VIEWPOINT

TOur TalEs & TruE

Grant Dodd
Three new rules for golf

T

he good news is that all wrongs have now been righted. Just a blink ago, the universe was apparently heading to financial ruination. Now the stock market index resembles the north face of Mount Everest once more, all those billions of dollars of debt that the major corporations had accrued have miraculously evaporated, and we have a newly validated, regulatory body-approved system of measuring indebtedness. If 50 is the old 40, then a billion is the old million. If only governments could bail out birth certificates with the same commitment to historical revision they apply to the balance sheets of banks. They’ve afforded the decimal system an elasticity we never knew was possible, but what’s a zero or three between friends in this brave new world? Unsurprisingly, everyone with any authority to do so tells us that it is business as usual for golf. The US PGA Tour maintains that $5 million-plus weekly purses are here to stay, while the European Tour sticks steadfastly to the party line that Dubai and its disappearing pots of gold are not illusory. The mantra of growth, so recently forsaken, is returning to the lexicon. With such formidable precedents set, professional golf’s first $20 million purse must be just around the corner. By extension, a curious mindset has been adopted as the default position for assessing the health of the game at large. Ergo, if professional golf is in good shape then all is well with the Royal & Ancient game. But by observing golf principally through the prism of professionalism, those charged with looking after its future have chosen a myopic view as their vista of choice. A dogged pursuit of technology (as it relates to elite golf) as the root of all evil is symptomatic of this approach. Concentrating upon it in such a way over the past decade has been a misdirection of energy and resources, and merely succeeded in sidetracking the narrative from the key elements

that needed to be at the forefront of discussion. The Australian Golf Industry Council study of 2009 has shown that both golf club membership and rounds played per year have been in steady decline for most of the past 10 years. This is mirrored in the US, where more golf courses have closed for business than have opened during the past three years. View these statistics alongside the push for continual prizemoney growth on the US Tour and something appears uncomfortably amiss. You don’t have to belong to Mensa to work out the sub-prime inclinations of that particular equation. So, rather than obsessing abut the winning scores at major championships or the iron loft that players will be hitting into par 5s, addressing three fundamental issues pertinent to the future of the game are paramount: • Golf is too expensive to play; • The game is difficult to learn, to comprehend the rules and to reach a level of proficiency where it becomes enjoyable; and • Playing 18 holes takes too long. This is not to suggest that the solutions to either issue are self-apparent, but strip everything to its core and the answer that comes back is participation. Golf needs to grow, and to grow it needs people to take up the game. Growth should not be misinterpreted as the creation of another elite, resort golf course built to facilitate the sale of blocks of land with six zeros in their price tag. Nor can it be symbolised anymore by the addition of another million dollars to a tournament purse. Growth, in its most unadulterated form, is about bums on seats, and preferably placed on the bench next to the first tee waiting to hit off. Grant Dodd played in the 1997 and 1998 British Opens and is now a commentator for golf broadcasts on One and Ten. To ask Grant a question, visit http://grantdodd.blogspot.com

60

Australian Golf Digest

march 2010

CHRISTOPHER LEE/GETTY IMAGES

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