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What Can Be Done To Actually Grow Golf

By: | Mon 17 Apr 2023

EVERY week I produce a View From The Fairway that reflects an issue that may be a talking point in the world of golf, either at the professional level or in the club game that we all play and enjoy.

This week I am turning my attention to the whole subject of the sport’s attempts to grow the game. And I do so with more than a little help from you, the Golfshake Community.

From our most recent annual survey it became abundantly clear that many of you believe that much work still needs to be done. Our sport talks a good game but does it deliver?

You will all be familiar with the split and divisions created by LIV Golf, with Greg Norman and his cohorts attempting to convince us that the breakaway tour’s chief objective is to grow the game.

It won’t surprise any of you to learn that my response to this claim can be summed up in one word: rubbish! 

All of us who play this game care about its future. The pandemic saw unprecedented demand, with tens of thousands of people either returning to golf or trying it for the first time.

But does that equate to growing the game at club level? I am not sure that it does, and it seems that many of you agree.

Green fees have increased, annual subscriptions have soared and it has become even more difficult for casual golfers to find tee times.

But that is simply the tip of the iceberg.

Junior Golfers

Here are just some of your views on the subject…

"Many clubs need to do a lot more for beginning juniors and other younger players - short format golf, lessons and training, introductions and fun competitions, access.”

I couldn’t agree more and I hope you forgive me for climbing on to my soap box once more. Club professionals need to do more to get children involved - they should be visiting schools and they should be offering free weekend tuition. And golf clubs should be offering free membership to every boy and girl in the land under the age of 14. When was the last time you hit golf balls on a driving range and were approached by the club pro to ask how you are getting on? 

"I think it’s important to have pathways into golf. So more opportunities for people to start with crazy golf, putting greens, pitch and putt, driving ranges. These are good ways to get people of all ages interested in the game. Starting on a full golf course is usually too intimidating for people, especially beginners, youngsters and female golfers. More nine-hole par-three courses would probably see many more people playing the game."

"Not enough nine-hole pay and play courses.”

These are valid points. It is well-documented that one of the big turn-offs about club golf is the time it take to complete 18 holes. Is it really beyond the wit of man for golf clubs to offer nine-hole memberships? The problem with creating more nine-hole courses is the investment required, not to mention identifying suitable land.

"Women’s golf is a mess in the UK, so much talk of growing the game yet everything for women is done at the weekend; this is at all levels of the game. So many people I know are leaving the game due to work commitments and the authorities seem to be burying their heads in the sand."

"Women's golf is still massively aimed towards those who don’t work. My holiday allowance is my biggest barrier to playing the golf I want to.”

I can remember the bad old days when women were not allowed on the course during peak times. There were even clubs that banned women from the main clubhouse bar. It is not so terribly long ago that Muirfield was removed from The Open rota for refusing to allow women members. And don’t forget that Augusta National had no women members at the turn of the century. Too many golf clubs simply tolerate women rather than encourage them. It really is time for a radical overhaul. Get more women playing the game and, by extension, they will bring more youngsters to the sport. Again, I wonder why on earth club pros don’t visit business premises in an attempt to introduce women to the golf.

"More needs to be done to encourage youth golf, be it free membership, free coaching, tee time restrictions on juniors, and the stuffy attitude of some of my fellow senior members."

"Still needs to modernise to make golf an interest to youngsters. Most clubs do a great job of this. But too many clubs are still run by people stuck in their old ways and need to be more welcoming to the youngsters either on course or in the clubhouse."

"Need to encourage more youngsters into the game and social side of the club. Mixed age teams in club competitions might be fun."

"Sadly it is not attracting the younger generation. They will regret it as they age - golf is one sport you can play well into your advanced years. Just you against the course!”

Don’t get me started on this one. I said…sadly, many golf clubs treat juniors like second-class citizens, restricting their access to the course and preventing them from using the main clubhouse facilities. Worse than that, the junior coordinator is all too often some ancient character who simply has no chance of being able to relate to teenagers. And I say again - if they are under 14, don’t charge them. And let them wear whatever they want on the golf course. 

"Lack of golf on television. Sky Sports has taken it over and killed it in my view as the next generation won't even see it thus creating a lack of interest in them."

"Still no terrestrial free to air access to The Open for a good majority of the UK population. Behind a paywall the game becomes by and large invisible to new viewers.”

This is not going to change anytime soon. In 2023, the BBC did not even show highlight of The Masters. It simply no longer cares about the game of golf - and ITV never has. In defence of Sky, its coverage of golf is outstanding and every year there are new innovations. Sky’s coverage of The Masters in 2023 was in a different class.

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What do you think? post your thoughts and feedback on the Golfshake Forum: https://forum.golfshake.com/

Tags: Survey industry insider GOLFERS Golf daily picks

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