good-bad-uglyFore! It’s the dawn of a new golf season here in New England, where expectations will never be higher, the clubs never cleaner and the desire to tee it up will never burn as passionately. Unless you are among those with enough disposable income to afford a mid-winter trip to someplace warm, you have been cooped up without golf for at least three to four months and all those negative vibes that had built up over the course of last year have been purged from your golfing soul.

Our tee off edition of NEGM, perhaps the only one where Gorman and I don’t try to insult each other into oblivion (although I’m sure he’ll make an amateurish shot at me in this month’s edition because it’s part of his DNA), is devoted to speculating about what is going to be good, bad and ugly about the 2014 season. First the good. Number one is the fact that golf is back, we have plenty of great courses to play, equipment continues to evolve and our love for the game remains steadfast.

Then there is the PGA Tour where the depth of fields continues to improve with more and more good, young and exciting players, making it more and more difficult for anyone person to dominate. Globally golf continues to grow. Courses are being built everywhere. China, for example is beginning to see a boom in golf as more and more courses are built. We’re beginning to see young Chinese players emerge on the world stage. More and more junior programs are emerging around the country, attempting to grow the game, making it available to those who just a couple of decades ago would never have even dreamed of having the opportunity to pick up a club.

Golf remains one of the best ways to interact, exercise and enjoy the great outdoors, all while playing against an unrelenting opponent – yourself. But there are aspects that are not so sunny. The amount of people giving up the game continues to grow, for a variety of reasons. Secondly is the increasing length of play. It seems that people get slower and slower each year and therein lies the Catch 22. Many give up the game because they can’t spend five hours on the golf course and if clubs and resorts enforce quicker play it often leads to people vowing to never return. Neither is good for business.

Thirdly is the continued erosion of the LPGA. For whatever reason interest in the LPGA seems to diminish each year. Fewer and fewer tournaments, little television coverage and dwindling sponsorships have hurt the ladies now for the past decade and the trend appears to be continuing. Fourth is the evolution and rising cost of golf equipment. The length that balls now travel, both because of the technology in the clubs and the balls themselves, has made so many of the great courses obsolete.

Finally, the ugly. The clear winners remain my scorecard, Gorman’s swing, the preponderance of people riding instead of walking the course, and Ian Poulter’s pants. On the pro tours the billboard like attire of the players and the signage everywhere dilutes the pure beauty of a golf course. Necessary to the financial health of those tours but it’s still ugly. So get ‘em shined up and ready to go. There’s more good than bad out there and remember to follow Arnie’s advice and swing your swing.

Tim Geary is a R.I. based freelance writer. This will be is 44th golf season.