Mainstream media reveals golf’s shortcomings

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir December 17, 2014 12:19

Two of the UK’s biggest media outlets, the BBC and The Telegraph, have both published articles identifying the problems golf is facing and offering potential solutions.

rory mcilroy

Rory McIlory. Image by Andrew Campbell

The media articles come on the back of comments by Rory McIlroy, who came second at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year, a decision which led to anger on social media by golf fans who thought he deserved first prize.

McIlroy said: “The viewership in golf is up but the participation is down. People enjoy watching the game but gone are the days that you could spend five or six hours on a golf course. Everything’s so instant now and everyone doesn’t have as much time as they used to so you maybe try some way of speeding the game up.”

The Telegraph responded with five ways that golf can reverse its problems: make golf clubs more welcoming, speed up the sport, more instances of Tiger Woods, improved radical inclusivity and embrace women’s lib.


“Golf clubs can be intimidating to people who do not “fit in” – i.e. everyone in the human race who is not already in it,” writes journalist Alan Tyers.

The BBC revealed that the number of people aged 16 to 25 who played golf once a week between 2009 and 2010 fell from 95,700 to just 52,400 between 2012 and 2013.

It asked a number of people why this is the case and found the answers were to do with time and money.

Comments included:

“One major obstacle is money. It is an expensive hobby for youngsters. How about some of the mega millions earned at the top end of golf being used to subsidise struggling clubs and younger players?”

“My son was a junior member at a prestigious London club until he was 18. Once he had been to university and returned home he would have had to become a full member which he can’t afford. Clubs should do more to provide a bridge from junior membership to full membership.”

“Joining fees are the issue, to join a decent course near me I’d have to find £3,000 on top of membership. If I relocated again in a year’s time that’s a sunk cost. Not too appealing when trying to save for a house. Meanwhile, those most settled in life, the retiree who can play seven times a week, doesn’t have these concerns – clubs will pay the ultimate price for pricing a generation out of the game in 20 years.”

“Make it cheaper. Green fees, lessons, gear, balls, all too expensive. Golf clubs and manufacturers at fault.”


“Most clubs offer payment plans and there has never been so much used golf equipment available as now. There’s no need to buy new kit and many would benefit from using a half set in a lightweight bag rather than the mobile homes on wheels that trundle round our courses making such a mess in the winter months.”

“Slow play has nothing to do with the falling number of younger players playing golf. The primary reason is COST – to play one round; to be a member; to buy golf clubs et al.”

“Clubs need to widen the gap between groups on the time sheet, offer nine, 12, 14 and 18-hole competitions and subsequently offer specific memberships to match the competitions and the members’ needs. Also clubs should look at the concept of zone golf, pin positions ranging from easy, to medium and hard. The game needs to be 1. more affordable; 2. less stressful; 3. enjoyable.”

“To attract young golfers we need to show the fun side of golf and get rid of stupid dress codes to make it more accessible.”

“Time stopped me playing golf at 11. Went to tennis. A game of nine holes got me back: Family fun.”

“How about a timer. Players should have a set time to take their shot. This would add urgency and pressure.”

“Have specific blocked out times for junior fourballs so three or four groups can play together and then speak about the game after.”

“Shorter courses where more sensible club selection and ball accuracy with a difficult layout is the way.”

“The player who is deemed first to putt on the green should putt out completely, saving oodles of time – marking the ball, cleaning the ball, lining up the ball etc.”

“Design or adapt courses to have three six-hole loops. So time-restricted people can play the first six, or the first twelve. Maybe have competitions where an 18-hole round score could be accumulated over, say, a week.”

“Golf is undoubtedly failing to adapt to modern time pressures and needs to wake up to that fact. It’s increasingly difficult to justify the amount of time needed to play a round within the confines of modern family life,” said the BBC’s golf correspondent, Iain Carter.

“Initiatives are needed to speed up play. More severe penalties are required in the pro game which sets the example for the sport at large. “Courses need to be set up with less rough meaning less time spent searching for balls.

“The golf ball travels too far; shorter courses mean shorter rounds. And clubs should encourage nine-hole golf in family friendly environments.

“This is one of the few sports families can play together, from grandparents to grandchildren, yet there are too few initiatives to make the most of this.”



Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir December 17, 2014 12:19
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  1. Ian Mullins December 28, 15:49

    Trouble is no-one knows who Rory McIlroy is, outside of Golf! With very few hours on terrestrial TV now showing golf, alas, the wider public have no knowledge of the stars….. ask most people in the street to name a golfer and most will just quote Tiger.

    Sadly, as Jimbo points out, whilst the powers that be are happy to take the SKY pound, the sport will continue to decline amongst the younger audiences, whereas, Lewis Hamilton gets BBC, SKY and tabloid exposure….#IMHO

    Reply to this comment
  2. Paul Worster December 21, 21:03

    Not sure we should get too hung up about rising average ages. People are living longer and are fitter pro-rata than they were a generation ago. Golf is a game that can be played well into later life, and last years European Impact Study into Golf showed that older people who play golf stay fitter for longer. Well-managed Senior Sections can bridge the gaps in golf club finances.
    The Study showed that 6.3 million people across Europe regularly play golf, and golf contributes 15 billion Euro to the European economy every year. Not to be scoffed at.
    What UK golf clubs need to do is reconnect with their local communities. The vast majority of clubs were started by local people for the amenity of local people. Somewhere along the way, maybe in the 60’s & 70’s, we lost the plot and started to try and keep local people out and away from the course. This has to change and a well structured marketing campaign aimed at getting local people into golf on their local courses is a good place to start.

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  3. Jim Loy December 18, 21:41

    We are witnessing a health and fitness revolution, with the rapid growth of gyms, running marathons, cycling etc Young people want an active sport, golf with an average age of 63 is failing to attract them. If we passed another rule to make golf for over 50″s it would make little difference to club membership numbers (OK that last bit was intended to have a laugh at ourselves)

    Reply to this comment
  4. golfer12 December 18, 16:36

    Golf is difficult. ( but can look easy on TV) Todays youngsters can reset an electronic game and play it again in seconds. Golf requires practice and commitment. Golf’s image is not “cool”.
    If someone can be persuaded to take it up as a challenge to their abilities, time will not be an issue. That’s how most people got started . They “got the bug”.
    Challenge today’s young, don’t invite them – to be challenged is “cool”.
    Tell them about the potential benefits if they are very good !!! Show them young “cool” people playing the game. (Be selective)
    Making it easier, or kicking a ball round devalues what is a highly skilled game with a handicapping system to let players at all levels play against each other.
    Nothing is made of the handicapping system to get new players on the course .
    The game needs selling for what it is not what it could become in the hands of marketing men with an agenda to take advantage of the weakness or at least the lack of skill and foresight of the governing bodies.

    Reply to this comment
  5. greenfee December 17, 21:06

    I think existing 9 hole courses are in a strong position to really reposition golf by emphasising how quickly a “round” of 9 holes can be played, encourage evening 9 hole competitions for members and visitors, charge 9 hole greenfees and generally championing improved speed of play.

    Reply to this comment
  6. Craigy De December 17, 18:12

    If people really wanted to play golf then time would become available… The fact is, people who take it up don’t realise how much of a difficult sport it is and think that it’s an easy game to play when they see the Pros on telly hitting it over 300yrds and hitting greens in regulation and spinning it back to within a yard from the hole…

    So they play and quickly get frustrated and give up…

    All these courses that we play as amatures need to have larger green areas, bigger holes and shorter distances from tee to green.

    Also, the greens could have a outlined dart board effect for different handicaps.. for example: 0-9 handicap players have a circumference of 10yrds around the hole, 10-18 have 20yrds and 19-28 have 30yrds… if they hit outside this then it’s classed as not in regulation.

    Reply to this comment
  7. Jimbo December 17, 15:19

    The authorities that run golf should perhaps look at the fact that there is no reason for anyone who doesn’t play golf to want to play the game, when I was growing up I would be inspired to go out and hit a golf ball after watching golf on terrestrial tv whether it was the Dunhill masters or even a round with Aliss, now we have only the open and the weekend of the masters on the BBC where as cycling for instance has the whole of the Tour de France, wold track championships, world road championships, the tour of Britain and several others, people who watch a sport on television are usually inspired to want to give that a go especially the younger viewers so let’s take some golf events off sky and put them on the Beeb especially the ryder cup

    Reply to this comment
  8. British Speedgolf December 17, 14:36

    The Inaugural British Speedgolf championships added a new more athletic dimension to the game, it’s not for everyone but Speedgolf certainly appeals to a more youthful participant and those who don’t have the time to play a regular round as well as those who want a physical challenge from a fitness perspective. Today’s Golfer did a recent article which gives a great insight to the game, or if you are interested to find out more just search for British Speedgolf.

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