Is Golf’s 2020 Vision Flawed?

Earlier this year, one of professional golf’s largest sponsors and supporters, the HSBC, published a report on what it and golfing experts feel will be the future of golf in 2020.

 

This lengthy and informative document lists many ways in which the game will develop over the next few years, but in making several assumptions about the future of golf, is the report actually flawed?

 

Gorilla Golf investigates…

 

 

Within the HSBC report is a key page which lists what it calls the “12 hole guide” to Golf in 2020. On this page it lists 12 key changes to the game that they expect to alter the game of golf within the next seven years or so.

Paraphrased the 12 changes are:

  1. Golf Clubs and Golf Courses will become more family friendly
  2. There will be shorter variants of the game (6 and 9-hole formats) played alongside the traditional 18-hole variant – supported by a subscription-TV golf channel.
  3. Younger fitter players will drive a younger, more fashion-conscious clientele to the game
  4. The ‘next’ Tiger Woods will be a player from Asia.
  5. Asian golf brands will soon be mainstream market competitors of long-standing western golf brands. There will also be a marked increase in golfers from Asia & India.
  6. Golf will become more unisex, appealing to both sexes equally.
  7. Golf simulators will become more commonplace at clubs and in homes.
  8. Gamers will become golfers and not vice versa. Family-oriented golf games will encourage people to take up golf, rather than golfers play games.
  9. Increasing numbers of players using their smartphone apps as caddies, rangefinders etc.
  10. Golf course design and management continues to utilise and explore issues such as water management, conservation and biodiversity becoming a market leader by 2020.
  11. The first carbon-positive courses will open.
  12. The golfing authorities (USGA & R&A) change the rules regarding golf equipment to reduce the distances achieved by professionals, to bring the length of courses back under control.

 

Gorilla Golf’s View

There is a lot we agree with here, although we would add certain provisos. Economic necessity may drive some golf clubs and courses towards being more family friendly, but there still remains a high proportion of courses where such a change will be fiercely resisted. These outdated methods of exclusionism will need to be viewed less as “tradition” and eradicated if the game of golf is to become more open to a family group.

 

We’re also not convinced the next Tiger Woods will come from Asia. Young American Jordan Spieth (below) is setting all kinds of records in his Rookie year on tour and he may well be the biggest name in golf come 2020.

 

 

While we agree in principle with the observations here, we do think that underpinning several of them is the issue of finance. Particularly with issues 1,2,5,7,11 and 12.

As we are still very much in the midst of a global recession, how will individuals, golf clubs, designers and manufacturers be able to afford all the large-scale improvements outlined here? The average golf simulator costs many thousands of pounds and is generally not easily affordable for the vast majority of players.

 

Can golf courses, many of which are experiencing dwindling membership numbers, afford to pay for the improvement in facilities to become greener, reduce their carbon footprint, build six or nine hole courses and become more family friendly? Where is the extra finance needed for this coming from?

 

Our main gripe however is the assumption that the golf market will soon be swelled with millions of new members from Asia and the Indian subcontinent. Golf is certainly booming in this part of the world, but given that the average worker in these countries would not be able to afford the prices of a typical round of golf, how will they be able to participate?

 

 

This is also a key issue for the 2014 Olympics in Rio, where golf will return after over a century of being out of the Olympics. The aim of the golfing community at large to get golf into the Olympics was to bring the game to a wider community, to bring people to the game.

 

How can this be possible in Brazil where so few of the incumbent population of Rio, many of whom live in abject poverty, cannot afford the fees to play the course, let alone the equipment required to play?

In our view, this report does give generally a solid and accurate view of how golf may develop in 2020, but it does have some flaws, chiefly to do with the financial aspect.

 

What are your thoughts? How do you see golf progressing over the next seven years or so?

 

Images Courtesy of The Futures Company.com, Gorilla Golf Stock of Images, Jordan Spieth Facebook Page, Rio Olympics Official Facebook Page

 

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