Could Golf Entertainment Help to Grow the Game?
Article by Golf Journalist Joe Hughes
In recent years, we’ve seen huge developments of many different kinds in the sporting world. These changes have had a huge impact on golf and have ultimately led to the rise in golf entertainment. Whether it be installing the latest practice aids at a driving range, or coming up with a new way to play around a golf course, all have contributed to the constantly evolving image of the sport. But can these developments be good for golf and can they help the game to grow?
There’s a few ideas which I believe fit into the category of golf entertainment, albeit some of them could cross over into the realms of being genuine aids to help golfers perfect their skills. But, for me, anything linked to golf that can provide some sort of enjoyment, in a light-hearted way, aside from actually playing a standard round could be classed as golf entertainment, and this leads nicely onto my first example which come in the form of Footgolf.
The football-golf crossover, combines the skills of kicking a football to a certain destination with the ability to work your way around a golf course, trying to shoot a score as close to par (or lower) as you can. I’m aware that this initiative was thought up a few years ago now, but the popularity of the hybrid game has been huge and many youngsters are hitting the course whenever they can, so it is only right that when looking at how golf entertainment can grow the sport, we take a look at perhaps the biggest draw in this area.
Many golf courses have used Footgolf to boost their nine-hole courses an try to encourage customers to pick up a set of clubs as well as lacing up their football boots. A number of venues have adapted their nine-hole courses to feature a Footgolf and standard golf hole on the same green, meaning that with the correct organisation, players will be able to try their hand at both disciplines around the same course. This has appeared to be a popular decision and I’ve noticed that there are a lot more nine-hole courses around now than before the Footgolf phenomenon occurred. So, this evidence suggests that golf could definitely benefit and as a result of the increased footfall on our golf courses due to the allure of Footgolf, particularly amongst the younger generation.
In addition to this, there is the interesting idea of Toptracer. The idea of the Toptracer is that when a golfer hits a shot, their ball flight is tracked and is then illustrated on a screen for any further analysis that may wish to be done. Many of you will have seen this software used in the most sophisticated way if you watch TV coverage of any professional golf events. Having been a massive hit with the TV stations, Toptracer have now installed the technology into some driving ranges to aid practice and ultimately make the experience of going to the range more enjoyable.
Since their first range prototype in 2012, many courses and ranges around the UK and beyond have chosen to modernise and give the technology a go, and it seems to be a big success. In a way, Toptracer gives going to the range more of a purpose, as you will be able to analyse each and every shot to see what you can do to improve, rather than just watching the ball yourself and thinking “yeah, maybe I need to close the club-face a bit more… or something?”
Not only is there the Toptracer making ranges more exciting, but there is also the fabulous idea of Topgolf ranges. These are purpose built ranges which offer a range of fun games which involve you and your group of friends or family trying to score as many points as possible through hitting various targets. Ideal for group events and parties, Topgolf is not all about the golf. You and your friends can have food and drinks brought to your bay throughout your game, so you can enjoy a bite to eat whilst challenging your friends to a game.
I believe that not only do these initiatives offer a great afternoon out, they could also play a key role in expanding the game. It’s not uncommon to hear the odd person describe golf as boring, but Topgolf and Toptracer are certainly not that. By rolling out these ideas further, golf as a whole can change those views and perhaps through these different avenues, can introduce many more to the wonderful game of golf.
A final golf entertainment concept that could help the game to become bigger is adventure golf, or as some may call it mini-golf, or crazy golf, or any of the other millions of names for it. The idea of a putter only cause, with a certain theme and many random obstacles between the player and the hole, holds an interesting place in golf, and is very much in the entertainment side of things. Nevertheless, the power of the crazy golf course, must never be underestimated.
In years gone by, the only place that these beauties were found was usually in holiday resorts or popular tourist destinations. But as time has moved on, they have emerged from the shadows of the seaside towns and now stand proudly in city centres across the country. There are now many variations of the game which each have a different audience in mind and offer something just slightly different. There are your traditional courses, of course still in seaside resorts but also in shopping centres and near to other activity centres. Then, there is the ones that I would describe as the social courses. These establishments are usually less about the golf and more about the social side of things, playing a fun, not overly time-consuming round with your friends whilst being able to enjoy a beverage or two.
I would argue that the latter of these two, which are not the only two variations, I should add, is the most effective and these days, the most popular. Most cities, which have a booming nightlife will likely have at least one, if not more adventure golf courses, where you can order drinks for your game and have a boogie to the loud music as you go round. Again, this does not require any sort of golfing expertise and arguably appeals to an over-18, but still young audience. Perhaps, any alcohol that may have been consumed might aid this in some cases, but the enjoyment had whilst playing a round of this could get people thinking, that maybe they should give golf a go. And if it does, then I’m right behind making these venues an even bigger part of UK nightlife.
Furthermore, the introduction of newer and bigger, themed courses have proved a big hit. For example, Dino Falls Adventure Golf is one of the biggest in the UK and is located at Trafford Golf Centre in Manchester. According to their website, the course features “realistic moving dinosaurs” as well as taking players through “prehistoric caves” and “winding fossil paths.” Ideal for birthday parties and school- holiday, family amusement, these sort of adventure golf centres could introduce those of all ages to the enjoyment of golf.
Overall, the growing industry of golf entertainment simply cannot be seen as a negative and I believe it brings some outstanding opportunities to increase participation further, with the range of entertainment options available, it shows that golf is very much age and ability inclusive, which may prove to be a major advantage in the coming years in helping more individuals turn to golf.
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