A survey that found Rory McIlroy’s US Open success has inspired 39% of 18-24 year olds to consider taking up golf in the UK, sparked a national debate on BBC Radio Five Live on the first day of the Open Championship at Royal St George’s.
The One Poll survey, commissioned by Burhill Golf & Leisure – the UK’s leading golf course owner and operator – led to Chief Executive Colin Mayes being interviewed by Five Live presenter Nicky Campbell about golf’s accessibility, a recurring theme in the station’s coverage of the Open Championship, in light of Royal St George’s policy of excluding female members.
Mayes, who is also chairman of the UK Golf Course Owners Association, told Campbell: “It’s very clear that golf needs to open up and to be open for everybody. All our courses at Burhill Golf & Leisure are that way, we encourage families and youngsters to play and we have implemented a schools programme introducing children to golf and that’s the way golf has got to go.
“There is always a place for traditional clubs – whether they allow women to join or not is a different question. However, our seven golf centres and three golf clubs are open to everybody – and that’s the way it has to be.”
The One Poll survey of 1,000 UK consumers shone a light on the ‘Rory effect’ and the opportunities for golf to increase participation and attract new, younger people into the game.
However, 68% of the18-24 age group – and 56% of all ages – said they weren’t aware of public facilities where anyone can learn and play, or thought they had to be a member of a private golf club.
He added: “A lot of people just don’t realise there are pay and play courses open to everybody, they don’t realise they can just come in and play. That’s the message we have to get across that youngsters and family members can come and play and have a great time and it’s great value for money.”
Nicky Campbell raised the issue that the perceived lack of accessibility to golf could result in naturally talented youngsters – similar to McIlroy – going unnoticed.
Mayes responded: “One of our centres, at Birchwood in Kent, recently completed a programme for 400 youngsters and the PGA Professionals said there was some fantastic talent there – we just need to nurture that talent.”
Burhill Golf & Leisure www.burhillgolfandleisure.co.uk