If you can take your eyes off the fact that it looks as if this man’s glasses are photoshopped on his face long enough to read what he’s saying, you’d see that Keith Pelley believes “golf needs to embrace a younger audience or get left behind.” Now, I tend to agree with this, because every time I tell friends of mine that I golf, they insist “you’re too young to golf” and I do my polite fake laugh while wishing there was something blunt, untethered and throwable at arm’s reach.
Some of the changes Pelley, chief executive of the European Tour, has suggested are very welcome, like allowing players to wear shorts in pro-ams (why not all competitions?), as well as introducing measures to cut down on slow play (how many ways can you read that putt Rory?!). But Pelley’s biggest and most contentious suggestion, is that six-hole sprint formats could be included in the European Tour as early as 2017. A shorter form of golf is appealing, ‘cause we don’t always have time for a 4-5 hour round, but when you listen to his reasoning it starts to sound a bit depressing.
Pelley says there will always be a place for the 72-hole tournament “but if you catapult ahead 10 or 15 years the game of golf will be consumed completely differently and there will be different formats that will be successful as content entertainment makers.” Did we just stumble into corporate headquarters at Facebook? The phrase “content entertainment makers” makes me want to entertainingly spill the contents of my stomach.
Sports that don’t adjust to modern demands will fall behind, but how about instead of changing to a country-versus-country 6-hole matchplay tournament with music and buzzers (Pelley’s suggestion), we start small and allow a more relaxed dress code for men AND women, or bring in the use of Tetherow GolfBoards, or, I dunno, let members of half of the population play and become members at certain golf courses…
Pelley’s point is that attention spans are shrinking and golf is unaccessible to youth, but if we have to change golf to cater to fit in with Pokemon Go, or the latest app that has captured a young audience, we’ll always be playing catch-up. The charm of golf, and the challenge golf, is keeping it together for 5 hours, or 15 hours over three days, of not cracking under pressure. Of taking a period of time to block out our apps and phone calls, to walk on grass and concentrate as hard as possible on something simple – walking on grass, hitting a white ball into a white cup with a stick.