The chase for a bite of the funding is fine - but don’t feed us this Olympic hype
The Olympics golf course in Rio de Janeiro has effectively closed it doors. It looks like not enough folk were paying at the gate to generate the funds needed to keep the lights on. The legacy we were all told about turned out to be fluff.
Not trying to be smart, but I told everybody that would listen to me that this would happen.
Golf isn’t important to the Olympics. And the Olympics isn’t exactly important to golf. It’s complete nonsense and PR fabrication to think that golf would benefit in the grand scheme of things from becoming an Olympic sport.
Golf isn’t taken seriously as an Olympic sport, either. It’s merely jumping on a financial bandwagon - like every other sport is now doing - in an attempt to raise funding for the game. There is nothing wrong with that. What’s wrong is pretending the Olympics is some kind of ‘answer’ to golf’s problems to justify the move into the chase for medals. Just follow the football route and sheepishly admit you’re in it for the money.
As if the timing couldn’t be any worse, it has been revealed that the golf course proposed to host the next Olympics golf tournament in 2020 in Japan does not allow women to be members, nor does it allow women to play on a Sunday. When pressed about their stance, they said the issue of women was a ‘nuisance’.
Incredibly, the people in charge of the decision to take the Olympics to that specific golf club, the International Golf Federation - chaired by former R&A boss Peter Dawson - weren’t aware of the club’s discriminatory stance on women. And the Olympics is meant to be an all-inclusive sporting coming together…
You couldn’t make it up.
It’s rare we get to speak about positives, because most golf news in the mainstream media seems to concentrate on the negatives within the sport. But an email from England Golf landed in my inbox a short time ago, and buried within the release were some standout facts and figures that should have been viewed as a major positive for golf. In England, the number of people trying golf is up 47%, and there has been an increase in new memberships, including ‘trial and introductory packages’. A few weeks later another email landed, saying that England Golf had reports of increased membership from 30% of golf clubs.
All this is good news. Yet what’s laughable is that the same email indicated that golf now had a ‘flourishing profile… thanks to the Olympic gold medal success of Justin Rose’. Really? Is there some sort of measurement we can use to prove this incredible statistic?
At times I have felt as though I’m banging my head against a brick wall, but the sport has gone through a substantial change in the last decade. Golf has had to deal with changing lifestyles probably more than any other sport. Yes, some clubs have failed. But that’s hardly the end of the world. There will always be tour players playing for millions but a golf club is the heart of the game, and it’s a business, so it needs to adapt to its market. If a club these days fights for its customers, it will come out the other side smiling. If it retreats into its shell, thinking it’s been hard done to by an evolving ‘social’ landscape, it’ll die a slow death. To imply that any recent club growth might be down to the Olympics is an insult to the clubs that have been proactive in hard times.
I’ve spoken to six people already this year who are joining a golf club. Two of them for the first time. Everyone I know at my local club is renewing. At least from where I’m standing, I’m seeing positives. There will be aspects the sport needs to address but, for once, I think golf should start taking a more positive outlook and stop trying to create a persona that we’re on some kind of global rise thanks to the Olympics. Because that’s just not true.