View From The Fairway - Waiting Lists at Golf Clubs Have Doubled
RORY McILROY is one of the most forthright players on the PGA Tour, a man whose views are considered and always worth listening to. And that makes his appointment as chairman of the Player Advisory Council an inspired one. The 16-man council advises and consults with the PGA Tour policy board and Commissioner Jay Monahan on issues affecting the tour. McIlroy succeeds Jordan Spieth and joins James Hahn, Charley Hoffman and Kevin Kisner. He has strong views on all sorts of subjects, including slow play and on the distance debate. His fellow players have huge respect for him. It will be interesting to see whether he decides to rock the boat. Watch this space...
SPARE a thought for members of the European Seniors Tour (now rebranded Legends Tour) whose schedule was completely wiped out last year because of the pandemic. Roger Chapman, a two-time senior major champion, has not competed for more than a year. "It's been a long time sitting around, basically," admitted the veteran of 618 European Tour events. He has moved house during the lockdown but says he cannot wait to compete again and is concerned about the financial plight faced by some of his fellow players who are not as fortunate as him. "Some of the guys must be on the breadline, they haven't earned anything," he said. "Even though I'm 62 in May and coming towards the end of my career, I've always had that competitive burn in my body. The yearn to play competitive golf and be a competitive sportsman, I've done that since I was 13.” Of course, Chapman understands why last season was cancelled. "We are in the most vulnerable category and that is why the European Tour board decided to pull the plug on our tour," Chapman said. "The last thing they wanted was a Covid death coming from a tournament. You can understand the hesitancy of letting us go ahead.” But vaccines bring hope and the newly branded Legends Tour is expected to resume in May. Not a moment too soon.
IT WAS one of those "did that really just happen" moments. The first tee can be a nervous place, but surely not for the world’s best professionals? Try telling that to former Open champion Francesco Molinari, who stone-cold topped his opening drive during the third round of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. For the record, his opening shot went just 70 yards, not making it past the forward tee box. He scrambled his way to an opening bogey. In my world, if a golfer fails to make the ladies’ tee he is expected to drop his trousers. Over to you Frankie…
WHEN the PGA of America announced that it would allow the use of distance-measuring devices at three of its major championships beginning this year, the news came as a surprise to many in the golf world, including the reigning US PGA champion.“Crazy news to see that on Twitter,” Collin Morikawa told the Golf Channel. It seems that, like yours truly, Morikawa believes the move is a mistake. Rangefinders will be allowed at the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island on May 20-23, followed by the Senior PGA Championship at Southern Hills on May 27-30 and KPMG Women’s PGA at Atlanta Athletic Club on June 24-27. They are already permitted in all college and amateur competition, though like those events, the PGA will prohibit the devices from including the slope feature, which measures elevation. The decision came in an effort to speed up play, according to PGA president Jim Richerson, who said, “We’re always interested in methods that may help improve the flow of play during our championships.”“Will you see pace of play improve like 10 or 15 minutes? I don’t think so,” Morikawa said.
MOST of us have been perfecting our putting strokes on the living-room carpet during lockdown. But Joe Biden may well have the jump on all of us. You probably didn’t know that there is a putting green in the grounds of the White House. It was the idea of Dwight Eisenhower but was removed by the fun-loving Richard Nixon. It was reinstated when Bill Clinton took office by none other than Robert Trent Jones Jr. One notable difference from Eisenhower’s original is the lack of a bunker. According to Jones, that’s because the Secret Service feared Clinton would thin a wedge shot and send it flying through a White House window. President Biden is a keen golfer but may have other things on his mind right now. But among all presidents, Bush the Elder and his son have the most distinguished golf pedigree, with bloodlines that extend to the early days of the USGA and the founding of the Walker Cup. Jones Jr recalls a putting contest with George Bush Jr. “I holed a putt and reached to get the ball when suddenly the president said, ‘Don’t!’ ” Jones recalled. “He’s the president, so I did as I was told. I backed away, and Barney, the family’s Scottish terrier, trotted out and stuck his snout in the hole to retrieve the ball.”
AS WE prepare to return to the fairways, it has been revealed that the number of UK golf clubs that have a waiting list for members has more than doubled in the past 12 months from 22 to 45%. Waiting lists were common among golf clubs for decades, but in recent years became more rare as participation and membership numbers fell. However, the past year has seen a surge in demand to play the game and join clubs, leading to a jump in the number of waiting lists, and the average number of people on a waiting list is 34, up from 22 in 2019. As reported in The Golf Business, Hillier Hopkins surveyed 80 golf clubs, with the number saying they have reintroduced a waiting list has more than doubled 12 months ago. The research also finds that nearly two-thirds of clubs (59%) reported increased membership in 2020, with 68% of all golf club members aged over 50, up from 63% in 2019. Despite many clubs reporting that younger members had joined, just 13% of club members are aged under 30. Depressingly, male members (75%) continue to outweigh female members (17%). Average weekend green fees for members and their guests have also increased significantly, to £27.20 from £22 in 2019.
LAST year’s headlines were dominated by councils announcing the closure of municipal golf courses. What a difference a year makes! Southampton City Council is to take over the running of Southampton City Golf Course from April 1, North Somerset Council is launching a legal bid to take back control of Portishead Golf Course and Sefton Council says it will invest heavily in the sport - it already offers free golf to anybody under the age of 16.
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