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The Positive Opportunities for Golf to Embrace

By: | Mon 04 May 2020 | Comments

Opinion Piece by Golfshake Ambassador Andy Picken

As we eagerly await news of the opening up of our golf courses, I am thinking that in the face of the difficulties and challenges ahead, this crisis could actually present itself as an opportunity for forward thinking and flexible golf courses.

Historically, after the last major depression and collapse of the financial markets, there was a massive upturn in the amount of golf being played in the United States. The Spanish flu struck in 1918 with millions of dead. It has been suggested that the movement of military staff post World War 1 exacerbated the virus to its pandemic status.

I genuinely believe in learning the lessons of history. Millions tragically succumbed to that virus and yet, after two years the USGA was forced to introduce a full-blown handicapping system for American golf such was the increase in demand for those wanting to play.

There was an upturn in golf course design and construction, so a century on, there may be growth opportunities for those clubs and facilities that position themselves with care.

Positive Opportunities for Golf

Any initiative designed to “grow the game” would surely need to tap into the goodwill and community spirit that many clubs have created through their response to the current pandemic.

Many clubs have used the kitchen facilities to cook and prepare meals for the vulnerable in our societies and then provide delivery services to those in particular need. This helped the staff by keeping them employed and delivered an extremely valuable community service.

Golf at our clubs is definitely going to be stripped back to its origins. Four balls are still not allowed in many of the traditionally strong clubs due to pace pf play concerns. This time social distancing and safety will preclude the use of four ball competitions.

Buggies will be single use, with strict cleaning regimes for those that need to use them. This will double their use; requiring careful monitoring given that it will also double the impact of the buggies on the turf etc.

I don’t want to see them banned as many golfers could not play without the support of the buggy. I want our game to continue to be one of the worlds’ most inclusive sporting enterprises.

Truly "Growing" the Game

Using handicaps ALL can play our wonderful game and I think this aspect should be much better promoted.

If we are going to “grow the game” why not make that growth non gender specific?

I would like to see us encourage families back onto the course and into our clubs.

What other sport can be played across the generations and genders like golf?

I had a period of 10 years away from the game as I needed to use the time to spend with my family and growing kids. We took time out as a family to play and spectate other sports in preference to golf as it was not a welcoming environment to take the kids with me.

I love to see kids running around a club. Using the putting greens and having fun. What better way to get them introduced into the game?

An image I remember vividly is seeing a father and daughter at Carnoustie. The putter was taller than she was but her Dad patiently encouraged and showed her how to hold the putter. Watching that little girl's face and the sheer pleasure that both derived as she prodded the ball towards the hole was wonderful. This is one of the greatest golf courses in the world and yet it embraces and encourages junior golf through its programmes in local schools.

The Most Democratic of Sports

What other sport can accommodate all forms of physical and mental disability and yet still provide fair competition?

I have seen at first-hand how golf can be used to support wounded veterans to assist in giving them focus towards the physiotherapy involved when dealing with massive physical trauma. Look at the incredible work that is being done by the On Course Foundation in this field. I also know how beneficial it is for those suffering from PTSD and the like.

I have seen wonderful examples of community support when those suffering from dementia have been encouraged to play golf.

Short term memories were difficult, if not impossible in severe cases, but those involved were still able to enjoy and engage with the social side of this wonderful  game in safety and still derive pleasure from past memories and experiences.

We have mixed events being played at the very highest levels. This should be encouraged as it can only add to the overall appeal of our sport.

I for one love to watch women golfers play professionally. The game they play is much closer to that to which I can aspire.

There is no legitimate reason for anyone to be excluded from our game.

Not Race, Gender, Age, Religion, Disabilities or Sexual Orientation.


The E stands for Everyone.

Perhaps a scheme by the authorities to encourage all to take regards of each other and get involved in our incredible sport.

The Future

I am looking forward to walking my course with a small carry bag; hit the ball, find it and hit it again. Golf in its simplest form. I cannot wait. But wait we must, as it would undo all the great work, we have already done by properly distancing from each other.

I have been astonished at the appetite for golf during the lockdown and that also augers well for the future.

That demand is available to be converted into funds for our clubs and courses if they are able to ensure that the product they offer suits the needs of the available market.

Marketing our game to the family as a whole takes a lot out of the “Too Much Time” argument for people giving up the game. What better activity to get involved in across all the generations than golf?

Children, grandparents and parents all have the chance to play and practice together. Mini courses or short game areas are perfect for this type of family-based time.

I know the pleasure I derive from sharing the benefits of golf with my family members. Fitness, well-being and an appreciation of nature and all its wonders. Spending quality time together having the time to actually talk about important things that sometimes we don’t make the time for. These are some of the reasons I play golf.

I anticipate that the courses themselves will be a joy to play given that they have not suffered from the rigours of continual play from golfers.

I expect the greens to be slightly slower than usual given that this is the best way to conduct essential maintenance giving the grasses the chance to fully recover from the challenge of winter.

I expect pin positions to be creatively challenging given that this reduction in pace will make rarely used areas of a green available and in play.

I hope that we will ensure that ALL pitch marks are self-repaired and each of us take the time to rake over our bunkers using our personal rake or feet.

Let's Grasp the Potential

Golf looks like it’s going to be among the first sports out of the lockdown blocks.

I sincerely hope that we ensure that we grasp the opportunity fully and embrace its potential with some inclusive and sensible forward thinking.

I take regards of the history of the game and its traditions. We now have the chance to set our own traditions and values going forward.

This is a wonderful product if we simply tale REGARDS of all those who can potentially enjoy it.  When we get back to play WE MUST look after our courses and the staff that have worked so hard and under difficult conditions to ensure we have a playing surface. 

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