There were a couple of other topics within this that I wanted to cover last week, so if you’ll indulge me, I’ll cover them now.
When you take up the game there is quite a considerable financial outlay; clothes, equipment, golf lessons, golf balls and eventually golf membership. All of these come at a cost which is far higher than say playing football or rugby or even tennis and cycling. These are the main competitors that golf faces in the hobbies and pastimes arena.
The biggest problem with golf is the fact that it takes so long to play and with so many people suffering from time poverty these days, this really is one of the biggest reasons for people taking the game up and then letting it go. Once they realise that 18 holes takes upwards of 4 hours, plus practice beforehand, travel to and from the course, plus the obligatory drink in the clubhouse with your playing partners after the round for a good old fashioned post-mortem.
All in all, you’re probably looking at somewhere around 6 hours from start to finish. That’s quite a lot of blocks to the game and when you add on top that it’s not very easy either, people tend to get discouraged and find other pursuits that have far more rewardable outcomes.
It can’t be surprising at all that with all these reasons not to play the game, that some golf courses have or are about to go out of business. I have a golfing colleague, fellow Pro from the Leicester area, who had a dreAam of owning his own golf course. When the Oadby Golf Course in 2012 closed its doors after racking up over half £1m worth of debt in the seven years previous, it looked like it was the end of business for the course and would more than likely become prime real estate in the middle of Leicester.
However, Anders thought differently. He saw an opportunity to create a great practice facility, shorten the course to nine holes, and make everybody welcome. The most remarkable part of the reopening two years ago was that the golf course was to become the first venue in the UK which didn’t have a dress code. Meaning players could leave straight from work, which could have been as a builder, courier driver, teacher, doctor or whoever; could go straight to the golf course hit a few balls and play a quick nine holes. Everybody welcome.
Now 2019 was a very hot summer in Leicester, and 2020 had its issues as well, yet the golf course has gone from strength to strength and the driving range is now ranked #3 in England.
He has a very compact team looking after the golf course, the driving range and the clubhouse so overheads are very low, but the message is if you want to play golf in a friendly environment - well everybody is welcome and the Leicester Golf Centre is the place to go.
Meanwhile, at my old club Northamptonshire County Golf Club, 27 miles south, while this regeneration was going on the clubhouse committee was debating whether or not to finally abolish the rule of knee-high socks with shorts. These socks were to be optionally replaced by short white socks. And I don’t mind telling you that some of the members have resigned their memberships over this point, citing the reason as standards dropping below what they believe Northamptonshire County should be living up to! I’ve always thought that there needs to be an internal documentary comparing how various golf clubs operate in the Tom Sharpe, ‘Blott on the Landscape’ style.
You almost couldn’t write it and then believe it! I know for a fact that at no stage was the committee even considering the game’s longevity or any of the reasons I mentioned at the start of the article.
Nevertheless, the game plods on and the distance in thinking and perspective between the Leicestershire Golf Centres of the world and the Northamptonshire County’s has never been as wide as it is now.