More than 140 delegates from 60 countries attended the three day conference held at the Fairmont Hotel, St Andrews and there was lively and informed debate from golf’s global governing community.
The conference was attended by delegations representing the women’s and men’s game, alongside representatives from PGAs from around the world and the PGA European Tour.
On the first day the Rules of Amateur Status were discussed along with a review of the amateur game as a whole. Chairman of the R&A’s Amateur Status Committee, Clive Edginton, and Director of Rules and Equipment Standards, David Rickman, led these sessions.
Bill Macgowan of New Zealand Golf and Joe Beditz of the National Golf Foundation in the United States presented a vision for golf’s future, focusing on the introduction of new players to the game and the retention of current enthusiasts. The presentations, and resultant discussions, demonstrated a view that golf has to adapt to a changing society and be aware of the needs and wants of golfers today.
Further presentations were made by the R&A’s Director of Golf Development, Duncan Weir, entitled ‘Golf Development Worldwide’, and by Sandy Jones of the Professional Golfers’ Association about the Ryder Cup European Development Trust.
Day two of the conference continued to tackle issues that are high on the agenda of the sport and heard presentations from a number of the R&A’s executive directors.
Steve Otto, Director of Research and Testing, gave a presentation about technology in golf including the expected impact of the groove regulations introduced by the R&A last year, which come into effect in January 2010. R&A Director, Michael Tate, provided an overview of the World Amateur Golf Ranking, explaining the evolution of the ranking, which is increasingly being viewed as the standard by which elite amateur players should be assessed, and revealing that the WAGR is now being used by the European, Asian, Australasian and Sunshine Tours to exempt players into the later stages of qualifying for those Tours.
Completing the day’s programme were David Rickman, the R&A’s Director of Rules and Equipment Standards, and Grant Moir, Director – Rules of Golf, with pace of play and the impact of digital measuring devices both major elements of the discussion.
The final day’s programme included presentations on golf’s social responsibility from Vicky Whyte, Brazilian Golf Confederation; Brendon Pyle, the Golf Foundation; and Ronald Fream, Golf Plan; on projects using golf for community and social development in Japeri, Brazil; Sheffield, England; and Bhutan respectively.
Peter Dawson, the R&A’s Chief Executive, presented golf’s bid for inclusion in the Olympic Games which preceded a presentation by David Garland, Director of Tour Operations for the PGA European Tour, about the introduction of anti-doping.
The issue of the sustainable golf course management was also discussed before a presentation of golf’s oldest known films was shown to the conference.
The Conference drew to a close with delegates taking advantage of the chance to quiz Peter Dawson who responded to questions about many of the issues which had been discussed throughout the three-day event.