European Tour CEO issues a challenge to UK’s golf clubs

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir July 6, 2017 11:56

The chief executive of the European Tour, Keith Pelley, has issued a challenge to golf clubs to modernise in a bid to grow the game over the next few years.

Pelley is concerned that clubs that abide by traditional rules could be hurting a sport which has suffered from a fall in participation over the last 20 years – even though data shows there is huge demand to play golf.

“In terms of the golf clubs themselves, I challenge them,” he said.

Keith Pelley. Image courtesy of Club Inc

“I challenge them to think differently. I challenge them to look beyond the rules that have always been there and I think this is critical for the success of our game going forward.

“There are always going to be clubs who stand above the rest but it is all those other golf courses that will succeed and become even more profitable if they engage more people. The way they are going to engage more people is by thinking outside the box. Let them in. What we don’t want to be is a sport for the elite.”

In an interview with the guardian newspaper, Canadian Pelley says he has been surprised by how golf is perceived in the UK.

“When you look at golf from a UK perspective, I thought it would be higher in the psyche than it is,” he said.

“That led me to the fact that we need to loosen some of the traditions and open up the game to a much younger generation.

“I remember during the interview process, talking about: ‘Are you willing to change? Are you willing to look at all facets of your business and be open to adaptation of any aspect of the game?’ They were emphatic that they were. If you aren’t willing to change, you run the risk of falling further and further behind the phenomenal experience that is Premier League football.”

Recently Justin Rose warned against golf moving too much towards non-18 hole formats for professional players, but Pelley believes this is only just the start.

“I think people are getting sick and tired of watching tour rounds that are five, five-and-a-half hours long. I understand that, people don’t have the time. Speeding up the game is one of the most important things we need to do.

“For a 13- or 14-year-old to sit in front of a television for five hours watching golf is not realistic. For them to play golf two or three times a week for that long, with everything else they have at their disposal, is not realistic,” he said.

“That’s where creativity needs to come in. That’s where innovation needs to be at the forefront. I do see a world where there are 72-hole tournaments and there are 10 to 15 of them but all the others have a different format. A format that engages people in a completely different way.

“I think we have to move with the times, moving accordingly with whatever technology is out there, be that virtual reality, live PGA Tour streaming via Twitter or whatever it may be.

“[For spectators] play the actual hole that you are watching on your broadcast, right there. So if somebody makes a putt for an eagle on the 15th at Augusta, you can do it in your living room. It will happen, it’s going to happen. To be in the shoes of that professional, even just for a second, I do believe that is the future.

“I think a stadium event will happen. Wouldn’t it be terrific to have an incredible video board where you have players on the pitch, so you can see every single shot by every single player? It would be a completely different consumption of the game. Maybe that’s where the six-hole games goes. Maybe it becomes stadium sport.”


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir July 6, 2017 11:56
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  1. Cookie August 5, 22:13

    TV coverage itself is part of the problem, obsessed with:
    1. demonstrating how good a cameraman is at following a ball in flight
    2. putting
    3. scoreboards
    I do however enjoy the commentary provided by 5 Live radio – superior in every way to that on TV

    Reply to this comment
  2. The Trout July 7, 12:07

    Growing the game is made more difficult not only by the traditions and lack of modern outlook but also by the lack of coverage of the game on free to view channels and the R&A selling The Open Championship to SKY who continue to charge unrealistic exorbitant fees to golf clubs who want to show the sport.
    Is retention of members at clubs as well encouraging people into the sport not an issue? After all it is far easier to keep an existing customer than win new ones.
    Perhaps whilst growing the game the R&A with SKY and indirectly the European Tour could have done something to retain existing members, golfers & viewers by offering the product at reasonable rates to golf clubs as part of the multi-million deal to the R&A cover The Open and the European Tour for day-to-day coverage of its product.

    Reply to this comment
  3. Pete July 7, 11:57

    If you want the golf game to be successful going into the future, understand what your dealing with today. TIME EFFICIENCY, AFFORDABILITY, DIFFICULTY/FRUSTRATION, ECO-SUSTAINABILITY.
    So how do we economically & inclusively combine these aspects into a traditional golf format for all golfers to enjoy.
    It’s actually a simple matter of correctly adjusting the play of the golf ball to meet these needs. We have!

    So, try the Hybrid “Lite Play” golf ball (meets US golf standards) developed for the mid-sized 60% golf facility, where the full Par & Play modern traditional golf round is played in half the time on sustainable shorter courses, at a higher level of guaranteed enjoyment & satisfaction with less cost. Also, the ball is easily adaptable for play on existing large golf facilities from newly constructed forward “hybrid” tees with little construction costs. More/ the ball floats, reduces golf ball damage, reduces golf ball loss and allows golfers to exceed their expectations, while making the game fun.

    Reply to this comment
  4. William Wallace July 6, 15:58

    This morning, I was speaking to the golf professional at my local club, Baberton. He was commenting on the difficulty that the junior section of our club is having in finding enough youngsters to play in matches and competitions. This is just one instance of the decline, especially in younger age groups, of people playing golf in Scotland. Among the reasons, or perhaps excuses, given are that golf is difficult to learn, it takes far too long to play, the equipment is expensive and golf club members are boring, stuffy and unfriendly. I feel that lack of exposure to golf on “free-to-air” television is a major factor in the diminishing participation in the sport. No less a figure than Sir Nick Faldo credits watching Jack Nicklaus in the US Masters on TV in the early 1970s as the reason for him starting to play golf. I feel sure that many young Scots started playing the game in 1999, after watching, on TV, Paul Lawrie’s thrilling victory in The Open at Carnoustie.

    Now, apart from the US Masters, there is no live golf that is free to watch on television. The Scottish Open is available to watch live in the United States but not, unless you subscribe to Sky, in Scotland, the home of golf. The BBC, as of last year, gave up showing live coverage of The Open, which is arguably the biggest event and showcase for golf in the world. I realise that the R&A gets far more money from Sky than the BBC and therefore is able to use some of that money to develop the game at all levels. But the crucial thing is that far fewer people will be watching the Scottish and British Opens over the next two weeks, particularly those in “non-golfing” families. This lack of exposure of golf to a wider audience will not only result in fewer Nick Faldos but also fewer men, women, boys and girls playing the game for pleasure.

    In contrast to the lack of TV exposure of golf, tennis is, rightly, well served (no pun intended) by the BBC with extensive live broadcasts in recent weeks of Queen’s Club, Eastbourne and now Wimbledon. I think that tennis is almost the perfect TV sport, as you can watch every shot in a match, often from several angles. I realise that tennis from the relatively small Centre Court must be much cheaper to televise than golf from the huge expanses of links such as Birkdale or St Andrews. This TV exposure, along with other factors including the success of Sir Andy Murray, appears to have resulted in a growth of tennis in this country.

    Golf has an image problem and has fallen out of fashion. The organisers of golf tournaments could learn a lot from the way tennis events are presented. For example, the four grand slam tennis events have the women’s and men’s competitions at the same venue, on the same dates. Perhaps the golf majors, including our Open, could follow suit and so give more exposure to women’s golf, preferably on free-to-air TV.

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    • Peekay July 6, 19:54

      In the 1960s I was the sole junior at two golf clubs. Even the county junior championship comprised a field of no more than a dozen. Then Jacklin came along and junior golf boomed with 50+ entrants for county junior event. TV access and UK tour events to attend, are crucial to inspiring participation of youngsters. Childish stuff with big plastic clubs and balls or ‘foot golf’ is not what they want. SKY in collusion with Pelley at the European Tour are really bad news for golf. The 6 event with clowns and disco music is not the way to go.

      Reply to this comment
    • peekay July 6, 20:03

      Its not the costs of covering the event that has caused BBC to stop showing golf – its because they cannot compete in the astronomical bidding wars that enable SKY to buy themselves a monopoly of live coverage and squeeze the BBC out. R&A are a disgrace for colluding with this by selling rights to the highest bidder .

      Reply to this comment
    • JDP July 6, 22:34

      Agree with the comments about the loss of free tv airtime as a major reason for the lack of inspiration to youngsters taking up the sport.
      Time to play a round is also a factor in the modern world.
      Perhaps those clubs with the facility to provide two 9 hole rounds could dedicate some days to 9 hole competition and guest days?

      Reply to this comment
  5. peekay July 6, 15:25

    Pelley is a ‘*** ***’ who will wreak as much damage upon the European Golf Tour as Trump is upon the USA.

    Reply to this comment
    • Peekay July 6, 19:58

      Your editing ‘*** ***’ of my comment makes it look as if I was using profane language, when what has been redacted was the deliberate and ironic use of the words from Trumps own mouth when he described the Head of the FBI that he fired.

      Reply to this comment
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