Greg Nathan may be the senior VP of the National Golf Foundation, but he also goes by another moniker — the Mayor of Crazy Town, a self-described “nut-case” who’s “fighting the good fight in the golf industry.” Under that guise, as well as in his traditional role as industry seer, Nathan offers a far different take on golf in the year that’s about to end from that of most observers.
Sure, Hizzoner chats about Tiger Woods (“It was a year that would make a career for almost any other player…and everyone yawned”) and Rory McIlroy (“talented player, humble man and a classy ambassador for the game” whose equipment change may come back to haunt him). But his look back is more about growing the game, and to that end, he pronounces 2012 a “comeback year” for the golf biz in rounds played (a year-to-year increase of some 27 million) and the positive financial impact on courses (as much as $1 billion).
Nathan provides a unique perspective on the proposed anchoring ban (“a continuation of the epic conflict between forces like tradition, integrity, challenge, creativity, innovation, and even politics”) that extends beyond the impact it will have on Keegan Bradley and other members of the belly putter brigade.
“The best thing about the issue,” Nathan avers, “is that it makes us all think deeply about the game and what’s most important to each of us, as golfers, administrators, guardians…and as business people.”
Nathan also applauds the PGA of America’s Golf 2.0 and Get Golf Ready initiatives, and tees up a glass-half-full analysis of the continuing decline in course openings. The net reduction of 500 tracks since 2006, he says, “is not a story at all” — despite what you read here and elsewhere — given that shuttering struggling establishments would bolster the well-being of existing courses, “and the impact on golf demand would be negligible.
“There is plenty of supply to serve America’s golfers,” Nathan concludes, “and the quality of that supply has never been better.”
Of course, the mayor’s not quite so crazy as he would have you believe. To those who may not concur with his rosy regard for 2012, Nathan recognizes there’s work to do.
“Still a long way to go,” he says, “but a welcome change from the declines of recent years.”
Emily Kay is a regular contributor to New England Golf Monthly. You may follow Kay on Twitter @golfexaminerWHAT'S YOUR REACTION?