Golf has a problem. How exactly does a game that’s so intimidating for beginners attract young people to the sport and then keep them playing?
According to a 2010 survey by the National Golf Foundation in the US, the number of golfers aged 6-17 dropped 24% to 2.9 million from 3.8 million between 2005-2008 and current figures suggest things haven’t improved much in the years since.
With plenty of initiatives and schemes designed to get young people into golf, we’ve outlined seven of the most popular and effective ways that golf can retain its youthful appeal.
1. Relax the culture at golf clubs
Golf clubs have not traditionally been the sort of places that appeal to young people. The perception that golf is a game for older men needs to be changed and golf will struggle unless it looks at ways of doing this. Introducing a more informal, relaxed atmosphere at the club house could be one way to do so.
2. Reduce prices
Golf can be a very expensive sport if young people have to buy all their equipment and join a club. Clubs should look at overcoming this by offering affordable equipment hire or even free rental.
3. Shorter courses
One of the main issues young people have with playing golf is time. An 18-hole round can take half a day and like cricket, perhaps it is time to look at how golf can shorten its format. One solution may be to look at shorter courses with 6-hole options and 9-hole rounds with forward tees both a possible solution.
4. On-course refreshments
Young golfers want the ability to buy snacks and drinks while playing, either from a golf cart or hut on the course. Again it comes down to a more relaxed culture.
5. Casual dress
Another big sticking point for young people is golf’s image when it comes to clothing. Younger players like Ricky Fowler are happy to look different on the course both with their gear and hair styles and golf clubs may have to follow by relaxing strict codes with items like shorts and t-shirts.
6. Terrestrial TV coverage
As the example of cricket has shown, no longer having as much of a sport on free-to-air TV undoubtedly affects the access young people have to watch and learn about the game. Golfing authorities and TV companies need to think more about how the sport is covered and presented on the screen. Coverage needs to be exciting and fan-focused.
7. Role models
Golf’s fortunes rise and fall on the stars playing the sport and no more was this case when Tiger Woods was conquering all before him. When Wood’s personal problems began to affect his game and reputation it created a vacuum which is now being filled by young stars like Fowler, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth. If they continue their huge success, golf should be able to capitalise and continue to attract a growing legion of young fans.