The Niggle: Do we need more golf on terrestrial TV?

Is the lack of golf on terrestrial TV having a negative effect on youth participation?

We all love the extensive golf coverage on Sky Sports. It’s slick, professional and showcases the sport fantastically well.

But what if you are a youngster growing up in a household without Sky Sports? How would you know golf exists?

Participation in golf was high up on the agenda when we attended last week’s HSBC Golf Business Forum. 

Do we need more golf on terrestrial television to encourage the younger generation?

James Savage and James Tompkinson give their views on the issue.

JS – I first became interested in golf through watching The Open and The Masters on the BBC which thankfully is still available. My parents both played as well which gave me the opportunity to go and play with them. More coverage on terrestrial television would have a positive impact on participation numbers in my opinion, as it can help spark an interest in those youngsters who are not from golfing families. But couple of tournaments a year are not enough and there are still barriers of cost and accessibility if a youngster decides they want to give it a go.

JT: Although it would be great to get more golf onto terrestrial TV, it is far from being the primary barrier to stop young people getting into the game. There will be thousands upon thousands of seven-year-old up and down the country who will obsess about football, but there are no live Premier League games on terrestrial TV and Match of the Day doesn’t finish until nearly midnight on a Saturday. The reality is that golf costs far too much and the sport in general is viewed as unwelcoming to beginners and juniors. Put all the golf on TV that you like, but until those issues are addressed things won’t change.

JS – Football doesn’t get a huge amount of coverage on terrestrial TV but nearly every newspaper and radio station has extensive football coverage 365 days a year. It is almost impossible to not know about it. I remember watching the football World Cup in 1990 and immediately after David Platt’s extra-time volley beat Belgium, youngsters across the country were trying to re-create it. All you needed was a small patch of grass and a ball. That is where golf faces a bigger challenge than football. But when all the top golfers are interviewed they talk about watching their heroes on TV whether it be in The Open, Ryder Cup or Masters. I think having more coverage available is a crucial element in getting young people hooked on the sport.
The terrestrial television coverage of golf hasn’t moved forward much while Sky goes from strength to strength JT: True, and apart from the Ryder Cup you can still watch the Masters and the Open on terrestrial TV, so why the drop in participation among young people today as opposed to yesteryear? 

JS – There is that saying that if you stand still you fall behind. The terrestrial television coverage of golf hasn’t moved forward much while Sky goes from strength to strength. I know money talks, but if the powers that be are serious about upping participation, they need to think about the long-term effect of not capturing the audience from a young age.

JT – Time, space and cost are much more important in my opinion. A round of golf costs far too much money and lessons and equipment can be extraordinarily expensive. Even driving range tokens are getting more and more expensive now. Working with schools is also key. Golf needs to actively promote itself to juniors, otherwise they will turn to other sports. Why would a junior watch golf on TV if they have little or no interest in the first place? There are bigger barriers out there.


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