.

According to Darren Rovell of, the survey was taken by people who say they “play golf.” If ever there was a reason not to play golf, this may it. How, exactly, can a red-blooded male choose playing golf over a date with a supermodel? On the other hand, the poll results may not come as a surprise to many wives and girlfriends who have become golf “widows,” giving up their weekends – and their husbands and boyfriends - to the golf course.

In an effort to obtain additional information about the survey, I contacted Callaway. I was interested in whether the company collected information about the respondents, including such things as their age, income level, how often they play golf, whether they are married or single, and their gender. Unfortunately, a spokesperson said he hadn’t heard about the survey and neither had his supervisor. He admitted, however, that he would have responded with the majority, perhaps understandable given his employer.

Admittedly, Augusta National is a gorgeous expanse of land. But in spite of its history, aura, and exclusivity, it’s still just a golf course. And any golf course pales in comparison to the lovely Refaeli.

Ironically, Augusta National is the same club that refuses to allow female members, regardless of how much money they have or what they look like. The National Council of Women’s Organizations picketed the Masters in 2003 in an effort to force the club to open its doors to distaff members. When the heat became too hot for the tournament sponsors, Augusta National purchased its own TV time on CBS and broadcast the Masters sans advertising.

But the club membership refused to knuckle under and the NCWO got tired and went home. When they did, the advertisers returned. Women are allowed to play the Augusta National course - with restrictions - but aren’t allowed to step foot in the hallowed clubhouse.

In analyzing survey results, it should be noted that polling is an inexact science, especially when done by amateurs. The wording of the question can influence the result. For example, in the Callaway survey, the question doesn’t suggest the nature of the relationship with Refaeli. What exactly is the meaning of the word “date?” Where would the date be held? What would the parties be doing? For how long? Who else would be present? On the other hand, golfers think they know what they’re getting – or at least, what they’ve dreamed about – if they play a round of golf at Augusta National.

According to the National Golf Foundation, there are an estimated 26.2 million golfers in this country, 45 percent of whom are between the ages of 18 and 39. Another 33 percent are considered seniors (over the age of 50). If the survey was limited to senior golfers, that might explain the results, at least in part. Still, it’s hard to reconcile the survey results with a photo of Refaeli. “Nearly 80% of respondents choose round of golf over date with supermodel” isn’t a headline that goes down easily with the morning coffee.

More realistic is the headline in a recent story in The New York Times on golfer Steve Wilson, a 39-year- old Mississippi gas station owner and amateur golfer who shot an opening round 79 at the Masters. The article was titled, “A Bad Day on the Course Beats Any Day Pumping Gas.” Now that’s a headline even I can buy.

Jordan Kobritz is a former attorney, CPA, and Minor League Baseball team owner. He is an Assistant Professor of Sport Management at Eastern New Mexico University, teaches the Business of Sports at the University of Wyoming, and is a contributing author to the Business of Sports Network. Jordan can be reached

No comments: