25 Feb 2021 | Industry news |

Chip shots at golf, the ‘game for life’, are way off course

by Contributor

Moore Park putting green
(Photo: Moore Park)

By James Sutherland, Golf Australia CEO

(First published in The Australian, 23/2/2021)

There is a contradiction in the recent push to abbreviate the golf facility at Moore Park in inner Sydney to nine holes.

Because Moore Park, one of the oldest and busiest facilities in the country, is none of the things that golf’s opponents tend to rail against.

The critics of golf – and there are a few – are inclined to harvest low-hanging fruit when it comes to attacking our game.

We’re ‘elitist’, we’re ‘entitled’, we’re ‘not inclusive or diverse’ and we’re ‘dwindling’ in terms of numbers.

They might even reference the golf-loving Donald Trump in the argument. (Nikki Gemmell, Weekend Australian 20/2/2021)

But these are cliched criticisms that we in the industry, frankly, tire of. They are not even accurate.

Golf does have wealthy players and clubs which are expensive to join. But there are 1.3 million of us out here of all ages and shapes and sizes and ethnicities. The idea that we’re all cashed-up tossers with too much time on our hands is fundamentally wrong.

At Moore Park, you can play a full round for $41 and $33 if you go in the twilight hours. A bucket of balls on the driving range starts at $17. People play for the love of it and aren’t required to dress like professional players, nearly 60,000 rounds every year at that facility.

There are hundreds of these types of clubs and facilities in Australia and they are the heart of our game.

In any case, what happened with Mayor Clover Moore’s idea for a smaller golf course at Moore Park was appropriate. The government, the Sydney City Council and the people who run the facility came together and reached a compromise that will see more community access to the golf land. Problem solved, we would argue.

And it seems the Minister responsible, Rob Stokes, has already said that the full 18 holes should remain.

Yet, still we hear that golf is fading away. It is anything but the case. Actually, Covid-19 has induced a golf boom, an irony if ever there was one.

Golf Australia commissioned a study last year which confirmed what we could already see anecdotally – 42,000 new club members in the 10 months to the end of October. We anticipate at least a five percent increase in club memberships across 2020 when the numbers come through soon.

We track rounds of golf played as a method of including all golf – not just members’ golf – and these numbers are the best we have seen in years. There has been a 15 percent increase in rounds played this year on the same period in 2020.

Any golfer will tell you that right now, tee times are scarce.

Here’s something important to address. Golf saves our governments millions of dollars every year in health costs because people play it well into their senior years. For many of them, it is their only exercise and recreation. I cannot think of another sport that compares on that score.

A 2017 report by the Australian Golf Industry Council found that golf contributes $131 million a year in health benefits to the economy and over a person’s lifetime, $4.5 billion. Take grassroots golf away and you will have dreadful unforeseen circumstances.

I watched a beautiful video the other day about a man called Kevin Kerin, who has just wound up his playing membership at The Grange in Adelaide after 52 years! He is 95 years of age.

That’s why we call golf ‘a game for life’.

Kevin rode his bike down to the club to play each week. He said that the game taught him to be calm; to accept whatever came his way as a lesson for life itself.

That’s what golf is about.

Moore Park golf image
Nearly 60,000 rounds a year are played at Moore Park in Sydney. (Photo: Moore Park)

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