Golf’s biggest sponsor: The game has to change

Rosemary Ayim
By Rosemary Ayim March 16, 2015 11:16

The head of sponsorship for HSBC, probably the biggest sponsor of golf in the world, has said that the game is at a crossroads and must now change.

Giles Morgan’s comments come after more than a decade of falling participation in the sport, which has seen membership of clubs plummet and many golf clubs struggling financially in the UK. Surveys have shown that there is strong demand to play golf from the general public but the time it takes to play the game and perceptions surrounding unwelcoming atmospheres in golf clubs prevent them from playing.

HSBC spends millions of pounds on golf and sponsors major tournaments all over the world including the Open Championship, and provides backing to, for example, the Golf Foundation charity’s Golf Roots project which provides golfing opportunities to children in deprived areas.

hsbc elliot brown

Image by Elliot Brown


All of HSBC’s golf contracts are up for renewal in 2015 and Morgan is concerned that the game is not moving with the times.

“Golf is at a crossroads moment,” Morgan said. “There are lots of positives about golf but the world, particularly with digital communications and people’s time, has changed in the last 15 years beyond anybody’s wildest dreams.

“I’m not sure that golf has kept up with that change.

“And therefore I think, because it attracts high investment, has famous superstars, its men and women, its old and young and it’s relatively healthy, there are lots of good reasons it can look at all of the ingredients and then re-bake the cake.

“I do think that those who are in charge of the game need to be brave. They need to take some risks.

“No one would have said 25 years ago that Twenty20 cricket would be the success it is and it has grown. It doesn’t mean that through Test cricket those who are the purists don’t still get their diet.

“England versus Australia is still vital to the game of cricket, but Twenty20 has embraced a whole younger generation to play broadly the same game.

“At the moment no one is making the first move to end a logjam and the first move has to come from the game of golf. The sponsor can’t move, they can invest.

“I think time and format are the sort of things that can be looked at relatively easily, that could preserve all of the greatness of the game but make it a bit more rapid for people’s consumption.

“The potential of the diversity of the game has never been fully realised; that men and women, young and old can play at any level, from professional right down to the very grass roots.

“I believe golf has an opportunity to make itself more attractive and if they do, more sponsors will come in, more television will follow, more spectators will follow and the virtuous circle will grow.”

While Morgan did not say that HSBC is set to end its sponsorship of golf in the immediate future, he did warn: “If in 10 years people are not engaging in the sport, not playing it or watching it and it’s not relevant to the people we want to do business with, it follows that it won’t be the right way to engage with them.”

Last year HSBC produced this viral video which showed that golf can attract non traditional profiles to the game:


Rosemary Ayim
By Rosemary Ayim March 16, 2015 11:16
Write a comment


  1. DJM April 3, 09:35

    What they said………..

    Who really thinks HSBC has the “good of the game” in mind why coming out with mindless PR guff.

    The game of golf will survive (in some form or other) long after HSBC (and the R&A for that matter) has disappeared up
    their collective backsides.

    Reply to this comment
  2. Richard March 19, 18:12

    HSBC and other “sponsors” of golf are looking purely for T V exposure. They are simply spending part of their advertising budgets to increase product awareness..
    I don’t get the necessity to shorten the time it takes to play a round of golf. A 90 minute football match will take up 3 or 4 hours (more for away matches), 20/20 cricket takes all day, a Test Match all week.
    I feel the R & A decision to to give Sky TV exclusive rights to the Open Championship will not help to encourage youngsters to take up the game. Sky will probably start dictating which players start when rather like they dictate soccer match starting times and days.

    Reply to this comment
  3. Tim Kent March 19, 17:17

    HSBC need to clear house first there embroiled in enough banking scandals. At the moment.
    To me there’s some very basic things golf clubs and the ruling bodies can do to start things off.

    1. Support municipal golfers to join a local club as councils will close these very shortly.
    2. Engage in more 9 hole and par 3 competitions si golf can be played in 2 to 3 hrs
    3. EGU to create an advertising campaign using non golf channels ie digital NON sky tv and ITV to engage with youngsters. they do nothing to pull people into the sport via the media.
    4. EGU and RnA to reinstate pro/celebrity golf on terrestial TV (I loved this and it got me intetested) Also eradicate the monopoly that sky tv are being handed.
    5.establish golf lessons at schools FREE and provide taster sessions for schoolkids AND there parents clubs to create more non golfing open days and negotiate free/cutprice taxis service to improve function and clubhouse utilisation
    7. The PGA and it’s members to take more account for there part as without grassroots golf and falling members the likes of HSBC will pull out of sponsorship and the big payday wining may demise.

    Lastly.. In the last 6 months I’ve become a nomadic golfer due to work commitments and not once has the club rung me to discover why I’m not playing—- that’s says it all because my full membership fee wasnt worth it and they haven’t accomodated my new lifestyle amendments….

    Reply to this comment
  4. Frank Clapp March 19, 16:04

    Rich coming from a bank in the scandal of providing tax avoidance, perhaps it needs to change also. Players do need to play quicker and obviously if more events come off terrestrial television, R & A take note, then there will be less mass coverage for the sponsors that put their money in to the game.

    Reply to this comment
View comments

Write a comment

Your e-mail address will not be published.
Required fields are marked*

Join Our Mailing List

Read the latest issues

Advertise With Us

To advertise in the magazine or online, contact:


Social media