As soon as they hit the internet – a quartet garbed in leather jackets, and check shirts, with golf clubs slung over their arms – the rumbles started.
Here was a bright and bold message, an entreaty to first timers, and there wasn’t a pair of white socks or a collared polo shirt in sight.
England Golf’s Get into Golf campaign was designed to “shake up ideas about the sport” and it certainly did that.
The ripped jeans, the leggings, the sparkly jacket – this was an image of golf that is alien to most of the 1,900 clubs the governing body represents.
It’s designed to appeal to people picking up a club for the first time, those who wouldn’t ordinarily step through the doors into the polyester world of a clubhouse.
It creates a paradox, though. In many clubs across the country, if any of the players depicted in the adverts want to carry on with the game they are going to have to adopt a very different wardrobe.
Ultimately, as chief executive Nick Pink says, the aim is to get people clicking on the Get into Golf website and finding a session.
But how does he feel about the reaction to the campaign, what is his view on dress codes and shouldn’t we really be talking about something else than what everyone is wearing?
The relaunch of the Get into Golf programme was headline with a very striking advertising campaign. How was that conceived?
The whole focus of the brand is aimed around openness – trying to remove the barriers we’ve been talking about and making golf accessible to everyone.
It is deliberately different and it’s meant to be.
I thought England Golf were making a statement – about the kind of players they wanted to attract to the game and attitudes that are potential barriers to participation. Is that right?
Definitely. I’ve had some very interesting emails and letters about it, but that’s the whole point. We wanted to get a conversation going.
We set out to spark a reaction and challenge things like dress codes and the attitudes and behaviour we have towards people.
Do I expect Miss blue leather jacket, pink leather jacket and bright orange checked shirt to rock up to the club tomorrow wearing that? No, of course not.
But the point is that our models and social influencers are wearing their normal clothes.
Out on the high street everyone is wearing something similar.
These are people who might play golf, but when they arrive in the club car park we expect them to look and behave differently.
Why? If you watch some of our social media content, Alex, our cyclist, goes to Get into Golf sessions with a few friends. They are all wearing leisure gear, which respected the dress environment where they were. They had their session, then had a pint afterwards, doing what you and I would do.
Apart from one or two range outings they have never played golf before. Now they are experiencing it first hand and this is the market we are trying to reach.
Is there any reason why they shouldn’t be able to come to the golf club dressed like that?
Not necessarily. There are clubs where you can. This is part of changing times and changing behaviours.
Some people feel it is really important there is a strong dress code in place as that naturally brings a respect of the club and environment.
Part of me understands that, but it shouldn’t be the norm. We will cut out so many people from the sport if we think that’s the norm.
The world has shifted and changed in a very short space of time and golf has to reflect that.
I very rarely wear a tie for business meetings, most meetings now are smart casual. But too many golf clubs still adhere to very strict dress codes and environments that stop people from taking part.
So what’s the answer? Interview continues on the next page…