Golf Forums - Is There One in Your Future?

By: JJ Gowland


Read on if you've ever wanted to join a golf forum or an internet discussion site, where you can text-talk about golf. To provide a casual yet informative study of the genre, I searched the web for "golf forums" and was rewarded with over 600,000 websites. Just the number of potential sites that I could visit exhausted me.

Therefore, what I give here consists of some anecdotal incidents of what I did, saw and read, and another golfer's long distance perspective along with a brand-new website.

Last year, I joined a regional golf forum - www.TorontoGolfNuts.com. I joined because I wanted to know what other avid golfers are saying about the state of the game.

In May 2006, I met with Gregory Wong, one of the founders of the TGN forum. He's an avid golfer employed in the banking industry and unable to golf as often as he'd like. But Wong and his friends wanted a place to share ideas, exchange tips, talk about golf, and meet other golfers. Greg and his team also coordinate an annual tournament, last year held at Angus Glen, the site of the 2007 Canadian Open. This year's TGN event will be at The Club at Bond Head, which Golf Digest ranked as one of Canada's top-three new courses in 2006. After last year's reasonably priced, well-managed tournament, the TGN 2007 event has become a "must do" tournament.

In just over three years, the Toronto Golf Nuts membership has grown to over 3,700 golfers. Most members are associated simply because they love golf. Some are in the golf business as equipment suppliers, instructors, journalists, or golf event organizers. A few members belong to exclusive private clubs, but most play public golf courses.

To expand my research I signed up for and visited a few golf forums. Most sites are free; supported by advertisers. Some are not free. Some sites have as few as three members and some have over 30,000 members. Most have standard discussion areas, called 'threads,' for sharing ideas and topics for discussion: Tour Talk, Equipment, Golf Tips, Course Reviews, arranging foursomes, and the 19th hole (where anything goes). Threads may include: sports (any sport), equipment exchanges and equipment reviews, how to select an HD TV and hook it up, and golf jokes.

Some forums are strictly golf-related and others are for establishing relationships: singles hoping to meet, golf, and possibly date another golfer, or for golf-related business networking. Most members join forums using an anonymous online name so it's not always easy to decipher who they really are. I'm not sure I like the anonymous aspect, but rest assured the forum moderators know a member's real name. Some of the same anonymous online names appear on several different forums, although one can't be certain that 'Badgolfer' on the Houston-based forum is the same 'Badgolfer' in Chicago and Vancouver forums.

Many forums have members who live in other regions or countries who join to seek advice on where to golf in an area or discuss travel plans. A few members request advice about honeymoon trips with a golfing (or non-golfing) spouse. Some join to stay in contact with golf interests and social aspects in his or her home region. (I'll tell you about a long-distance member's experience in a moment.)

The largest forum appears to be Hawaii, which also had the most non-resident members. That's not surprising. Another trip to Hawaii is on my golf vacation wish list.

Some forums are very easy to use. Others are not. A while ago, I signed up for www.thegolfspace.com website, but I'm not very active. The site felt trickier than reading brand-new bent grass greens. Some of us don't make a leap into new technology easily. www.thegolfspace.com may just need time as users learn the format.

Let's go to a specific example of the benefits of belonging to a golf forum.

About six months ago on TGN I read a note from a new TGN member who said he grew up in the Toronto area but he had logged in from Japan. The other day I saw his note to the TGN forum members:

"I was met at the train (after a 2 hour trip), by jjack's friend and driven out to the course that jjack manages about 45 minutes away. We were joined by another guy (a very friendly American who, like me, teaches English and loves golf). jjack is a PGA teaching pro and a very nice guy. Playing with a pro was a great learning experience! After the round, we went to the American guy's place where we enjoyed chili dogs and pizza and various beverages (it's been a while since I've done that I can tell you!). We woke up at 8:00 a.m. to watch the Super Bowl and after the game, played another 18 holes with another four guys. After the round, I was given a ride back to the train station to make my way home. Now that's what I call hospitality!!

"I think it's pretty unusual for a group of friends to welcome a complete stranger into their circle for a couple of days. But, they were all very kind and I just wanted to let everyone on this board know that TGN was the connection. Thanks jjack and Thanks Toronto Golf Nuts!!"

His posts inform us about golfing and life in Japan. He has been teaching English for 10 years in Kobe, Japan, where he also operates a language school. He visits Ontario once a year.

Through the forum's private message service (most sites have this feature), I connected with him and asked about his experience with forums. Brian Miller, who agreed to let me use his real name, replied, "I've tried many golf forums, some were just not active enough, some were populated by teenagers who lie about their game, some people are obnoxious, and some forums were just outlets for equipment manufacturers." Because he is from the Toronto area, he joined the Toronto Golf Nuts forum.

When Brian said he wouldn't make it to the TGN tournament this year, I invited him for a game at my club in Milton, Ontario, when he does come to Ontario. Brian then said, "My uncle lives in Milton!"

Moving on, with my Google research, I specifically looked for 'private club members' forums,' but netted very little. However, a few days ago I found a brand-new website exclusively for members of private golf clubs. After exploring www.Privategolfconnections.com, I contacted the founder, Rick Vyrostko.

The site was launched at the PGA Merchandising Show in January 2007 and has international members. Membership in its inaugural year is free (for a limited time), but there will be an annual membership fee. One must prove his or her private club membership and agree to a "code of conduct." The site offers a way to connect exclusively with members of other private courses to request the opportunity to play at another private course. Members will enjoy similar features as other golf forums, with the added bonus of regional and global access to arrange a game at another private golf course. The site is bounding toward success.

Golf can be a great way to network for business or just for the love of the game. Golf forums can enhance the game, and remind us how small the world is.

Because of the use of anonymous online names, who you meet can be a real surprise. I had an online discussion with a TGN member who I didn't expected to meet. After a tournament at my home course, at dinner when I sat beside someone who I'd played golf with several times, he leaned closer and whispered his online name.

Did I mention that Rick Vyrostko lives 3 miles east of my house and Brian Miller's father lives 3 miles to the west? "JJack," Brian's host for that weekend in Japan, is Jeff Jackson who plans to join the Pro Tour in Japan and is the inventor of a swing-tempo-training device called "The Routine Machine."

Is a golf forum in your future? I hope so. A forum can be informative, funny, and surprising. Don't just read; participate. Maybe you'll find a golf tip or equipment that works, meet someone you want to know, or even someone you already know.

P.S. If you need a translator when you go to Japan, Brian J. Miller's school (www.newvillage.co.jp) is based in Kobe, Japan. He's writing a multi-language book about golf for use in Japan and Korea.

Jill J. Gowland has a BA in psychology from McMaster University in Hamilton Ontario, and worked as a psychiatric clinician for five years. Following that she did a 10-year stint in sales and then worked as a marketing manager in the high-tech software and the security/access-control industries.

Before attending university, J.J. served tables in a golf course coffee shop and has been an avid golfer for more than three decades. Jill has been associated with the golf business as a director and shareholder of a privately owned golf course for more than 20 years. Jill studied comedy at Second City, Toronto, has written and directed stage plays, taught improv comedy, is a published poet. She has blogs on www.SandbaggersAnonymous.blogspot.com, has written for Ontario Golf Magazine, and is a golf novelist. Jill lives with a fluctuating handicap in Oakville, Ontario, Canada.

Her latest book, "Confessions of a Sandbagger," (ISBN 1-4137-5527-4), a trade paperback, was released in December 2004 and is available world-wide and directly from the author. For ordering information, visit www.publishedauthors.net/jjgowland. Also, see Bob Spiwak's review of "Confessions of a Sandbagger" at http://www.cybergolf.com/bookreview/index.asp?newsID=3903.

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