Blog #4: The Second Rise of the Golf Tribe


It Takes a Tribe

We live in tribes. We have our church tribes, our business tribes, and our music tribes. We each have tribes for whatever might interest us, everything from cooking, wine, yoga and volunteering to motorcycles, poker games, sports teams and fishing. Sometimes we come together in a place, and other times we may connect just through a magazine subscription, website or TV program.

Beyond my family tribe, the earliest tribe I joined was the Golf Tribe. One of my fondest memories as a six-year-old kid is the day my father cut down an old ladies 3-wood, removed the lead, fashioned a sticky grip out of electricians tape, and took me to the driving range. My father was wedded to his work and rarely did anything with us kids, but he often brought me along to hit balls. I felt very special. We were a golf tribe of two.

We lived miles away from the closest golf course so, at every opportunity, I took to chipping ping pong balls throughout our sprawling Cape Cod house using cocktail coasters as holes, putting through mini-golf layouts of household objects, and hitting balls off the little patch of grass in the back yard onto the sand flats when the tide was out. I soon joined Arnie’s Army and witnessed the rise of a new, chubby, young player named Jack Nicklaus though monthly golf magazines, lessons in reading I much more enthusiastically consumed than anything in school, and dreamt about playing Augusta National and Pebble Beach.

When I became old enough to venture out by myself on my bike, I would return to the driving range time and again. If I went beyond the fences and picked up a bushel of errant balls, I could hit a half-bushel back onto the range. If I swept the miniature golf course, I could play a free game. I hung out with the old timers and heard their stories about golf, and the teenagers running the place told me about the mysteries of girls and beer. I found a tribe.

The Golf Tribe played a huge role in my formative years. I learned the meanings of etiquette and honor, the benefits of diligent practice and concentration, and the interrelationship between analysis and result through swing mechanics. I discovered the joy of victory and the gracious acceptance of defeat. I entered into the world of men as a youngster, sought after to be on their teams in the weekly matches, and coached in the ways of the world to which my own father too busy to attend. It takes a tribe.

All of us who have golf running deep through our veins has such a story, even if it started later in life.  We are all part of the Golf Tribe. 

I believe I grew up in the Golden Age of golf. Palmer, Player, Nicklaus, and Travino were the engine with Watson, Miller, Irwin and a host of others filling in the other parts of this magnificent machine powered by television.  Golf courses sprung up all over the country, creating a legacy of green space now surrounded by suburban sprawl. The numbers of players grew by leaps and bounds, and spread beyond patrician sensibilities to Joe Sixpack, bringing both ends more to the middle. It was a glorious time.

But with the recent advent of the Internet and social media, a concerning trend is emerging. Along with other traditional tribes such as all professional and college sports, motor sports, museums, zoos, national parks, live orchestra, churches and others, golf is in decline. There are fewer kids taking up the game than there are old folks who are leaving it, and the glut of golf courses built during the real estate boom are being repurposed as parks or workforce housing.

As a counsellor at Arnold Palmer Golf Academy, Stratton, Vermont 1972

As a counsellor at Arnold Palmer Golf Academy, Stratton, Vermont 1972

I shutter to think of what I would have missed if I had not been introduced to golf: hitting balls from sand flat to sand flat at low tide using coffee cans as holes; winning my middle school championship; having old Joe Macara scold me for throwing a club, and never doing it again; all the halcyon days spent with my older brother driving us 45 minutes each way in the shabby 1952 Mercury convertible to the golf course to get in a quick 18 after work; making my high school team as a freshman (by beating my senior brother for the last spot!) and captaining the team as a senior; working as a greenskeeper one summer and as a counselor at the Arnold Palmer Golf Academy the next; earning a spot on my university golf team as a walk-on, and playing beautiful courses like Yale and the Navel Academy.  My golf game was an entrée into an exclusive Chicago area country club that paid off handsomely when my boss would give me lucrative sales leads who he wanted us to host at my club.

Now, after several careers including teaching 2nd grade, telecommunications consulting and sales, video production, and high-end real estate sales, I am finally making a career returning to what I truly love to do - chipping plastic balls around the house.

I am the inventor of the new game, Tin Cup, “The Ultimate Indoor Golf Practice Chipping Game.” Every time I play it, I tell myself, “I LOVE this game.” It can be set up to challenge the best pros (see the blog about the Las Vegas Inaugural WORLD #1 tournament at the PGA Fashion and Demo Show 2018,) or easy enough to encourage new players to rapidly develop the skill of chipping a golf ball. And it’s new, cool, and super fun!

TIN CUP plays just like golf with a tee area, sloping green, target cup, sand traps, a scoring system of bogies, birdies and pars that is perfect for competitive play, and super light, precision plastic RUGG golf balls that slice, hook and land with backspin just like real golf balls. The game can be set up in relatively small spaces yet provides over 1000 different hole configurations that require different club selections and shot techniques. Best of all, TIN CUP is a great training aid. The game gives players very accurate feedback on the quality of each shot, and really improves chipping prowess, an aspect of the game that many Sunday players neglect practicing. Players can set it up inside year-round, and conveniently practice chipping right at home without having to go to the golf course. And it’s super fun for event games, tournaments and rainy day play. If you have not seen the video introduction at, this would be a good time to watch it.

While I certainly want everyone who is already playing golf to discover TIN CUP, my higher mission is to contribute to turning the tide on the decline of golf by introducing a huge number of kids to the joys of getting good at swinging a golf club. In my dream, I want TIN CUP to be part of the P.E. sports curriculum in schools and after-school clubs, possibly with varsity and junior varsity intramural teams that play other schools in long format 18 hole TIN CUP tournaments. I truly believe if more kids can just learn the fundamentals of a golf swing – grip, stance, head still, straight left elbow, back of the left hand to the target, tempo, etc., and discover the joys of mastering this part of the game, a bunch of them will get hooked on progressing in golf and grow up to become a whole new, invigorating clan of the Golf Tribe.

So I need your help. If you love the game of golf as much as I do, I would love you to join the TIN CUP Clan of the Golf Tribe and become a TIN CUP Club organizer in a local school. Here is my vision:            

  • Help me get the word out about TIN Cup to your golf club. Get a TIN CUP game. Discover for yourself how much fun this game really is.

  • Play it with your club members and pros. Share the vision of reviving golf with TIN CUP Clubs in schools. RUGG Golf will provide information materials;.

  • Spread the word to other local pros and clubs by hosting a TIN CUP Tournament of head pros and select club members. Pick schools to sponsor.

  • Get in touch with your local school board and principals and get them on board with the TIN CUP Club program.

  • Get your club to sponsor a TIN CUP Club at a local middle or high school.

  • Provide your sponsored school with a TIN CUP Club setup of appropriately sized wedges and TIN CUP game pieces with a storage cart (all of which RUGG Golf will provide at close to our cost) that lets 30 or more kids play TIN CUP during PE classes in the gym. RUGG Golf will provids online class training videos for PE teachers;

  • Most importantly, each club gives their assistant pros time to volunteer to coach one or two TIN CUP chipping classes each week so kids get the proper instruction needed to learn the basics of golf, and they see what it means to be a golf professional;

  • Students get handicaps, play in stroke and match play tournaments, and learn the culture of golf during these classes. TIN CUP Club sponsors can take TIN CUP Club kids on field trips to local tournaments, just to chip and put at the club.

  • Top players in each TIN CUP Club are provided with loaner full sets of clubs provided by the TIN CUP Club sponsors, and these select kids are invited to hit balls and get more instruction on the driving range of the sponsoring clubs;

  • Each club sponsors their own TIN CUP Club team to play in both TIN CUP and regular golf team matches against other TIN CUP Club teams.

Let’s bring kids back into golf. I think this is a great way to do it.

What do you think about this idea? I would like to launch TIN CUP Clubs as soon as I have the the first production run of 1000 games, and have TIN CUP Clubs ready for roll out in the summer of 2019.

Please let me know your thoughts, questions and suggestions.  Also feel welcome to call me  at 970-876-3553.

Are you interested in being a TIN CUP Club organizer and give back to the game? It takes a tribe.  

All the best,

Bill Van Arsdale

Naples, FL

Bill Van ArsdaleComment