Having been in the game of golf most of my life and working in it for over 30 years, it suddenly hit me
one day that golf wasn’t in a better place despite my input and that I had a responsibility to change that.
My early golf story was a familiar one for many. I fell in love with the game when my parents bought me
a cut down 5-iron, and I started chasing the feeling of a well-struck shot for hours on end. Time whizzed
by on the local school oval, at the public course or jumping the fence to a private club and the thrill of a
well struck shot or the sound of the ball going in the hole was my world.
After becoming a PGA member and full-time coach, golf was good to me. I worked hard and the
resultant rewards and experiences were things most people could only dream of. Travelling the world
coaching some of the best players, visiting and playing some of the most famous courses and having
access to the best clubs and facilities where I could coach were ‘money can’t buy’ experiences.
Eventually, family brought me home to Melbourne, Australia, and I settled into life at one of the famous
Sandbelt clubs with a full membership and waiting list. While still coaching some professionals, the
majority of my time was spent fixing the slice or hook of a handicap golfer in preparation for the mid-
Life was good but nine years went by, during which the golfing landscape changed. The club no longer
had a waiting list and the membership wasn’t full, which was the same for all but four of the top clubs in
Melbourne. Other non-Sandbelt clubs were fighting for survival and the public courses I had lined up for
hours to play as a kid were all but empty! The game that has always been my passion was in trouble and
as a PGA member of 25 years I had done nothing to stop it. I asked myself: was I actually part of the
Obviously, golf needed more participants to fill the public courses and filter up through private clubs,
but how do you get people to want to play golf? It was time to ask some hard questions and be
prepared to face up to the answers, no matter how hard, and contrive the innovation to change the
downward trend to the game I love. To improve the game’s future and the fortunes of clubs and public
courses became my goal.
This is what I asked myself:
Question 1: How many golfers had I created during my 25-year coaching career? Answer: I didn’t know
because whilst I had run many beginner clinics in my early days, it was difficult to get new golfers on the
course because it was so busy. In truth, beginner group lessons had been a great way to earn money. Up
to 10 in a group for an hour a week for five weeks, followed up with advanced clinics was a great
business but I had no stats on how many actually became golfers.
My focus had been on climbing to the top of coaching pyramid to coach elite players rather than
building a wider base at the bottom that would probably have produced better elite players anyway due
to more competition. I had personal success but was part of an industry failure and had to put my hand
up and own my fair share of it.
Question 2: What experiences are on offer for today’s beginners? Answer: in most cases the same as
they were 25 years ago. It seems that every public facility or driving range is still offering group clinics on
the range as their main way into golf, typically one-hour clinics over five weeks teaching the technical
fundamentals of golf.
The main difference I found was that no longer were individual clubs or half-sets available but rather
golfers had to buy a full set requiring also the purchase of a big bag and trolley. So not only was there
now still a large time commitment required over an extended period but also a large financial
commitment before a golfer knew if they liked it or not. It was off-putting to many.
Question 3: What was the perception of golf by non-golfers? Answer: Through reading as much as I
could and simply talking to people, I found some common threads. Golf is a hard game that takes too
long to learn, everyone is so serious with so many rules that if you break them you will be told off and its
expensive lessons, clubs, green fees and memberships put it out of reach.
Question 4: How did I fall in love with golf? Answer: I simply had one club and some balls and I hit them
wherever I could. I didn’t take technical lessons; my father showed me around a course so that I could
do it safely without upsetting the other users and I just played.
As I got better, I added more clubs to help me answer more of the questions the game put up and
eventually had technical lessons from a professional to help me become more competent at swinging
I once asked this question in a social forum for golf professionals: “Before playing on a golf course, did
you take formal lessons, and how many clubs did you have?” Out of some 200 responses, only four had
a full set of clubs, all of them hand-me-downs and only six had had lessons! Keep in mind these are all
PGA professionals, so one could easily come to the conclusion that the best way to take up golf is with
less equipment and no lessons. Truth be told, there were no formal hurdles like lessons and equipment
put up in front of me when I learned, simply a few fences to jump and golfers to dodge.
So, what to do? The solution/innovation was to reinvent the past, which went back to the start of the
I still have a cut-down hickory club I bought in a junk shop in North Berwick that reflects my own
introduction to the game that had been going for over 100 years but had stopped for some reason in the
The first challenge was to get a unique club for beginners made, which I had to do myself due to the
change in what was on offer by the manufacturers. The club itself is simple with very few options,
designed to be inexpensive, but with a few simple additions that make it easier to learn, all of which
have been done before but never brought together in just one club.
The second was to find a facility, made easy as public course use was down over 50% in the last 20
years, so I had my pick. I chose Oakleigh public golf course, down to 17,000 rounds per year from 42,000
per year 25 years ago.
I decided to simply call my concept 1Club golf and pitch it as Easy, Fun, Affordable with a promise of
having people new to golf on the course within 15 minutes and a good golfer within an hour (a good
golfer being someone who can play safely at a speed that doesn’t inconvenience anyone else,
understands their capabilities and looks after the course).
There was to be no extended time commitment …. learn all you need to become a golfer in one lesson
at a time of your choosing. All for the low price of $100 per group of up to four people or $25 each. I
resigned from my job (many thought my career as well) and started at Oakleigh after negotiating a deal
that saw me get paid based on how successful I was at raising the player numbers. A deal which meant a
significant pay cut if I didn’t make a difference.
Certain staff within the company that managed the course thought I was mad as I refused to teach
existing golfers with existing faults, referring them to other coaches and keeping my focus on new
Apart from a few signs, non-paid promotion on my social media and some articles written on the crazy
once-high-profile coach in different publications, there was no advertising, as I was simply testing my
But from Day 1 it worked. People loved that they could play on the course so easily and that within an
hour I could give them the confidence to return and play amongst existing golfers. They brought their
friends and suddenly people who had always liked the idea of golf but never tried it were playing
multiple times per week.
Even though the pathway I created has four steps divided by three rounds of golf that should be played
before the next coaching session, some people haven’t come back for the follow-up sessions because
they are just happy playing and developing the four things, I showed them at the start.
In the first six months, the rounds and revenue at Oakleigh Public were up 50%, a turnaround not seen
before as a result of a pathway created by a person or organization in Australia to my knowledge. My
plan to do something for golf to secure its future and in turn save facilities like Oakleigh golf course had
The pure simplicity of the pathway makes growing the game more than just a throwaway line. It’s
something easy to do and replicate. In fact, it is something I want to use to change the future of golf for
the better on a worldwide scale. At no point did I set out to create something that would become my
legacy to the game, however if it does, that will sit easy with me.
People and courses started to take notice, with my receiving emails and call from all around the world
asking how to get involved, which turned my thoughts to how to upscale my simple idea. I was truly
excited that I appeared to be on the verge of making a difference and that maybe in 150 years’ time,
someone would buy a 1Club from a shop in North Berwick.
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, this momentum was initially slowed by restrictions. But then
something unexpected happened.
COVID- 19 made golf popular again through no thought or action by anyone involved in golf but merely
due to the outdoor social distancing and safe aspects of the game. It also helped that many other
activities were shut down. Many in the industry were over the moon and celebrating their financial good
fortune brought by all the people flocking to golf. The good days were back.
It looked to me, though, as if the desire to innovate in golf stopped. The golf industry didn’t continue
looking for ways to attract people to golf because there was no longer the need; in fact, industry
members were turning customers away through being fully booked or out of stock.
Golf is a unique sport in that it both draws on the traditions of the past, yet to grow it needs to harness
new ideas. We cannot just rest on the short-term laurels created by pandemic-related restrictions on
activities other than golf.
An example: between shutdowns here in Melbourne, I had a 24 year old woman come for a 1Club
session because in her words, “golf is the new craze”. My concern is that if we try and push new golfers
into a game through a system that failed 25 years ago, we won’t capture many of the people who we
We need a catalyst to keep the momentum going and to take golf to new frontiers. 1Club is that
catalyst. 1Club goes back to golf’s roots by making the game simple, affordable and fun, even while it is
also a unique tool for the future.
The rest of the world is in a period of accelerated change, pivoting businesses overnight to be able to
operate and succeed in the new climate. Innovation will be more important than ever.
And 1Club is part of that innovation.