IN A PERFECT WORLD
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.