There was a time when it was almost expected that the game of golf would always grow and that golf clubs would continue to attract new members without having to try too hard. Of course, the world doesn’t seem to work this way and so, as we slipped into a new millennium, the golf industry was caught napping. Golf clubs weren’t only not attracting new members – they were losing existing members too.
Husbands and fathers were becoming increasingly reluctant to leave their families for half a day, or more, on a weekend in order to play a round of golf. To add to this, a new threat to golf had arrived – cycling. Even I, a golf professional, succumbed to the allure and began pedalling like a madman at the expense of playing golf. These were the heady days, twenty short years ago, when you didn’t have to mortgage your home to buy a bike – and expensive multi-day races weren’t a thing yet. Families could cycle together in safety on weekends and race organisers catered for this – golf, not so much.
As golf clubs stubbornly hung on to their rather stuffy, slightly colonial traditions, the game continued to suffer and decline as cycling’s star rose further still. Fast forward to the present day and golf finds itself experiencing something of a renaissance – the game is popular again it seems.
Should you happen to be one of the many ex-golfers considering giving golf another go, I have good news for you. In my opinion, golf has managed to reinvent itself without losing its core identity.
The most appealing change that I have personally witnessed at golf clubs, is that juniors and women are made to feel most welcome and valued. I’ll never forget the day when my Mom was not allowed to enter the clubhouse at a local golf course ‘back in the day.’ Or, being shouted at as though I was a dog by a geriatric ‘old boy’ at the same golf club when, as a keen junior golfer, I committed the heinous sin of walking over the practice putting green in order to retrieve my golf ball which had rolled over the edge. I used to refer to these grumpy old codgers as, “The gin-and-tonic-brigade,” but that was before gin experienced its own renaissance of course… These days you might find one of the many new twenty-year-old golfers nursing a gin or two after their game.
All of this means that you will be returning to a vastly different game to the one you played before: more relaxed dress codes; 9-hole games being very acceptable; kids practising and playing with smiles on their faces and families spending time together on the golf course. Come on, give golf another go – you know you want to.