Is Footgolf the only solution?
I have a great fear of golf shooting itself in the foot again soon. There has been an unfortunate trend for short 9 hole courses, ideal for beginners to cut their golfing teeth on, to be closing, either for redevelopment into housing, or becoming more a place for groups to play football on. Recently we have seen Chessington golf centre close its doors with about 3 weeks notice so the area could be developed for housing. The Central London Golf Centre in Wandsworth has been under a stay of execution for a couple of years now for the same fate, and this will probably disappear in spring 2017. Add to that Horton Park 9 hole beginner course recently given over largely to footgolf and it makes me worry as to where all the new enthusiastic beginners that come through the learn to play golf programme at World of Golf London are going to be able to take their new found skills and put them to the test.
We need more golf courses that are beginner friendly and welcoming, as well as being easy for the new golfer to play on. Skiing has its nursery slopes that are essential for the nervous new skiers to get to know the sport and develop their confidence. The new golfer is just as nervous, maybe not for their life but certainly their dignity. They need places that will not judge and belittle them as inexperienced players but instead enable them to grow and develop a love for the sport, before introducing them to the longer and more challenging courses.
Golf is a difficult game. Nobody enjoys having a new player in front of them who is unaware of many of the rules and etiquette of the game. They need short courses where they can mix with others who are just learning the game, without needing to worry about embarrassing themselves or holding others up. There is a beginners market, we just haven’t tried hard enough to serve it. My fear is that the demise of beginner friendly golf courses will stifle the flow of new players into the sport and very soon we will choking off the supply of much needed new blood.
Lets not give up too soon on encouraging people to hit a ball rather than kick it.