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15 Issues Golf Needs to Talk About

1. Augusta is selling a dangerous dream
Golf's obsession with beautiful green – i.e. heavily watered greens and fairways – is unsustainable. Future wars will be about water, not oil. Fairways will go brown. We’ll all have to just get used to it. Club golfers have absurdly high, environmentally damaging expectations of what a golf course should look like. This is based on TV. Over 90% of golfers, when asked, said they want green fairways, like at the Masters. The sustainability question is a golf industry obsession. The more enlightened are trying to take a leadership position: ‘Golf can be a force for change’, a version of Formula One’s attempts to spin a green tech story. But within golf there is a hardcore turf lobby whose mantra is ‘Turf grass is good for the environment. Better than trees’.

2. Players should be fined for criticising the condition of the greens/course.
A view put forward by Gil Hanse, the architect given the job of designing the Rio 2016 Olympic course. (Hanse was criticized in a tweet by Luke Donald.)

3. The most powerful man in golf is someone you’ve never heard of
Dana Garmany runs Troon Golf, the biggest course operator in the world. He was voted most powerful person in an industry survey, above Tiger, Tim Finchem, Rory, Peter Dawson and even Donald Trump.

4. There are no powerful women in golf
The above list of 35 contained not one female.

5. Everyone knows the future, nobody wants to pay for it
Short-form golf, in whatever form it takes, is an obvious route to help bring in new golfers. But until the Tours create meaningful short events – and make the players play for official money – it won't work.

6. There is no appetite for change, but much talk about it
Golf doesn’t embrace change because the status quo is too comfortable. Cricket’s Twenty20 bonanza, the Indian Premier League, lured the best players by offering much higher wages. Likewise, Kerry Packer’s cricket breakaway in the 1970s exploited similar feelings of discontent. Rugby Union went pro to avoid a coup by Rupert Murdoch and Kerry Packer. Revolutions need discontent. Golfers are paid too much to revolt.

7. Powerplay Golf is not Twenty20
It has its merits, but is actually harder to play than ‘real’ golf. See also point 5.

8. The golf business is irresponsible
Golf’s business model helped create the financial crisis: build expensive, high-end white-elephant courses, load them with debt and sell off the real estate to flippers. That model is still driving the golf business. China is doing exactly what North America did.

9. There are no votes in golf
Golf doesn’t scream inner city. Nor is it first in line to fight obesity.

10. Players should be compelled to play their own national Open Championships
Local players drive demand. The decline of national Opens across Europe is a regrettable trend.

11. Golf is in danger of blowing its Olympic chance
The Olympic golf tournament at Rio 2016 is an individual 72- hole strokeplay event. Word has it the IOC wanted their competition to be ‘major-like’. Sir Nick Faldo told me it should be matchplay made up of men and women’s national teams. The decision to continue golf in the Olympics takes place in 2017. It has one chance to get it right.

12. The majors for men and women should be played at the same venue, same week Like the tennis Grand Slams.
This would raise the profile and prestige of the women’s game.

13. The money list should show appearance fees
Greater transparency would help the public see which events matter and which don’t. Appearance money is impossible to ban. The PGA Tour does not allow it but “they call it something else” said Giles Morgan, head of HSBC’s sponsorship division.

14. The women's game will have an Asian major within five years
According to the LPGA’s chief marketing officer.

15 Sponsors feel cheated and may leave
One of golf’s biggest sponsors sent a warning to the Tours – regulate players’ management companies and agents, or we might take our money away. Giles Morgan of HSBC oversees the bank’s sponsorship portfolio (it has spent $300million on golf over the past ten years). As players’ agents find it harder to sell the spaces on their shirts and caps, they are pushing up the price of appearance money to compensate. “They are coming to us with sometimes outrageous financial demands just to turn up and play.”

The cost of sponsoring an event is escalating as a result. “They are biting the hand that feeds,” says Morgan, who suggested the bank may choose to spend its money elsewhere if costs continue to rise. Player agents should be licensed by the Tours, he said, sending a warning shot to the European and PGA Tours.

November 2012

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine


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