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Golf needs some fresh thinking

2014 02 Scottsdale

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.

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