To continue to grow the game of golf in the 21st century may require a sea change, according to one of the keynote speakers at last month’s European Golf Business Conference, held in Amsterdam.
Ruffin Beckwith, a director of USA-based stakeholder initiative Golf20/20, believes there are currently three main barriers to golf participation: cost, difficulty and time. And he feels with time pressures the easiest to address, the nine-hole game may be the way forward.
He said, “We should look to promote nine-hole golf as a genuine experience, not as half of a golf experience. We should make golf less intimidating and encourage new golfers to play.”
Golf20/20 had discovered during its extensive research, he explained, that there are many women who want to play six-hole rounds. Some golf clubs are reflecting this by building 12-hole courses in the US while some coaching programmes even offer three-hole rounds for beginners and young children.
The golf industry was worth US$75 billion in 2005 according to Beckwith’s figures – “bigger than the film and recording industries combined,” he insisted.
His closing remark to more than 210 delegates – a record attendance for the annual event promoted by the European Golf Course Owners Association (EGCOA), up 25 per cent on last year – was “be committed – and be willing to change”.