Not content with being the World Number One and enjoyinga highly successful year on the courses around the world, including two majorsand being a part of the victorious European Ryder Cup team, Rory McIlroy hasspoken of his hopes for ways to be found to attract more youngsters into thegame of golf.

He is keenly aware of the typical length of time a full18-hole round of golf can take and has recognised that many people simply donot have sufficient spare time in their lives to invest several hours (commonlyfive or six) at a time.

His suggestions seem to call for a means to be found tospeed up the game, which could then lead to more young players coming into asport he clearly loves and wants others to have the opportunity to experience.

The statistics do not make good reading as far as thehealth of the game in future is concerned, as Sport England have identifiedthat when you analyse the 16-25 year age range, the number of people regularlyplaying golf has nearly halved in the period from 2009-10 to 2012-13.

Thefigures are not quite as startling when you consider all ages from sixteen andabove, but even then the findings suggested that whereas in 2009-10 around860,900 people regularly took to the fairways, the latest figures had declinedto around 751,900 last year (based on those playing golf at least once a week,every week, in England).

Talking to BBC Radio 4, McIlroy explained his thoughts byciting that “...everything’s so instant now and everyone doesn’t have as muchtime as they used to”.

He went on to point out that viewing figures seem to begrowing but that the opposite is true when you consider people actually participatingin the game themselves, as borne out by Sport England’s findings.

He may be golf’s current “poster boy”, but McIlroy’ssuggestions may take some time to permeate through the golfing hierarchies, asthey typically take a long time to introduce significant changes, as evidencedby how many years it took for the agreement to allow women membership to TheRoyal and Ancient Golf Club, something that was only endorsed in September.

Hedid however have some thoughts that they may want to consider, especially as hedid not wish for the traditional tournament-style events to be altered, morefor ideas to be tried out at the grass roots level when young people are firstexposed to the sport. The concept may have worth, given that once a youngperson typically has the ‘bug’ to get involved in a sport or pastime, they are oftenmore willing to expand the time and effort they dedicate to it.

The hard partis often the initial contact and bringing them into something in the firstplace. McIlroy himself was seen on television at the tender age of nine as herather unusually chipped golf balls into a washing machine, so has someexperience of things that amused him as a child !

Of course, the time and effort required is but oneconsideration as to why more young people are not getting involved.

Otherluminaries of the sport have suggested that the professionals should be givenharsher penalties for slow play (that should set the message to all levels) andways should be found to reduce unnecessary time on the courses for youngerplayers such as by avoiding having excessive rough on them around the country(avoiding less time ‘out of play’) . Shorter courses would also help as would notreligiously sticking to eighteen holes (except in true tournament-stylecompetitions), much in the manner of pitch and putt and putting greens stillhaving their place up and down the nation.

The stereotypes that are associated with being a memberof a golf club are also typically flagged as a deterrent to taking up the game.In the past, members have been portrayed as being elitest and slightlysnobbish, but that image may have now turned full circle as past memberssuggest they have stopped playing to avoid encountering what they consider the “chav”culture that has crept in.

Cost is frequently put forward as an issue (as in anysport or pastime), with the cost of clubs, bags, and golfing apparel to beconsidered, but clubs are often keen to encourage new members by finding initiativesto reduce the price paid for the average round, such as making it cheaper laterin the day.

Simple ideas to remove an element of unnecessary ‘etiquette’in the game such as filling in scorecards while moving to the next hole and notalways insisting on waiting for all players to have finished their shot, beforebeing ready to drive off at the next hole (assuming all is clear ahead) areother ways to introduce a bit more dynamism to the proceedings.

It seems that golf is in pressing need of following thelead in other sports where there has been a recognition that shorter andabridged forms could make sense. Tennis has long since brought in games onsmaller courts, with bigger rackets to encourage Children in through theirdoors. Snooker has dabbled with a speedier form of the game, where a shot clockis employed, besides experimenting with shorter matches in terms of frames tobe played. Cricket still has much interest in the top Test Matches such as theAshes, but has embraced the shorter forms of ODIs and twenty-twenty to appealto a slightly different audience.

One waits to see whatimpression McIlroy’s musings may have on the powers that be in the game ofgolf.
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