The Cut - - ASK STEVE -

QSteve, as some­one who has been around golf a long time you must have seen and been in­volved in many changes over the years. If you were given an op­por­tu­nity to ad­dress the R&A and USGA to talk about how to make the sport more rel­e­vant for the 21st cen­tury, what would you list as the main chal­lenges fac­ing golf and do you have any sug­ges­tions as to how to ad­dress them?

D Dixon (by email)

There is no ques­tion the most im­por­tant is­sue fac­ing the gov­ern­ing bod­ies is the de­cline in mem­ber­ship num­bers and the num­ber of rounds be­ing played. Those in charge of the sport need to for­malise a plan that will see the game grow — which it cur­rently is not.

Many club golfers will op­pose the idea of nine-hole mem­ber­ships, com­pe­ti­tions and tour­na­ments, but I be­lieve th­ese would en­cour­age peo­ple to utilise clubs more, in­clud­ing the fa­cil­i­ties such as the bar and pro shop.

For mem­bers who are in­volved in their kids’ sport­ing ac­tiv­i­ties on week­end morn­ings, I’m sure play­ing in a nine­hole com­pe­ti­tion late af­ter­noon would ap­peal. It would en­cour­age peo­ple to play on week­ends when it is of­ten dif­fi­cult to find time for 18 holes. Foot golf, fris­bee golf and speed golf are vari­a­tions of golf that should be en­ter­tained.

An­other chal­lenge is the dis­par­ity be­tween the pro­fes­sional and am­a­teur game. The ma­jor­ity of top am­a­teurs are not close to the stan­dard of those play­ing pro­fes­sion­ally — be­cause of their equip­ment. Pros get to try ev­ery shaft, ev­ery ball and all clubs at no cost. Equip­ment is ex­pen­sive and out of reach of the av­er­age per­son.

In a per­fect world it would be great to press the re­set but­ton and re­duce the size of driver heads, re­move 60-de­gree wedges and have a uni­ver­sal ball sim­i­lar to what was used a decade or two ago. This would greatly re­duce the gap be­tween am­a­teurs and pros and I be­lieve more peo­ple would re­late bet­ter to the game.

Pro­fes­sional golf has not taken a strong enough stance on slow play and it has fil­tered down to club level. If it was up to me I would in­sti­tute a rule so that re­gard­less of which hole you’re on you must fin­ish your round in four-and-a-half hours and if you haven’t you must walk in.

If those in charge reg­u­lated the cost of equip­ment, pro­moted nine-hole golf and took a stance on the pace of play from the top level down, I am in no doubt it would see an in­crease in player num­bers and rounds played and make golf more en­joy­able.

Equip­ment costs have widened the gap be­tween the am­a­teur and pro­fes­sional ranks, says Steve Wil­liams.

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