Column: Golf renaissance starts with youth

As columnist Dick Whitlam writes, saving golf starts starts with getting young people involved in an organized way.

Much has been written about the decline in golf’s popularity in the past 10 years.

Less people are interested in a sport that takes many hours to play and is difficult to master.

I keep reading that if golf would just lower its prices, let  golfers wear what they want, act however they want and maybe even use motorized skate boards, that this would revitalize the game.

Golf, like all sports, also now competes with electronic games.

As the games get more compelling and more expensive, kids are drawn to them and parents are spending much of their recreational dollars on these games and have less money for the traditional sports.

But money is still being spent on sport and golf is hurting because it is not getting enough.

I believe the traditions of golf should be kept intact.

We don’t need bigger cups or tailgate parties to sell the game.

The problem with the sport is not in its traditions or rules or even its price. The problem lies in its introduction to today’s youth.

Golf is falling way behind in having an introductory program, like almost every other sport has.

Let’s look at hockey.

Like most boys in Canada I started playing hockey when I was six, and I played until I was 35.

It was well organized with coaches and ice time three times a week.

My parents had to commit money up-front for the year. Most sports such as soccer, baseball, football, dance, gymnastics and martial arts all follow a similar model.

In golf, although each course tries to hold a junior day once a week in the summer and we have junior camps, its hard to find volunteer coaches.

The overall organization pales in comparison to the other sports.

Parents are reluctant to pay memberships for the year and kids become disinterested because of lack of organized coaching, competition and fellowship. Kids are drawn to team play for the social interaction. It’s got to be fun or they are not interested.

So the answer is remaking the model. It has to be organized at least three times per week, with good coaching.

It must have a team aspect and the costs must be paid for the year up-front. That’s the only way the golf courses can afford to operate and the only way to ensure commitment from families.

This foundation of golfers will work its way up through the years and, if the model is implemented, in 10 to 20 years golf will be healthier than ever.

It starts with the youth and the commitment of parents. The successful business model is already in place with other sports and golf just needs to adopt it.

Golf is a great game and deserves to be saved.

 

By Dick Whitlam, C.P.G.A. golf instructor with the Chilliwack Golf Academy.