Golf needs some fresh thinking


One very prominent person in the golf industry told me last week that “golf is dying”. He will remain nameless for fear of reprisals from his current employers, as comments like that don’t exactly make for good PR. But he might well have a point.

Just last year, two courses in Edinburgh closed their doors. The custodians of the game in Scotland, the Scottish Golf Union, led by Hamish Grey, is no longer afraid to mention the issue; it now tackles it head on, and rightly so. Grey and Co. might be swimming against the tide, but at least they’re in the water.

This season, there are less events on the European Tour taking place in Europe than outwith Europe. And the first event to take place on European soil this year will be in May. England is still waiting for a European Tour event. That’s not a good sign of the way things are going.

So perhaps it’s time to be a bit more radical in our general approach to the game. The Waste Management Phoenix Open, won by Kevin Stadler, was compulsive viewing because it threw golf into a different light. That’s a good thing, right?

Not according to everyone. The editor of Golf.com tweeted last week: “Wondering if any broadcaster on 16 at TPC Scottsdale will wonder aloud why drunken halfwits are annually celebrated as great golf fans.”

It’s that kind of comment that gives golf a bad rep. It’s like he’s saying; ‘These people are beneath golf’. ‘These people are a rabble’. ‘Can’t have the commoners having a good time watching golf’.

What we need is more positives like the Phoenix event and less negatives like pricing the ordinary golf fan out of our greatest championship.

Over 500,000 people turned up to watch last week – many of them not your usual Pringle brigade – and we spit the dummy out. Golf community, let’s all pat ourselves on the back for showing our true colours.

They weren’t all club members. So what? We need to reinvigorate the game, get people talking, put the game in a positive light now that everyone seems to be so public about everything they do thanks to social media.

The Irish Open, which sold out its gate tickets last year, couldn’t even get a sponsor. I’m not saying they should build a 10,000-seater stadium round one of the par-3s, sell Guinness, and invite people to an on-course Irish jig. Actually, that might not be a bad idea. But you get my point, something needs to change.

Even last year people didn’t bother turning up at Muirfield for reasons largely down to the ticket price. The R&A disputed that reason, but hundreds of readers who told us otherwise. So, effectively, the Open is now financially out of reach for the ordinary punter. If that’s not a disgrace then I don’t know what is.

What we need is more positives like the Phoenix event and less negatives like pricing the ordinary golf fan out of our greatest championship. Somewhere in the middle would be nice. If that’s too much to ask for then, well, maybe we are indeed in trouble.

Your take: is golf dying?

Do you agree with Bryce Ritchie that golf needs some fresh, radical thinking and to embrace new ideas? Or is it fine as it is? Leave your thoughts in our ‘Comments’ section below.

Bryce Ritchie

Latest posts by Bryce Ritchie (see all)

Bryce Ritchie
Bryce Ritchie is the editor of bunkered and its sister publications Scottish Club Golfer and English Club Golfer. He also edits www.bunkered.co.uk
Bryce Ritchie
Bryce Ritchie

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  1. Oliver C. Morton

    February 3, 2014 at 9:36 am

    Remember tradition but evolve to survive:
    “: Golf needs some fresh thinking – http://t.co/14E8oOXayh http://t.co/LPMaaZb1dZ”

  2. Andy Doig

    February 3, 2014 at 9:43 am

    No it don’t this lets idiots think it’s ok to put players off but I must say this hole is great viewing

  3. Tony Horan

    February 3, 2014 at 9:45 am

    need to attract new players to the game, free lessons for new members, actually help them enjoy game from day 1

  4. Robert Gardiner

    February 3, 2014 at 10:35 am

    Agree Andy nice for a change to see the 16th and the players sharing …bring back the Caddie race …

  5. Duck Hook

    February 3, 2014 at 12:08 pm

    The R&A are at best complacent. Their tournament facilities are rubbish, no big TVs you can watch from the stands for a start – yet the ticket prices have increased hugely. Basically you go to and Open and have no idea what the scoring is and see very little golf verses watching on TV. Add to that the food and drink prices and the overall product is massively overpriced.
    Lots of great work getting school kids into golf but the rigid membership structure is damaging to clubs. What other sport demands x2 year’s membership up front to join a good club. Plenty still do but not for much longer. The laws of supply and demand are kicking in and it’s going to start hurting even the big clubs soon (like 2014)

  6. lee walton

    February 3, 2014 at 2:22 pm

    best tee shot in the world #fansconnected #caddysprint

  7. Alistair Moorhouse

    February 4, 2014 at 6:36 am

    Couldn’t agree more, especially the comment about pricing us out of the events. The ticket price for last years open at Muirfield was ridiculous and the prices for tickets to this years open and Ryder Cup are no better. we can have a 4 day golf break in Portugal for less than attending either of these events and simply watch on sky rom a bar in the sun

  8. William Paterson

    February 4, 2014 at 7:35 am

    Just think. Poor hard done by pros. One day they could have to face reality and play a real round. Make them carry their OWN clubs for a tournament

  9. Avatar of JCK RMGC


    February 5, 2014 at 6:23 pm

    The golfball manufacturers could stop making us pay for the pro’s golfballs most pro’s see a speck of dust on a ball and it gets thrown in the nearest lake .If they want to make the pro game harder for the less accurate give then a limited number of balls for a round instead of just making golf courses longer and longer as this has not worked miss the fairway by 100 yards but still close enough to hit a 9 iron over some trees and still get a birdie golf should be about shot making not raw distance.US golf is a putting competition that is why people are loosing interest in golf

  10. pumpkin.

    February 6, 2014 at 8:36 pm

    @affordablegolf is this fresh thinking that’s beneficial to golf,or, again the Americans taking all the class out the game!

  11. Avatar of JC


    February 18, 2014 at 8:47 pm

    I only started to play golf in my 40s and wish I had started playing sooner in life..it’s a wonderful game in which I’ve met some great people now friends and travelled all over to play.. I don’t think golf is dying but we need fresh thinking.
    We are an ageing population and in my opinion we need to take the game to the schools and encourage our youngsters girls and boys alike to start playing. This could mean opening our doors at our courses and welcoming them with open arms. …..they are our future ..

  12. Neil Sjoberg

    May 13, 2014 at 12:23 am

    Without doubt Golf is changing very fast this year. Membership of clubs is obviously much less attractive, People play more in society golf (which have increased in numbers) and less casual green fee rounds.
    Without doubt the unpopular handicap system (the heart of club golf) is the hidden element-it should attract people to club membership.
    Clubs who haven’t been proving free lessons for beginners have now missed the boat. If it wasn’t for weddings and other dining opportunities many “member unfriendly ” clubs would have closed earlier than they inevitable will.
    The number of courses will go down and golf will again become expensive and courses full.
    The the whole new golf club building cycle will start again.

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