Greg Norman has radical ideas to improve the state of golf

Martyn Clapham
By Martyn Clapham November 9, 2015 14:49

Greg Norman has followed in the footsteps of Lee Westwood in calling for a complete overhaul of the way golf is played in order to address the large drop in participation over the last few years.

greg norman sreven newton

Greg Norman. Flickr / Steven Newton

The two-time Open champion has called for shorter courses, a relaxation of dress codes and for buggies to be able to play music.

England lost more than 400,000 monthly golfers between 2008 and 2015 while in Norman’s native Australia more than half of all the golf clubs now have 100 members or less.

“Bring the kids in by letting them put speakers in golf carts, putting headsets on or playing in their board shorts or getting on an electric skateboard or something like that to take their clubs around, have fun with the game, speed it up, do what the kids like to do,” said Greg Norman.

“I’m a big proponent of increasing the speed of the game. Building 12-hole golf courses, reducing the time. Why do we have to build these 7,000 metre long golf courses for maybe one week a year or not even one week when the cost of constructing and maintaining these ridiculous clubhouses gets out of hand. We’ve really got to get our crap together.”

“[Progress] is like Chinese water torture, drip, drip, drip, but you only need to do a couple of successful [12-hole courses] and people will sit up and take notice. Don’t throw a big wet blanket over the rest of the game of golf just because that’s what the younger generation want to do.”

Norman likened golf clubs’ resistance to change to that of ski resorts.

“When snowboarding became popular, ski resorts resisted and resisted and resisted, and what happened was families wouldn’t come because their kids couldn’t snowboard, so the resorts were cutting off their nose to spite their face because they weren’t reaching down to the millennials – you have got to listen to what these kids do,” he said.

Earlier this year Lee Westwood also said golf needs to be quicker to play and more fun, to encourage more women and youngsters to try the sport. He called for a shorter format of the game to be created and for hole cups to be enlarged.


Martyn Clapham
By Martyn Clapham November 9, 2015 14:49
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  1. Marcos Sobrón Scott November 12, 19:44

    Is all this? Or the matter that we don’t know how to generate new players? Changing the way the sport must be, seems that it will not be a good idea. The industry is taking care to change the fundamentals of golf with new material every six months that hit the ball further, buggies, gps, lasers etc etc. Everybody can play 9 holes in two hours and we don’t need to make larger holes and change the spirit of the game.
    Of course that golf is not cheap, costs of maintenance are very high. Of course that we loose players, we are living a great crisis that seems that never ends and the middle class that was supposed to take golf to the next step of popularity is being totally hammered, but the real problem is that there are not new players taking up the sport and a club can no survive with 150 members.
    Why there are not new players? It takes to much time to play the course from the driving range.
    All this is a big problem, a huge problem.
    We have to find a system that teaches faster and better. A system that makes new members to learn and enjoy the course with knowledge as soon as possible.
    As a teaching pro, I feel that is the most important task right now, when we have this the rest will come alone.

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  2. ronaldfream November 10, 07:19

    greg norman is on point,but slow to see the facts. lee westwood is coming to the party late too. it has been clear for a long time that the price of golf has escalated excessively. name brand golf pro designers drive up the costs. ego driven owners seem to take pride in spending more than the next guy, often not really considering what revenue income from players fees will be needed, long term to balance the books.
    fream’s law : ” the bigger the clubhouse the smaller the profits” holds. trying to maintain courses as if they were augusta national drives up costs. manufacturers of playing equipment and mowing equipment follow to offer the most elaborate, super sophisticated balls, clubs, shoes, shafts and triplex mowers, that raise the price to play but directly benefit a very small percentage of golfers ( mostly the well compensated pros). close mowing to increase putting speeds only slows the game, discourages most golfers with above 10 handicap, and adds frustration.
    in 1958, the usa national per hole average maintenance cost was $ 3,162. in mid 1970, $4,924, ($93,560 counting driving range as a hole). late 2015, $1,000,000 for the same turf surface is common. have average handicaps gone up or down in that time? only the wages of most average golfers have not gone up in the past six years or more; but greens fees have increased.
    adjusting to smaller courses, closing the back tees and more nine holes is a nice number, and may help.
    to recall lost players, making golf more accessible, financially, for the average player is essential. it is not the extravagant clubhouse or green putting speeds of 11.5 -12 that bring back the average golfer.
    internationally, escalating costs, too few affordable public accessible courses also has a drag on growth.
    certainly it is time to rethink, make fundamental changes in development costs and operating expenses to make golf more attractive greens fee wise, regardless the length of the course.
    Ronald Fream, founder of golfplan, 1972.

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