27 Dec 2021 | Industry news |

10 things we'd like to see in golf 2022

by Martin Blake

Driving range image
Courses and driving ranges have been packed in 2021. Photo: Getty

1. An Australian with the green jacket Okay, it’s been eight years or so now since Scotty rolled in that curling 10-footer on the 10th green at Augusta National to win the green jacket. Before that, it was 60-odd years. But we will have at least six starters in Georgia in April including a trio of first-timers in Cam Davis, Lucas Herbert and Min Woo Lee. Generation Next is pretty damned impressive. One of them slipping on the green jacket would be an awesome start to the men’s majors for 2022.

2. Open season We miss the Men’s Australian Open, oh so much. Two years now it’s had to be cancelled because of the pandemic and the border closures and quarantine. But it’s listed for a return to Melbourne at Victoria Golf Club in November-December and that’s exciting. It will be 20 years since the last Open in Melbourne, also at Victoria, in 2002. Hopefully by then we will have some clarity on the health crisis and be able to draw some of our best players back to tee it up in the Melbourne sandbelt. 3. Women power The new national golf strategy identifies that golf needs to get better at attracting women and girls. Too much competition too early is a problem, and so is the intimidation factor. There are time pressures to be considered. Fortunately, most of this has been recognized and is being addressed. If you take the glass-half-full approach, rather than focusing on previous failings, perhaps the game can reason that this presents a monumental opportunity? Women’s participation is the greatest potential upside for the game bar none, if golf gets it right. 4. Language matters Relating to the previous point, golf should be adopting language that is more inclusive and contemporary. ‘Ladies’ golf’ has been there for years and is easy for clubs and facilities to roll out through habit, but it doesn’t cut it in a time when we are trying attract young women. ‘Women’s golf’ is much better. Some clubs have picked this up, but not enough of them. We shouldn’t have an honour board that says: ‘Champions’ up in the clubhouse when what it really means (and should say) is: ‘Men’s champions’. We should have ‘women’s committee’ rather than ‘ladies’ committee’ and so on. It’s not that hard and it will make a difference, somewhere along the line.

5. Packed courses The incredible irony of the pandemic is that our sport has boomed as a result of it. Let’s hope that as the world opens up, we still see packed tee times in 2022. It’s been quite exciting to be around the game at a time of exponential growth (250,000 new players in 2020, and the biggest rise in membership ever recorded). If golf can retain even half of those people, and hold on to the rusted-on golfers as well, it could look back at this period as a turning point for the game in this country.

6. Public golf thriving This is such a big area of concern for our game. Local councils have their eye on more green space and golf is in the gun. Northcote in Melbourne is the latest course to be targeted, but before that Victoria Park in Brisbane was lost, and Elsternwick in Melbourne to mention a couple. Rosny Park in Hobart was closed and Moore Park in Sydney was threatened (although recently seems to have been reprieved).

Golf has to fight hard for its place and to do so, it needs to tell its great story. The mental and physical health benefits to participants, the oneness with nature, the social interaction, the environmental benefits, the fact that it’s the No. 1 sport for 50-plus men in this country (and No. 2 for women), the fact that it’s a game anyone can play. Families can play together like no other sport. It would be nice if a few more councils actually recognized this.

7. Tiger Woods playing some more. Watching the former World No. 1 playing in Florida recently was a treat. What’s next for him? That might be the story of 2022 on a worldwide golfing scale. How cool would it be to see him teeing it up and competing at the Masters in April. He’s already completed arguably the greatest comeback of all time when he won the Masters in 2019 after major back surgery. Maybe he’s got another shot in the locker on that score? 8. St Andrews dreaming It’s the 150th Open Championship in 2022, back at the Old Course and how good would it be to see an Aussie in the mix in July? Kel Nagle won the Centenary Open in 1960, incidentally, so the omens are good.

Who might that be? Maybe Cam Smith, the wedge king from Brisbane who hasn’t really contended in four previous starts but who has emerged as our best male player over the past year or so. 9. The cluster Three Australians graduated from the LPGA Tour qualifying series – Karis Davidson, Steph Kyriacou and Sarah Jane Smith (who to be fair, has been on that tour for a decade). Given that Minjee Lee in in the top 10 in the world and Hannah Green in the top 25, and adding in Katherine Kirk, Sarah Kemp and Su Oh, Australia is going to have some serious oomph on that tour in 2022. In particular Kyriacou has been quite dominant in Europe, has been brilliant in her early professional career, and shapes as a real star. 10. Sibling sensations What a story the growth of the Lees of Perth is in golf! Now that the younger Min Woo has joined the accomplished Minjee in the top echelon of the game, the possibilities are endless. A pair of majors in the same year? It is going to be fascinating to watch in 2022 as Min Woo tries to play his way on to the US PGA Tour with his starts in the majors and the World Golf Championships, in Minjee drives toward world No. 1 and more majors.

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