golf


golf
   Golf sees itself as having an image problem, which in turn causes an age problem. According to Mike Round at the Golf Foundation, fewer and fewer young people are taking up golf. The growth area is in the over-fifty-five age group. Accordingly the Golf Foundation has opened 223 ‘starter centres’ where under-eighteens can be encouraged to learn the game. In 1998 under-sixteens were offered free entry to several major tournaments, and various other attempts are being made to attract youngsters who are motivated by fashion and see golf as stuffy and old-fashioned.
   Golf also has an exclusivity problem: 79 percent of UK citizens have never played, and are intimidated by the financial and class barriers they perceive between them and entry to golf clubs (the average green fee alone is £15). To counter these perceptions, during National Golf Week the PGA pros give free lessons to 20,000 beginners at 400 facilities. This regime produced 12,000 new golfers in 1997, and has attracted a £300,000 three-year sponsorship from British Aerospace. The association with youth is also being promoted by broadcaster Chris Evans with a television programme about the game, Tee Time. Meanwhile within the sport itself, players like Nick Price and Nick Faldo complain about the performance of youngsters who use bigheaded drivers which allegedly mask their lack of skill; they want the clubs outlawed, saying that they ‘overpower’ courses.
   Golf in Britain otherwise relies on the spread of its popularity from the USA. The profile of golf there was raised in several ways by the professional golfer Tiger Woods after his victory at the Masters in Augusta, Georgia in 1997. He became a role model for people of mixed race and for youth everywhere, but especially in Britain, where golf was seen as a sport for middle-aged, middle-class white people.
   Television has tended to popularize golf, but numbers of people watching the last day of the Open on the BBC have declined from 4.8m in 1990 to 3.6m in 1997. However the number of hours shown on BSkyB has increased from 100 in 1991 to 2,100 in 1997 and the number of Sky viewers from 4.5m in 1996 to 7.2m in 1997. Colin Montgomerie is currently Britain’s most successful golfer. New young hopefuls are Lee Westwood (a product of the golf ‘starter’ scheme) and Justin Rose.
   Further reading
    Scott, T. (ed.) (1977) AA Guide to Golf in Britain, London: Octopus.
   MIKE STORRY

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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