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We need more people playing golf – but social media is not the answer

Forget the flavour of the weak, golf's governing bodies must take positive action to arrest dwindling participation figures, writes Alex Perry
 

I want to talk about social media.

I’m talking about the virtual version of you: the one that is, more often than not, oh-so different to the actual version of you. (I recently met someone who has followed me on Twitter for years. He said: “You’re actually quite nice in real life, aren’t you?” I don’t know what I had put on Twitter to make him think I’m not nice, but it made me think. And laugh.)

In recent years, many of us have become addicted to social media, from your grandad who uses it to post photos of his garden, to global corporations.

And, of course, sports governing bodies, whose latest trend is to call on so-called social media “influencers”.

Golf has long battled against negativity – and social media has only enhanced this in recent years. The golf ball goes too far! Women’s golf doesn’t get enough coverage! My god these players are taking their time!

Very rarely do we read about the positives of this beautiful game, and social media is packed with people telling golf what it’s doing wrong and not enough people doing anything about it.

Hunt out any of these influencers in the virtual golf sphere and you are hit with a sea of negativity.

One such account, with its vow of #ChangingTheGame, has promised – though not yet delivered – to do so by buying and co-owning a golf club and taking hordes of followers to Boozeville: Population Just Us Dudes for a weekend of sun, sea, sex and, of course, golf with beer kegs on carts and grime music blaring across the fairways.

This LadBiblefication of golf might work, but perhaps not concurrently with jumping on the ladies golf bandwagon while simultaneously forgetting it started the #PuttsB4Sluts movement.

This self-styled Saviour of Golf hasn’t been picked up by the folks that matter – yet – but some have.

The R&A, England Golf and the LET are all using a number of social media influencers as the face of their latest much-needed campaigns to get more women playing golf.

At face value it absolutely works, but it’s just a cheap alternative to doing what actually needs to be done – like using Blu Tack to fix a leak.

“Hey, person with millions of social media followers – can you push our message to your swarms of trusty non-golfing disciples that hang on to your every word?”

“OK. Will I get paid for doing your job for you?”

“What’s that? Oh… No. Sorry. But how about this lovely exposure?”

I get that it works both ways, but exploiting whomever happens to be the flavour of the week – or should be weak? – is one thing, taking action is another.

Sport in this country is criminally underfunded at grass-roots level. But kids taking up the likes of football, cricket and rugby will always have mates they can tag along with. Is this the case in golf? It’s very rare.

If you’re a teenager looking to get into golf, what do you do? If Golf Twitter hasn’t put them off at the first hurdle, there are plenty of schemes encouraging young people into the game yet very little at the point of delivery.

Every club needs them. No excuses. Invest, invest, invest.

After all, isn’t that why the R&A sold the Open broadcasting rights to Sky?

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Alex Perry

Alex Perry

Alex has been the editor of National Club Golfer since 2017. A Devonian who enjoys wittering on about his south west roots, Alex moved north to join NCG after more than a decade in London, the last five of which were with ESPN. Away from golf, Alex follows Torquay United and spends too much time playing his PlayStation or his guitar and not enough time practising his short game.

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