The curmudgeonly American essayist H.L. Mencken once wrote: “Every complex problem has a solution which is simple, direct, plausible—and wrong”, and if he had been confronted with golf’s current challenge to attract and keep new golfers, he would certainly consider it a complex problem. There is also no shortage of pundits with simple, direct and plausible solutions, but are they all wrong?
All the usual solutions sound great when viewed in isolation:
It’s hard to argue against any of those, and they all have the potential to be the “one thing” that would bring about the great awakening of the non-golfing population to the wonders of golf.
People are generally all too willing to put their faith in a singular idea, and sports administrators (a whole category of people) are particularly attracted to the simple sound bite that passes the “pub test” – a scientific mix of non-expert opinion and subjective judgement handed down from ordinary folk, usually expressed with a verdict like “that’s bull” or “sounds good”.
It’s easy enough to win over a small group of people with a strong and confident proclamation of a simple, direct and plausible solution. But it may only resonate as far as your voice will carry in the pub.
Beyond the pub test, out in the real world, problems are complex and full of nuance and unintended consequences. For ideas to succeed, they need to be poked and prodded and held up to greater scrutiny. Of course, it’s possible to endlessly over-analyse and be paralysed into inaction which is how it might appear to outside observers of golf’s governing bodies.
Fortunately, though progress has been made in Australia as evidenced by the recent creation of the “Nature Report” by the Australian Golf Industry Council.
The report explores a suite of potential solutions, they all sound simple enough on the surface and most would pass the pub test.
However, golf has limited resources and someone will inevitably start prioritising. Pretty soon someone else asks, “If you could only do one thing what would it be?” and before you know it there’s an all-conquering statement of intent which everybody agrees is a great idea – a simple, singular solution that gets funded… and that would be ok. Golf would go on and eventually, there’d be some small but significant outcome.
But that would be underachieving. Golf has lots of great people with an incredible range of skills and Australian golf’s governing bodies have never been more aligned and willing to work together. What we’ve got now is an opportunity to take on a suite of solutions. Each of them is simple, direct and plausible in isolation but combined they have the potential to solve truly complex problems. Problems like engaging with potential and existing golfers and getting them playing more golf.
By Adrian Logue – MSL Solutions