Golf dress codes are among the rules that need relaxing to make the game more welcoming, PGA chief executive Robert Maxfield has declared.
Speaking at the online GolfBIC conference, Maxfield said the future for the sport was bright, as it made its way out of coronavirus, but it still had “a lot to do”.
Maxfield was discussing the organisation’s work during the Covid-19 pandemic and outlining some of the projects the PGA have developed as part of its 2020 Vision initiative.
Looking ahead to golf in the ‘new normal’, he said it was critical the game’s industry bodies continued to work together as they had during the Covid crisis.
Considering the future, Maxfield said: “We’ve gone from a stage where golf clubs didn’t have waiting lists. Many golf clubs now have waiting lists. But looking after your customers, and now competing with other sports, with cricket, with football and others, is going to be absolutely critical.
“I think we have to look at rules. I think we have to look at the way that golf clubs operate. I think we need to be more welcoming. We need to be more welcoming to kids. We need to be more welcoming to ethnic groups, to more women.
“We have to shake this label of being a middle class, while male, dominated sport. I think we have to become more family friendly. The R&A are doing some great work with their Women & Golf Charter.
“But the great thing that we have is we’re going to have a lot of people wanting to come and play golf. The real litmus test for me is that golf clubs in particular – they are the people at the coalface – are absolutely stepping up to make sure that every single person that comes through their facility, knocks on the door and enquires about a membership, or starts to join and starts to play the game, needs to be welcomed into the golf club.”
Earlier, when asked about the idea of making golf more fun, Maxfield said: “My lad started to play more golf last year. They actually relaxed the rules in the golf club. I guess this is a particular generation that this would apply to, but one of the main reasons my lad wouldn’t play golf is the golf club didn’t allow him to have his shirt out of his trousers.
“He hates tucking his shirt in his trousers, for some reason. So I think the other thing I have seen is that people are beginning to look at maybe some of the rules, some of the things that maybe are a detractor to people coming into this game. And if somebody has to open their shirt, and they don’t have to tuck their shirt in, is that the worst thing in the world? I don’t think so.
“So I think it has given golf clubs that opportunity and that impetus maybe to look at some of their rules and start opening up a little bit more.
Maxfield added: “I think we live in a different age. And if we are going to appeal, in particular, to youngsters, gone are the days where mobile phones are banned in clubhouses.
“Gone are the days where you can’t have fantastic WiFi. We talk about attracting more women into this game. There was a great survey done recently where it talked about [how] one of the most important things for a woman joining a golf club is it’s got to have great coffee.
“It’s certainly one of my great things in a golf club. I want to have great coffee when I go to the golf club. To those that you’re trying to attract, you’ve got to appeal to your future customers. I think it’s really, really important.”
And he concluded: “But I think the future is really, really, bright. We just need to take advantage. Every single person that comes into this game, we’ve got to welcome them with open arms.
“We’ve got to absolutely communicate with them, as we’ve been doing over the last 12 months, even when we come out of lockdown, and we’ve just got to embrace these people.”
What do you think? How can golf capitalise on the opportunities provided over the last year? Let me know in the comments, or tweet me.
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