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Morri: Time To Make Golf 'Loose'

They speak and dress differently but golf's appeal is the same for young people as the rest of us
Confession time: I am not young. In fact, truth be told, it has been quite some time since I was young.

I report this fact not just to be self-indulgent but because there is a lot of hand wringing in golf about how the game might secure its future by attracting more young people.

Given the game’s image – rightly or wrongly – as one of stuffiness and rigidity, it comes as no surprise to discover young people are not flocking to the golf courses of the world.

The question is how to turn this around? Common sense dictates the first course of action is to stop being stuffy and rigid and this is a strategy that should have been embarked upon decades ago.

But the real problem is in figuring out what it might be that young people do want out of golf and it is in this area that I think the game often gets it so wrong.

Earlier this week I played golf with a – gulp – young person. And what an interesting experience it was.

I took a number of things away from the day but the main one was that, in fact, there is no need to change the game to appeal to the next generation.

As I’ve long suspected, the inherent challenges and joys of golf are as appealing to a 20-something as a 50-something.

It may not, however, appear that way to the untrained eye because to those of us born when persimmon was still the material of choice for a driving club, young people seem so different.

This sort of thing still goes on and frankly, it is damaging to golf

For a start, they speak a different language. They take words that mean one thing and use them to mean something else.

As an example, apparently ‘cooked’ no longer refers to adding heat to raw food to change it’s physical state, it’s more an expression that something - such as a golf shot – is particularly pleasing.

But it’s not just that they speak a foreign language while using English words. They also dress differently.

Trousers that don’t quite reach their shoes and shirts that don’t have collars though could not fairly be described as T-Shirts seem common place. And there is, undeniably and disturbingly, a distinct lack of khaki in the colour choices.

But all these differences really are just window dressing because my observations as the day unfolded were that the interaction between human and game, irrespective of age, was pretty much the same.

All in our group endured the large doses of frustration punctuated by fleeting moments of joy and self-satisfied accomplishment that make up a round of golf.

All also enjoyed the social interaction golf encourages, that unique opportunity to sprinkle both disparaging and congratulatory remarks to one’s playing partners in equal numbers – and mean both.

At the end of the day playing golf with a young person was not really any different to playing with someone my own age.

Stiffing a wedge is a hoot no matter the date on your birth certificate and the same is true of the embarrassment that comes with thinning a 5-iron.

The lesson is that golf doesn’t need to change the game to appeal to young people. It just needs to change its image.

And if we get it right the youth people might just start thinking golf is ‘loose’. (That’s code for good. Or it was on Tuesday but may have changed already).

SIGNATURE HOLES: 4TH AT MT WARREN PARK GC (QLD)

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