I finally bit the bullet and joined the USGA. They sent a flyer to me at the office (go figure) offering a discount on the membership costs, and a free 2005 US Open hat.
Mmmmm. Free hat. I couldn’t resist.
So, I got my membership kit in the mail, tried on my hat and filed my new copy of the Rules of Golf with my old copy. I dutifully and only slightly reverently attached my USGA bag tag to my bag, and shuffled through the list of benefits I’d never take advantage of – free US Open tickets if you give at the moderately obscene level!
When my wife got home and saw the little envelope carcas on the kitchen counter, she picked it up like a caveman picking up a tool for the first time. She turned it over in her hands, curious, and looked at me.
I explained to her. “It’s my USGA Membership Kit. I finally joined the USGA.”
“Oh, okay.” She seemed fine with it, but I knew what to expect. She walked in, put her stuff down and started her evening rituals when she stopped and turned back to me. “Here it comes,” I thought.
“What does that get you?” The question too me by surprise, because it wasn’t what I expected. “Why’d you get it?” or “What did it cost?” were right up the Question the Things I Buy alley. “What does that get you?”
Smiling, I prepared to run off the list of membership benefits, but mentally, I hit the roadblock. I pointed out the hat (“Why do you need another hat?”) and the copy of the Rules (“Don’t you have that already?”) and the nifty, personalized bag tag (“Oh.”) But, other than that, I came up short.
So Dear Reader, what does a USGA Membership get you? Yes, you’re supporting the game and that’s a Good Thing. And, I get the bag tag and the repair tool and the hat and the calendar and…
But, what does the USGA do? “Preserve and promote golf” and revise the Rules of Golf? Rate courses? Hold and monitor the US Open?
Don’t misunderstand me – I strongly believe that these are all much-needed endeavors, and they’re part of the reason I joined the USGA. But at the same time, I have to wonder if most people who join do so because it’s the Right Thing To Do, which begs the question:
If the reason people are spending hard-earned money on joining the USGA is because of a feeling of personal obligation, is the USGA alienating itself from the very people it’s trying to reach?
I don’t have any answers. It’s something that’s been bugging me ever since my wife asked me what my membership gets me. I’ll turn to you for your opinions, and maybe it’s all “For the Good of the Game.”
What do you think?