Regular blogger Simon Caney gives his opinion on how golf can learn from what darts has done...
But golf's future is bright?
So here’s the thing: on the face of it, golf has never had it so good. Rory, Jordan, Rickie, Jason. Plenty of good ’uns coming up behind them too – Fitzpatrick, Matsuyama, Grillo, that lot.
The majors should be amazing this year, because those young bucks will go at it hammer and tongs; and if they don’t win, then someone has to play brilliantly to beat them.
So all is rosy in the golfing garden, right?
Well no, not really.
Club memberships are down. People are finding other things to do with their time. The game is expensive and it takes time.
Boy, does it take time – when pros are taking five and a half hours to get around (and they can pretty much always find their ball, dammit!) then what hope for the rest of us?
Golf is at a crossroads, I reckon, and it can do one of two things: either nothing (just hope the likes of McIlroy and Spieth are enough) or something (be pro-active, make the most of them, something, anything).
Chances are, almost certainly, that they will do the former. Or not do, as the case may be.
But as I watched the darts over the Christmas break (love a bit of the arrers) it occurred to me that here was a sport that had completely rebranded itself. It had hauled itself off its flabby, dying arse and somehow become one of the most vibrant, gripping sports on television.
Is there any sports fan who doesn’t fancy being a part of that crowd? Just a wonderful atmosphere, with walk-on music, non-stop beer and incredible tension – helped by a bit of needle (who knows if it’s genuine or not and, frankly, who cares?).
Now I’m not saying golf needs this during a regular 72-hole strokeplay tournament in the middle of the year. It might be rather incongruous to see Thomas Bjorn walking to the tee at the French Open to the sounds of Here Comes The Hotstepper, after all.
But what darts did was to rebrand itself. It realised it had problems and would probably die if they weren’t addressed.
Other sports have done the same: cricket introduced T20, for instance – a move that may have saved the county game in this country.
Can you imagine if golf took a similar view? How about a made-for-TV 16-man matchplay event where crowds can be as noisy as they like and drink as much as they want?
Where there’s music (and yes, somebody has to come out to Here Comes The Hotstepper – I’m thinking Rickie), strict time penalties (if they have to run to their ball so be it; this is a sport after all), a proper row about the rules, and they all have to play the same sort of ball – I’m thinking a Pinnacle.
Now I don’t know about you but I’d be there like a shot.
I'm the Managing Editor at The Club. I like putting and Rioja. I dislike my low slice.