Top 5 Reasons a Golf Membership is Better Than a Gym Membership

By Rory Hughes

(from Golf Chicago Magazine, May 2015)

It’s spring cleaning for the house, the car, and
more importantly, the finances. Time to review
discretionary spending and start making choices.
Must you eat at McDonald’s twice a day? Is NFL
Redzone a necessity? Aside from the bacon-cooking
alarm clock, can you reduce the Skymall purchases?
Finally…gulp…golf membership or gym membership?
On the surface it’s an easy decision. The aver-
age gym membership costs $800 per year. Let’s say
the average golf membership is five times that, or
$4,000. Bump that to $5,000 to account for inci-
dentals. Huge margin, right? And the gym is a great
place to “get your heart rate up,” and “build core
strength” blah blah.

Well, if you’ve canceled your membership at your
club, there’d better be a grace period, because after
much careful, totally biased research, I’ve come up
with the Top 5 Reasons a Golf Membership Beats
a Gym Membership. If you’re not the CFO of your
household, make sure he or she reads this.

#1 It’s Social
Meeting new people at the gym is at best pathetic, at
worst creepy (see John Travolta). Those troglodytes
chatting next to the weight bench didn’t just begin a
lifelong friendship; they’re buddies who are Googling
pickup lines for the bombshell on the treadmill.
Not only is a golf course void of the gym’s predato-
rial climate, you can meet a friend for life; perhaps
even more remarkable is that you can spend four
hours and say nothing and not feel awkward. Golf
provides a natural rhythm, a give and take with an
implicit understanding that you can reveal as much
or as little as you like; over time this can lead to real
relationships.

#2 It’s an Escape From the Onslaught of Digital
Technology

Notice that, increasingly, gyms are feeding our screen
addiction. First there was one TV, then there were 30,
now every machine has one. We can hook up our cell
phone so we can listen to our music but watch their
TV. We’re distracting ourselves from ourselves. We’re
doing something we hate, so we trick our brains into
thinking we’re elsewhere. As we agonize toward the
30-minute mark on an elliptical, we jump between
Dr. Phil, TMZ, and Arkansas-Pine Bluff vs. Weber
State. The golf course, on other hand, is nature plus
play. No screens necessary (shame on those of you
who use a phone app for your rangefinder. Sacrilege!)
Even when we’re playing poorly, we’ve walked several
miles in a natural, serene environment, mimicking
the hunter-gatherers of yesteryear (some hunt more
than others).

#3 It’s Food-friendly
I don’t mean energy bars and “juices” with unpro-
nounceable ingredients. I mean real food and drink:
bacon-egg-cheese sandwiches, hot dogs, hamburgers,
coffee, Pepsi, beer. Some guys have a system. My uncle
starts every round with a full house (three Advil, two
beers), then a Red Bull and vodka at the turn. I only
drink water until I know I won’t break 80. Can you
imagine drinking a beer on the treadmill? I don’t
think the software can add calories.

#4 It’s a Game
We say “I’m playing golf today.” versus “I’m going to
the gym today” in the same way we might say “I’m
going to the doctor for a prostate check today.” These
poor souls schlep around the gym with a clipboard,
tick-marking every lift, tracking progress — they’ve
added three pounds in two weeks — hooray! What
they’re trying to do is turn the gym experience
into a game. But it’s not a game. It’s an obligation,
the same way taking the trash out or flossing is an
obligation. I’m going to modify Joan Rivers’ famous
quote about jogging: “The first time I see (someone
at the gym) smiling, I’ll consider trying it.” Even
during my worst round of golf my face does not
show the pure anguish of a gym rat. Fine, there’s a
brief “workout high” for 15 minutes afterward, but
how about a “golfer’s high” for four hours during?

#5 It’s Story-worthy
“I had just hit 3,346 steps on the treadmill. Cavuto
barked on one TV, Van Susteren on the other. The
manager was interviewing a prospective personal
trainer…” Gripping, right? Dying to read on? Nothing
great ever happens at the gym. Conversely, things
happen on the course that you can’t help sharing,
even with people who don’t care. When my wife asks,
“how was golf?” I tell her about the hook 8-iron on 5
that I stuffed to two feet for a double save. She doesn’t
care per se, but I still want to relive it. When she asks,
“how was the gym?” I either change the subject or
lie about how long I was on the Stairmaster.

Remember, I’m not talking about tour players — they
play golf for a living, so this meathead fad — sorry
Rory, I preferred you doughier — is for the world-
class golfer who wants to hit it 325 instead of 320.
We mortals simply want to play as much as possible;
if you’re like me, you’re dividing your membership
fees by the number of times you play in order to
justify the cost. Make this the year you stop doing
that. Acknowledge the gym as an unnecessary evil,
the course as much more than a line item on your
budget — as your beacon of physical, mental, social,
emotional and spiritual health.


Compilation of 45 anonymous responses to “What comes to mind when you think of the gym?” and “What comes to mind when you think of the golf course?”

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