GROWING THE GAME – BY DAVID GREATOREX ( Leics golfer & MG reader)
With every golf club that falls by the wayside and each course that is sold off to the highest bidder, we hear the same thing ringing in our ears. Every publication, YouTube channel, commentator and (almost) every club official is banging the ‘grow the game’ drum like Keith Moon with an extra arm. The professional bodies appear to be focused on little else!
Though, truth be told, it’s all starting to give me a little bit of a headache.
My rapidly-intensifying migraine isn’t merely due to the repetitiveness of this battle cry but owing more to the lazy and almost throw-away nature of the responses to it. It’s the same old excuses offered up time and time again, to try and explain why people aren’t playing as much golf as they used to, or in the numbers seen in years gone by…
“It takes too long”
“It’s too expensive”
“It’s elitist and discriminatory”
“blah blah blah”
All of the above are true (especially the blah bit), but how do we ‘grow the game’?
Okay, the governing bodies are addressing the issues with how long it all takes, albeit (and not without a distinct sense of irony) quite slowly, some clubs are starting to reassess the costs of memberships and coming up with new ways of making the game ‘more accessible’, and the old boys’ brigade, responsible for some of the more hilariously-outdated ideologies governing golf clubs across the globe are losing influence with every passing flu season. But is any of that really going to make much of a difference?
So, here’s my point. It’s not down to everyone else to ‘grow the game’. It’s down to us. The guys and gals who dedicate their time and money to playing it, getting better at it and, on the odd occasion, enjoying it.
My eight-year-old daughter has a set of clubs, waiting patiently in the garage for the time when she asks “Dad, can we go to the driving range?”
Two friends of mine have recently benefited from a set of clubs each, retrieved from the depths of the golf graveyard that is my garden shed, and pointed in the direction of their nearest driving range.
My sixty-five-year-old father is challenged regularly on the culture he helped to prolong and has started to adopt a more forward-thinking approach to the game. Now he has a bag full of modern clubs, hybrids et al, and even a laser range finder! To his mind, these were nothing but tools of the devil and blatant methods of cheating up until a couple of years ago. He’s even gone so far as to have welcomed women to the game on days when, in years gone by, they should have been at home “getting the dinner on!”
None of this has taken that much effort.
You see, if each and every golfer made the effort to introduce just one person to the game, or challenged the status quo with a touch more gusto, we’d be helping clubs across the country reach out to new golfers and generate some much needed revenue.
Yes, of course, ‘children are the future’ and there is some great work being done by academies up and down the land. That work must be continued and that requires money. The only way clubs will generate that cash is if their courses are busier, more of their range balls are being scattered across the countryside, and if their stocks of Lucozade Sport and Mars bars are being demolished daily.
Ultimately, we can let participation numbers dwindle with every passing winter and meander down the same path we have done for centuries, losing momentum and interest as the clocks tick on. Courses will close and the ones that don’t will cost a gazillion pounds a year to join. My daughter’s clubs will end up in a perpetual state of ‘buy it now’ on Ebay and all of my friends will all take up cycling, inevitably dying in a horrible mangling of Lycra, aluminium and Range Rover bumper on a country road one miserable Sunday morning in the Peak District. My headache will worsen.
Or, we can avoid all of the above (saving countless lives in the process), put a little bit of effort in and…