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Nick Rodger: Time goes by but same old golf issues remain in the game’s cradle



In that time, of course, my own game has stubbornly refused to improve and, instead, has entrenched itself in a formidable redoubt of incompetence. You must keep thinking positively, though.

It is, for instance, surprisingly easy to hole a 35-foot putt… for a 10. And, as someone once defiantly declared, no matter how badly you are playing, it’s always possible to play worse.

I’ll bear that in mind when the golf writers tackle the rigours of Royal Troon today in The Open media jolly. Wish me luck. It could add years to me.

The ongoing kerfuffle that is men’s professional golf, meanwhile, has added years to those covering it too. The LIV Golf rebellion erupted just two years ago – this correspondent was a fresh-faced fellow of 46 when LIV fired its opening salvos in June 2022 – but the battle of attrition feels like it’s gone on for so long, my laptop should be holed up in a trench.

Last week, Guy Kinnings, the new chief executive of the DP World Tour, revealed that all the main generals in golf’s civil war had yet to sit around the same table. Kinnings reckoned agreement, consensus, unification or whatever you want to call it won’t be reached until 2026 at least. Feel free to yawn.

At the same time, the PGA Tour were pinging out emails to some 193 players informing them how much they would be getting transferred into their bank accounts from a Player Equity Program pot worth nearly $1 billion. Tiger Woods is reportedly getting $100 million, Rory McIlroy $50 million and so on and so flippin’ ridiculous.

Perhaps the powers that be should fling the humble golf fan a financial backhander to stay tuned to the actual product, because, let’s face it, in this fractured, money-no-object circus, we’re all being short-changed.

Much closer to home, and to reality, it was interesting to read some of the opinions, objectives and visions of Robbie Clyde, the new chief executive of Scottish Golf, in conversation with my fellow scribe, Martin Dempster.

There was talk of plans to bolster club membership and encourage more girls, women, and families into the game. To help with the strategy, a £3 hike to the annual affiliation fee that members pay has been floated, a proposal that, given the turbulent history of subscription rises, will provoke the kind of tumult that scuppered the Bute House Agreement.

Meanwhile, Clyde hopes to recruit a number of regional development managers who will be strategically positioned around the country to offer expertise and guidance to clubs.

Correct me if I’m wrong but didn’t we have something similar about a decade ago with the regional thingamabobs? As often is the case with golfing governance, there’s an element of birling around in circles.

Some 16 years ago, for instance, my late and much missed Herald predecessor, Dougie Lowe, produced his own series in these pages titled Scottish golf’s Timebomb in which he looked at some of the very issues which are still causing handwringing today.

A lack of golfing girls and women, an increasingly elderly membership, a need to engage with the young and attract families, a requirement for more flexible memberships particularly in that “squeezed middle” age range, the rise of the nomadic golfer?

Here in 2024, we’re still mulling over those same topics and the custodians of the amateur game in this country are still trying to come up with a plan to combat them.

After the mighty spike in participation and recruitment that was a silver lining for golf amid the clouds of Covid, things are returning to pre-pandemic levels in terms of membership figures.

It’s not quite the bust after the boom just yet but industry insiders and experts will tell you that many clubs are back on that familiar slippery slope.

About 20 years ago, we were told to brace ourselves for a flood of golf club closures. Simple demographics and numbers insisted it would happen.

But it’s been more of a trickle as many clubs have adapted and shown commendable resilience. However, in an ever-changing golfing landscape – and climate – we can only wonder what the next few years will hold on that front.

Clyde’s ambitions, meanwhile, are admirable, even if we’ve heard much of it before. By plenty of accounts, he has been open and honest in his communications and has shown a willingness to listen.

Those will be key attributes in the push to win hearts and minds because, as we all know, there are plenty of club members who still view Scottish Golf with suspicion and, in some cases, outright hostility.

Funnily enough, that’s how some folk still view this columnist too. Oh well, roll on 48…

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