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Nine-hole golf may be way forward

To continue to grow the game of golf in the 21st century may require a sea change according to one of the keynote speakers at last week’s European Golf Business Conference, held in Amsterdam.

Ruffin Beckwith, a director of USA-based stakeholder initiative Golf20/20, believes there are currently three main barriers to golf participation: cost, difficulty and time.
And he feels with time pressures the easiest to address, the nine-hole game may be the way forward.

He said: “We should look to promote nine-hole golf as a genuine experience, not as half of a golf experience. We should make golf less intimidating and encourage new golfers to play.”

Golf20/20 had discovered during its extensive research, he explained, that there are many women who want to play six-hole rounds. Some golf clubs are reflecting this by building 12-hole courses in the US while some coaching programmes even offer three-hole rounds for beginners and young children.

The golf industry was worth US$75 billion in 2005 according to Beckwith’s figures – “bigger than the film and recording industries combined,” he insisted.

His closing remark to more than 210 delegates – a record attendance for the annual event promoted by the European Golf Course Owners Association (EGCOA), up 25 per cent on last year – was “be committed – and be willing to change”.

Beckwith’s address opened the two-day conference while marketing guru Bruce Lucker closed proceedings with a talk on ‘the importance of branding’. In between, Alan Stalcup, a golf marketing specialist from the USA, advised on email marketing; KPMG’s Andrea Sartori presented the new golf benchmark results; Charles Peacock, spoke about sustainability; Mike Tinkey, the deputy Chief executive of the NGCOA, gave his views on the proliferation of discounting in the modern game; and Mark Adam, a former president of the European Institute of Golf Course Architects, talked about the role of the architect.

The delegates came from nearly 30 countries and were obviously focused on the task at hand with numerous agreements and contracts signed. In addition, the event’s relaxed atmosphere offered the perfect opportunity for making new contacts, with many attendees reporting beneficial introductions and new business leads.

The EGCOA itself signed agreements of co-operation with STRI, the Club Managers Association of Europe (CMAE) and the European Golf Industry Association (EGIA).

Lodewijk Klootwijk, a director of the EGCOA, said: “In terms of delegates, networking and business actually done, the conference was a huge success.

“The response from delegates – and even people who contacted us to say they would be interested in attending future events – was so positive we have already decided to produce a third conference next year. And that will be held in Germany to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the German Golf Course Owners Association.”

The EGCOA’s annual award, which goes to a person or organisation which plays an important role in the development of golf in Europe, went to Golf Environment Europe (GEE) in recognition of the organisation’s groundbreaking work.

December 22, 2007

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