How golfing celebrities are helping raise the profile of the sport

Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick June 25, 2019 07:48

According to the latest industry report, 2017 saw around 2.6 million beginners take to the golf course.

This represents a record number of beginners for the sport, eclipsing the numbers set when Tiger Woods was in his pomp and attracting a wealth of newcomers to the sport at the turn of the century. His most recent major victory will no doubt go some way towards doing the same.

As a matter of fact, this was the fourth straight year in which the number of first-time golfers increased, one in a series of positive indicators that the sport is moving in the right direction.

In a similar vein, it appears that more and more celebrities are getting involved in the game of golf: the crowds at major tournaments are often awash with famous faces and some are even trying their luck with the clubs.

Whatever the reasons behind the phenomenon, there does seem to be a new found appreciation for golf among the celebrity world. What impact (if any) does this have on the game of golf as a whole?

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Proficient Golfing Celebrities

As well as dominating in the pool, Olympic star Michael Phelps is known as a pretty competent golfer. The swimmer even went as far as signing sponsorships deals with prominent golfing companies such as Ping and has found himself on the front cover of Golf Digest.

Phelps told Golf World that it’s “the most humbling sport [he’s] ever played in [his] life” and perhaps the notorious difficulty associated with the game is part of the celebrity attraction.

More recently, snooker star Shaun Murphy had a crack at qualifying for this year’s Open. Murphy plays off scratch and so was eligible to try and make it to Royal Portrush on the 18th July.

The 36-year-old fell short with a score of 12 over par but seemed to enjoy his day out in Ireland despite the disappointing result. And with the golfers in attendance, it would have been some achievement to get any further as, to qualify at Portrush, he’d have needed to hit three under par.

The 13 that went through on such a score or lower will now have the final qualifiers to champion, in order to compete alongside some huge names in the Open – at around 8/1 with major betting sites such as Betway, the clear favourite to lift the Claret Jug (as of June 26) is Brooks Koepka, who finished second to Gary Woodland in this year’s US Open. It’s probably for the best that Murphy went out when he did!


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Celebrity golfing also-rans

Although it’s a little unfair to criticise celebrities who are just trying to have a bit of fun, there are a fair few who should probably put their clubs on eBay.

NBA legend Charles Barkley is undoubtedly one of the best commentators the sport has ever seen but he’s also notoriously bad at golf.

Similarly, former Indiana Pacers point guard Tyreke Evans has one of the worst swings we’ve ever seen – now he has a bit of time off from the NBA, we’re hoping that he will iron it out. It isn’t just an NBA thing, either. Tom Cruise, Jimmy Kimmel, Bill Murray and Mark Wahlberg are all well advised to stick to their day jobs after what we’ve seen from them on the putting greens.

However, as bad as the aforementioned celebrities are, they still do a great job of raising the profile of the game. Celebrities who enjoy the game of golf are invaluable to the sport and by keeping it in the public eye, this will undoubtedly encourage more people to take the game up in order to emulate their favourite celebrities.

Golfing celebrities encourage more balanced participation

Many sporting commentators are of the opinion that celebrities are doing more than ever to help grow the game of golf. In addition to this, a number of famous figures have recently backed an intiative to get more women into the game in the UK. With only one in 10 UK golfers being female, it is important that the sport carries on the good work it’s done with regards to inclusivity and diversity. The recent success of the FIFA Women’s World Cup has shown that there is sufficient demand out there for women’s sport and that all that’s needed is an extra little push in terms of advertising and marketing – the rest may then take care of itself. With more celebrities seen to be enjoying the game, spectators of all backgrounds will hopefully find it within themselves to give the sport a try and be part of the next generation of major winners.

Celebrities are only human after all

At the end of the day, we all need some sort of release from our day jobs and celebrities are no different. Unless you’re fiercely competitive and/or hard on yourself, golf is an extremely healthy and relaxing sport (especially if you have someone carting your clubs around for you all day).

Hollywood actor Bill Murray. Image by Elias Lefas

In addition to this, you get to visit some of the most picturesque locations in the world, sample the local cuisine and on top of it all, top up your tan. With this in mind, it’s hard to blame celebrities for getting involved in the sport of golf – if a by-product of this is increased recognition of the game then it’s a win-win situation for everyone concerned. Right?


Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick June 25, 2019 07:48
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