When we launched our Campaign for REAL golf early in 2014, we set ourselves the ambitious target of inspiring change in the game we love, fearing that it was in crisis and that action needed to be taken particularly to rescue golf from the many influences which were turning it into a sport only for the elite and those who could spare the time to take five hours and more to complete a round. We pleaded for a game that would once again become Recreational, Enjoyable, Affordable and Less time-consuming.
We recognised that ultimately these aims could only be partially attainable if they were pursued by the bodies which govern the game - The R&A and the USGA. To persuade them to act may have seemed to many people a lost cause, but we were not deterred.
We began our campaign by establishing this website and then launching our survey to find out what golfers the world over thought were the main reasons for the game’s decline and the ways in which, particularly, it could be less time-consuming.
And now, lo and behold, look at what has already happened: The R&A launched its own survey, which brought in a masssive 65,000 responses from all corners of the world. We added our own research figures to that.
These impressive steps forward were followed by a major conference in St Andrews entitled ‘Time for Golf’ which was introduced by new CEO Martin Slumbers with these words:
I believe it’s time to make golf more accessible, more affordable and a people sport again.
The two-day conference which followed covered a very wide range of suggestions which are now under review by The R&A prior to their taking action.
All that gives us great hope that the very principles we stressed at the launch of our Campaign will before long lead to action by our ‘governors’. While not wishing to muddy the waters by pursuing the Campaign during the R&A ’s deliberations, we shall be knocking on the CEO’s door in due course to enquire about progress!
We’ll keep you posted.
Ben Hogan was one of the longest-hitting golfers of his generation with his average drive going 265 yards. Today figures from the PGA Tour show that Rory McIlroy’s average drive is 315 yards with over 26% going over 320 yards.
In 60-odd years there have been tremendous advances in equipment, physical fitness and golfers’ technique. Yet nothing has been done to rein in the ball, even though the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Tiger Woods and our President Tony Jacklin all think it necessary. So golf courses are being forever extended. For instance, Augusta has been extended nearly 500 yards since 2002. Just think what this has cost in construction, on-going maintenance, and the time it take to play the extra yards. This goes against the basic principles we at REAL Golf believe in.
In pursuit of our key objective to make golf ‘Less time-consuming’, we asked a couple of renowned course managers what they and their colleagues could do to help...
Ian Tomlinson, Course Manager Rungsted Golf Klub, Denmark
How we mow the course will dictate how long it can take to play 18 holes. The worst possible situation is for the greenkeeping team to set out at 06.00 to mow the fairways & rough with the heavy morning dew. This leads to clumps of grass lying all over the course, meaning that golfers have to waste time looking for their balls.
Green speed is vital, too. Taking three or four putts to get the ball in the hole is not fun and adds considerably to the time taken for a round. Daily speeds between 9 and 9.5 are quite acceptable to most golfers, bringing more enjoyment and keeping the pace of play flowing. Flag placements are similarly important.
The grass around trees and low branches should be trimmed to give the golfers a better chance of seeing their ball land.
All hazard markers should be clearly visible from every tee so golfers can see .whether they should play a provisional ball. In seniors’ competitions, markers should be placed at the front of tees, giving a better chance of reaching the fairway.
Bunker placement, especially on fairways, should not always penalise the poor player…Take the advice of a qualified architect to find the right location so that average club gofers are not always penalised.
Chris Haspell, Course Manager Castle Stuart Golf, Scotland:
We recommend a very simple style: Just red posts for hazards and white ones for out-of-bounds. We keep the roughs thin and you can find your ball speedily in most areas.
Greenspeeds are really important. We know that once our greens are over 10.5 we can add 45 minutes to a round - less than ideal! You can play 18 holes here in 3.45 comfortably. However, it’s the norm now to take 4.30 which for me is too long. We are for many a destination so if you add wind, photos, hot dogs and more green speeds, you are up to 5.00 . Locals don’t like it but our travelling golfers accept it as part of their trip, or seem to.
Nothing to do with course management, but I personally don’t think it helps when many of the tour players take 6 hours to get around. That’s not good for anyone!