DUBLIN, Ohio - Take a long look around at the iconic Muirfield Village Golf Club this weekend - when the storms aren't rolling in, anyway - and you know the PGA Tour is in great shape.
Cars are jammed into every place that allows parking, with a small army of fans ferried from the nearby Columbus Zoo. Those fans line the lush green fairways, creating a constant buzz - even after Tiger Woods finishes his round.
Golf Channel people are everywhere, and then CBS invades the grounds on Saturday, David Feherty in tow, of course.
And it doesn't just happen at this event, which could be called a "mini-major." You can see similar scenes like this in California, Texas, Florida, Charlotte, Hilton Head, Akron and ... even West-by-God-Stand-Up-and-Shout Virginia.
The purses are sweet, from $6 million to $6.5 million for many "regular" events, $8 million and more for majors to $9.5 million for The Players Championship in May.
And get this - the winner of that yearlong obstacle course known as the FedExCup pockets a $10 million bonus. And it's tough to get to that prize without raking up $5 million in loose change along the way.
The LPGA Tour is rebounding, the "minor-league" Web.com Tour is lucrative enough to make a living, and the Champions Tour is still keeping the stars of yesteryear swinging for Benjamins.
The big tour survived the economic plunge of 2008. Even more impressive, it survived the Tiger Woods exile - heck, the sport became more interesting.
But the game is coming to a crossroads, and we're not talking about deer antler spray or belly putters the size of telephone poles. We're talking about the true backbone, the average Joe. (Or in my case, the way-below-average Doug.)
Really, how is the state of the game?
"The game of golf, in itself, has lost a lot of players," said Jack Nicklaus, who needs no further introduction. "Some 5 million or so regular golfers have left the game. We've lost, I think, 27 percent of the women, 36 percent of the kids in the last five years. Why are we doing that?"
That's a tough question, but one with too many simple answers.
When Nicklaus speaks, the golf world listens, and he was stalking the flagstick on all those answers, including:
When I first heard about the Big Bertha driver some years back, I wondered (a) how high into three digits could they price it, and (b) how badly I could slice with it. I've never paid to find out.
"People don't want to spend five hours doing anything anymore," Nicklaus said. "So you really need to play the game in three hours or less, that's where we need to be. And we're not there."
We need more Coonskin Parks, Cato Parks, nine-holers, bargain-basement public tracks where you don't have to invest a whole day.
And who says every course needs to be nine or 18 holes? The recent LPGA tour stop in the Bahamas, when flooding closed six holes, was instructive. That tour adapted, playing three 12-hole rounds to achieve an official tournament.
How many of you hackers find yourself wanting to play 18, but getting sick of the game by about the 13th hole? Yep.