In light of some unexpected feedback to a column on the closure of the council-owned Hudson Park golf course in Sydney last month, two interesting pieces of correspondence have emerged on this topic in the past two weeks.
First there was an all too familiar article in Sydney’s Sun Herald newspaper headlined: “Why aren’t they parks?: golf’s huge footprint on Sydney’s open space”.
As the headline suggests, the story focussed heavily on the use of open public space and how much of said space is occupied by golf.
It included several quotes, one of which was from Total Environment Centre Executive Director Jeff Angel and was the genesis for the headline.
As is so often the case with these pieces, there was a particularly narrow focus with the only consideration apparently being that golf takes up a lot of space (and the inference that this is automatically a bad thing).
Thankfully, last week came a more encouraging development with a press release from the too often unheard from Australian Golf Industry Council (AGIC).
The announcement of a new initiative called ‘Pitch In: Grow Community Golf’ apparently aims to “improve the capability and sustainability of golf clubs and facilities around the nation, making the game easier for more Australians to access, learn and play”.
These are noble goals and the website which has been set up to accompany the new program does a decent job of outlining some of the broader benefits of the game.
"At councils around Sydney and Australia, judgements are being made about public golf courses by people who have – at best – no interest in the game and – at worst – dislike it and all it supposedly stands for."
But what is really needed is a proactive arm, real people funded by real money whose role is to go out and sell the community aspects of the game to those who are directly in charge.
Last week’s press release quoted AGIC Chairman Gavin Kirkman (also the PGA of Australia CEO) calling “on all MPs and candidates to get behind golf during the Federal election campaign”.
There is nothing wrong with such statements, of course, but their effect can only ever be limited.
What actually needs to happen is for the game to tackle head on all the elements of the aforementioned Sun Herald story which paint it in an unfairly bad light.
Golf’s biggest problem is its image among non-golfers, the very people who make decisions such as the one to close Hudson Park.
At councils around Sydney and Australia, judgements are being made about public golf courses by people who have – at best – no interest in the game and – at worst – dislike it and all it supposedly stands for.
If public golf continues to be seen as the preserve of the affluent minority played on huge tracts of land which should be available for other purposes, then its death warrant is as good as signed.
It is up to golf to change that image and it is to be hoped that the Pitch In initiative is the beginning of that process.
Rod Morri is founder of the TalkinGolf Podcast Network, home of the State of the Game, iSeekGolf, TalkinGolf History and Feed The Ball podcasts.
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