Golf has an image problem that puts the game at grass roots level in danger and as golfers we have to do something about it before the false image becomes the reality. While there are lots of sports played in the community the benefits golf brings makes it about the most important of them all.
Let’s face it golf is a rich white man’s sport that takes too long, costs a lot to play is complicated, hard and you have to dress like you’re in a Jane Austin movie, or at least that’s the image. The reality is very different golf is a truly international game that is played by males and females from 3 years old to 100. The cost for nine holes is $25 or under on a public course in Australian capital cities which provides entertainment for up to 2 hours and is cheaper if you’re a junior or senior. You don’t need fancy clubs to play or even a full set at most Charity shops you will get all you need to start for less than $50 (the golf ball doesn’t know how much the club it is being hit by cost). Dress regulations well they don’t exist either really at public courses as long as you have some sort of shirt on and foot wear (pants are a given) you’re on. Public golf courses are exactly that open to everyone yet player numbers are dropping and have been for some time which is leading to course closures.
With the explosion of female sporting codes and people downsizing the amount of land they live on, demand for public green space has never been stronger. This places golf in a vulnerable position as quite rightly we have to justify why we deserve the use of such a valuable resource and get better at sharing it. The first part is easy golf is a sport for life go to any public course especially mid-week and you will find it mostly used by seniors for whom it is the main form of exercise and social interaction. Unlike Football, Cricket, Soccer, Basketball, Netball and Hockey where for the most part they are played by school aged kids who stop playing between 16 and 20, golf is the game they turn to as adults. Not only is golf a great low impact exercise and a social outing but for those who play an all-consuming challenge that takes their mind off other stresses that may exist in life. Golf courses are also a haven for native birds and plants which provide a much-needed green buffer to ever developing suburbs.
As golfers or administrators, it’s our obligation to be more inclusive and highlight the positive attributes of golf to change the public perceptions. Firstly, golf is Easy, Fun and Affordable you don’t need to play off single figure take regular lessons and have a $700 driver to enjoy the game. In fact, quite often it’s the better golfers with expensive of gear that tend to get down on themselves and give off bad energy about the game, if that’s you stop it don’t be part of the problem! If you have old clubs lying about in the shed give them to a non-golfer there not worth much anyway and handed down clubs are often the start of a life long journey with the game. If someone is saying they need to get fit take them to golf as walking is the best exercise just don’t stop at the 19th for too long. As golfing facilities, I think we need to take a lead from the UK and allow golfers to take their dogs out. Even look at the stats of when people play and make the hard call to close the course to golfers in traditionally quiet times and open up as a public park for picnics and dog walkers, as golfers we sometimes take for granted how beautiful a place golf course are. Exclusive private clubs should have open days for local residents who put up with the flash cars speeding in for a tee time, to share with them what’s behind the fences and gates. The more we welcome the non-golfers to the course and facilities the bigger chance we are to break down the old perceptions.
If we don’t change our image more courses will close and golf will become exclusive and expensive.