I sat down with someone fairly high up in one of the biggest and most influential companies in the world last week and we spoke about golf.
Simply put, it doesn’t even feature in their conversations when it comes to sport.
It isn’t big enough, it doesn’t attract enough viewers and the image isn’t particularly great.
Look... golf isn’t going anywhere, it’s a game played and loved by millions around the world, but surely this kind of thing has to be an alarm bell… or at least a motivation to crack on?
This week on the European Tour we have the Dunhill Links at the incredible St Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns… almost totally wasted by creating a millionaire’s tea party that no golf fan really gives a shit about… and one that has gone on for too long now!
The tournament are literally running an auction for a spot with the bidding at £50,000 like that is something achievable for normal people!
Brian McFadden, Jeremy Kyle, Vernon Kaye and the lads will continue their circuit of getting their face in golf events for the 98th year in a row, whilst most of us switch off.
This is following this previous week at the British Masters where the early part of the week saw Gaz from Geordie Shore (I know!) and a dude off Love Island (I KNOWWWW!!!!) playing the Pro-Am and doing various zany things on the Sky Sports cameras.
Now I kinnnndddd of get this a little bit more…
These guys have a shedload of followers on social media and it does reach a new younger audience but it’s pretty immeasurable whether they having a discernable impact in either a positive or negative way.
Do people think ‘Ah look at these guys who’ve made some money now playing a rich man’s sport?’
Do they think ‘Ah, I love Gaz out of Geordie Shore, he does that getting pissed and shagging birds thing on MTV, I’m going to buy a half-set from Argos’
Or even ‘WOW. Chris from Love Island plays golf!!! I was only watching ‘Chris and Kem - Straight Outta Love Island' on ITV2 the other day, if these cool dudes are playing golf then I must get down the driving range?’
(My knowledge of that previous show comes from my Mrs watching it last night. In the brief moment I took my headphones off it struck me as the biggest warning sign that our education system is dramatically failing)
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe out of the pure numbers of people seeing their Instagrams, as Nick Dougherty argued on Twitter, a few are being inspired to go and play golf?
I’ll just need convincing that’s actually happening. I’m not even sure people would know where to start… which in itself is a whole different problem!
But golf seems to be pinning its hat to this, celebs have been involved in golf in this passive way forever… and participation and viewing figures are not going up. That’s a fact.
The one concession I’d make would be Niall Horan. By numbers a bigger star than all the others put together and someone who is actively involving themselves in golf by running tournaments, managing players and that comes across in his enthusiasm.
There might be a spike in 13 and 14 year old hormonal girls picking up golf clubs and playing the game… if anyone is mad enough it’s 13 and 14 year old girls!!! And God knows we need more female golfers!
But for all the good work Sky Sports do innovating on pay-per-view television golf still has a massive image problem.
On the weekend of the British Masters Donald Trump was sat on a golf course whilst there is a crisis in Puerto Rico.
He then flew to the President’s Cup in New York where he dedicated the trophy to the victims... although I'm not sure how much solace someone with no water, electricity and half a home takes from a golf cup... no matter the margin of victory.
Politics aside the reach that has and the impact to the image that golf is a rich man’s country club game, far removed from reality dwarves anything over here.
Golf HAS to fight to repair that image, as we all know it’s not really that true. Most of us normal people, with regular incomes, have normal hard working friends who go for a game of golf and have a laugh at friendly, welcoming golf clubs!
So let’s champion that.
And rather than the turn-up-for-a-photo-op-and-a-quick-18 holes celeb, let’s champion our superstar golfers who came from that exact background. That relatable background. Normal folk… the masses.
Unfortunately this week’s event will be the disjointed, half-hearted, ‘celeb’/rich tourist hacker tournament it always is… perfectly portraying golf as the rich man’s sport that it really isn’t.
Keith Pelley talks a good game but he must know it’s going to take massive changes in both presentation, format and thinking to reach those bigger numbers and take on other sports commercially, in viewing figures and in participation.
For a start imagine telling Rory McIlroy’s inspirational story from humble beginnings, followed by him playing St Andrews, Kingsbarns and Carnoustie in a PROPER competitive sporting event that people actually want to watch?!
Do that and you might just get more of this!!!
I'm the Managing Editor at The Club. I like putting and Rioja. I dislike my low slice.