‘Golf’s traditions will make it the post-pandemic go-to sport’

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir October 16, 2020 15:52

A psychologist and neuroscientist has said that golf’s traditions mean the game has the potential to ‘cement its place as the go-to leisure activity in a post-pandemic world’.

Stephen Smith, the chief psychologist at Sport Psychology, made the comments as he issued a White Paper on the psychology and neuroscience of human behaviour in times of great turmoil, which deals with the importance that traditions have in bringing stability and a sense of belonging to a troubled populace.

He argued that the traditions of golf make it particularly attractive during a pandemic.

“As we continue to deal with the first global pandemic in over 100 years the need for certainty and confidence has never been greater,” he said.

“As many leisure activities compete for survival, the ones that offer a sense of stability through modern traditions are those most likely to appeal to the vast majority of people.

“Traditions create a sense of belonging that is a fundamental part of human existence.”

Image from The Scottish Hickory Tour 2020. Neil Hanna Photography

Speaking as the golf industry has faced another debate about dress codes, Smith added: “It is folly to try and stop traditions from evolving or to throw beloved traditions in the garbage bin to artificially make yourself more relevant – golf may have achieved both in recent times.

“One of the reasons golf became so popular was that it was possible to play in the fashion of the day.

“In the last 60 years golf got stuck when it confused being bureaucratic with being traditional – particularly around clothing. When golf was at the height of its growth the fashion of the day was the thing to be seen in, it needs to get this mojo back.”

Smith states that the attractive traditions of golf are more than just fashion, however.

“Golf has also misunderstood that having a unique language / jargon is vital to creating a sense of belonging to something special,” he explained.

“In trying to appeal by getting rid of traditional language it has only made itself bland and no different from anything else – will tennis ever decide to swap ‘zero’ for ‘love’?

“It is not the quirky language that puts people off; it’s the way that certain individuals, and every golf club has them, use trivial infringements to embarrass and shame newcomers.

“If golf wishes to be the game of the 21st century it needs to address the culture endemic at most venues.

“Golf culture must be inclusive, supportive and empathetic to give all new participants a special sense of safety, security and belonging that makes everyone want to stay part of our tribe.”


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir October 16, 2020 15:52
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  1. leojhon November 28, 16:45

    you are doing a great job, and up to date with technology

    Reply to this comment
  2. SSchiff October 23, 13:19

    Ever tried playing golf? Now more than ever is your chance to try it at lower prices, respecting social distancing rules, having fun, getting some fresh air and enjoy walking in the nature!

    Reply to this comment
  3. lloynd October 18, 19:49

    “Golf culture must be inclusive, supportive and empathetic to give all new participants a special sense of safety, security and belonging that makes everyone want to stay part of our tribe.” It now has the chance to become the most popular sport in the world but only if the above is adhered to!

    Reply to this comment
  4. Chris G October 17, 15:06

    I believe Golf peak, defined as participation x demand + spend, was a period between 1985 – 1995. The circumstances that bought this about were unique. Ryder cup success, broad TV coverage (terrestrial) UK major winners – playing on our soil multiple times per season, economy where a boom at end 80’s generated a new gereration of players of working age who entered the game via municipal golf courses spending on new kit and an army of middle aged golfees dressed in Pringle ‘Geometric George’ jumpers, clone of Nick Faldo.

    The Golf landscape is very different on 2020, before the pandemic hit. COVID 19, hoodies for/ against and black ankle socks banned are headlines for all the wrong reasons.
    Golf traditions, dictated by Articles of Association at Private clubs need to evolve to embrace change to attract the new generation.

    I am Pro hoodie! Sock colours don’t matter……participation is the only KPI the industry should worry about!

    Reply to this comment
  5. Cosford October 17, 12:22

    Great article…the mix of a parallel development for golf with more inclusion but retaining our unique social culture. Maybe “The Tipping Point” for future success?

    Reply to this comment
  6. Alberto October 17, 12:17

    Thanks for posting, really interesting!

    Reply to this comment
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