Things golf could try to attract a new audience*
by Pete Willett
I love Christmas. The reason I love Christmas is because my mother taught me to love Christmas. My mum loves Christmas because of ‘the wonder in all of the old and familiar things’.
She has a specific idea about how this holiday should be celebrated, and her traditions, unaltered since my first memories, are what I first learned to love. But my children want something different.
Nine years ago, the Nordic babbler I call Mummy passed her role as my primary care giver to the fiery Brummie I call Wife. And she has shown me that Christmas can be different.
In fact, now that we have kids, it has to be different. The Christmas I loved meant waiting until after the Queen’s speech before opening any presents.
It meant starring in an annual concert, dressed in a white, flowing gown with a battery-operated halo, while squealing the lyrics to Santa Lucia like a cherubic eunuch.
It meant emptying a stocking every Christmas morning to always find a satsuma and a toothbrush. And it meant devouring thinly rolled marzipan spread with Nutella.
But these quaint memories mean very little to my children. We now open gifts immediately on Christmas morning, and we give thanks and praise to Father Christmas. Surely giving credit for yet another box of Duplo to a fictitious fatty is ridiculous?
We now feign mischief on behalf of a shelf-dwelling elf, and spend every morning chanting ‘naughty’ at a puppet we claim covered the kitchen in toothpaste. Surely encouraging moral decency via the omniscient judgement of a fake psychopath is insane?
Every evening, during the final month of the year, we now spend an hour driving around in the dark to look at everyone else’s decorations. Surely parking in random cul-de-sacs to look at small light bulbs is pointless?
It should be easy to ridicule this new type of Christmas. For me, the wonder used to be in the old and familiar. But the wife and I (mainly the wife) have managed to create something that transcends anything I could have ever imagined.
I loved loving Christmas, but creating a version of Christmas that my children love means more than any amount of marzipan and chocolate spread.
My kids are the new audience that needs to be embraced, and the fixed smiles planted on their chubby little cheeks throughout December make me thankful for every single change of which I was ever sceptical.
As 2016 nears its final, vinegary shudder, it has become clear that 2017 will be… interesting. Golf is no different. We have been promised some genuine changes to the European Tour.
A number of new initiatives will be trialled: there will be alterations to formats, 1st tee introductory music, shot clocks and different clothing. The aim of this is to entice a new breed of audience – an audience that doesn’t share the same sense of wonder in the old and familiar.
So many people love golf. The reason they love golf, generally speaking, is because their parents taught them to love golf. They love the focus it demands, the relationships it helps to build and the spirit in which it is played. But does a new generation want something different?
For anything to be successful, it must at some point undergo change. But unnecessary change can be fatal. Hindsight alone is the true judge of which changes were indeed necessary. There will definitely be a spike in viewing figures the first time these new initiatives are trialled.
Matt Fitzpatrick, all in leather, dancing his way to the 1st tee to the tune of Young Forever by Jay-Z is something I look forward to. But will the novelty have a lasting, positive effect?
Whether it is ring girls in boxing or UFC weigh-ins, by stealing inspiration from across the sporting spectrum there are a number of different ideas that are bound to encourage interest from a different type of spectator:
1. An increase in the objectification of women. This could be addressed by ensuring all rules officials are greased up and in thongs.
2. The final Sunday pairings should be forced into a Saturday-night stare down. Give them a little encouragement and ensure the cameras are rolling when they start threatening to devour each other’s children. The spectacle is guaranteed to go viral.
3. Get a horde of mascots to parade around the course. Instead of the TV footage being a steady stream of golf shots and wildlife close-ups, we could cut to someone dressed as a 3-wood, break dancing outside the lavatories on the 15th.
4. Provide more tacky merchandise. One thing I’ve always felt the tented village at tournaments was lacking is the pleasant hum of vuvuzelas.
You may be a golf traditionalist, horrified at the slightest hint of deviation from the sport you love. But even if the game isn’t in decline (and the majority of sources suggest it is), change is still required to avoid stagnation.
The most important thing is that a new generation of potential players feel the same way about golf as my children do about Christmas.
Watching Beef, covered in spandex, galloping to the tee with Notorious B.I.G’s Juicy blaring over a crowd filled with foam fingers and six-foot mascots, all chanting “Waring’s on fire” while Reed and McIlroy throw tables at each other, and a bunch of oiled-up bikini girls gyrate against the flagpole on the 18th all seems ridiculous now… but the kids might love it.
They should also try to stick a few tournaments on terrestrial television… because that’s probably another sensible way of embracing a new audience. The views I express here are mine alone and do not reflect the views of my employer.
*Not all of these are guaranteed to work