The Golf Craze

Article excerpt

Not since the tennis boom of the mid '70s has a sport generated as much interest and participation as golf has, creating an exploding craze that has moved the game from the exclusivity of the count clubs and into the lives of the masses.

From blue-collar workers to aspiring corporate executives to inner-city youths to celebrities like Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley and Bryant Gumbel, all are a part of the golfmania that has been responsible for the crowded driving ranges, the hard-to-get tee times and the almost continuous construction of new golf courses.

Some are going to the links for exercise to improve their health, some because they want to be like Tiger, but large numbers are going because playing golf has become a virtual necessity in corporate America, where you make contacts and sometimes turn big deals between the first and 18th holes. "Traditionally, golf has been viewed as a natural extension of the corporate world. The game gives you the perfect opportunity to sell yourself and your product in a relaxed, social and not-so-confined setting," says Richard Williams, a San Francisco office supply salesman who began playing five years ago. "I've found that clients can be much more receptive to your sales pitch when it's done on a picturesque golf course. But it's a good idea to talk about your product after the client makes a good shot."

Corporate benefits aside, some of those who have been swept up by golfmania -- men and women -- admit that they began to play simply to improve their social scores. More and more, the golf course is proving to be a perfect setting to begin lasting relationships.

But why has a game that has been around since the 18th century suddenly become so overwhelmingly popular, regardless of socioeconomic status? The game appeals to so many people, many observers agree, because it has become more accessible to more people. …