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Nov 30th, 2016

Jack Nicklaus challenges golf industry

To seize opportunity to be ‘enormous worldwide game’

Jack Nicklaus challenges golf industryJack Nicklaus has challenged the golf industry to show the right leadership and seize its opportunity to be an ‘enormous worldwide game,’ while addressing the 2016 HSBC Golf Business Forum at the Marriott Sawgrass Resort and Spa.

Jack Nicklaus has challenged the golf industry to show the right leadership and seize its opportunity to be an ‘enormous worldwide game,’ while addressing the 2016 HSBC Golf Business Forum at the Marriott Sawgrass Resort and Spa.

Speaking to the annual gathering of the golf industry’s great and sometimes good, Nicklaus described how he believes golf can gain momentum following a watershed year in 2016, which featured golf’s return to the Olympics, Asia’s first winner of a World Golf Championship at the WGC-HSBC Champions, and maiden winners of all four majors in the men’s game.

In a forty-five minutes with Giles Morgan, HSBC Global Head of Sponsorship and Events, Nicklaus, provided his thoughts on where he believes golf stands in 2016 and what future direction it needs to take.   

“Tournament golf is in a healthy state now—healthier than it’s ever been and still on the rise,” said Nicklaus. “The players showcasing the game at the moment are great for the sports, like McIlroy, Day and Spieth. But what is most important to me is they are great kids, and they represent the game and themselves quite well. The Olympics was definitely a great boost for the game and it was well-accepted. Because of the Olympics, and with medals won by six different countries, the game of golf has been introduced and showcased to a lot of people. We have more than 35 golf federations around the world today than we had before golf returned to the Olympics. It was especially important to many parts of the world where golf is not predominantly played, or new and emerging markets.”     

“When deciding on a format, there were issues we faced with certain countries getting enough representatives. I am more a match-play fan, but I’m sure the Olympics format will continue to evolve and be tweaked with time. As long as it helps the game grow, it’s good for golf. Hopefully the IOC will look favourably on golf when deciding if it remains in the Olympics after 2020. Just look at the World Cup of Golf last weekend, with Denmark winning and the U.S. tying for second with China, which is a young golf country. For me, that is a great reflection of the global growth of the game.”  

For Nicklaus, whose firm has 410 courses in 41 countries, there are still challenges associated with the golf ball.

“Fact is, more golf courses have closed in the US in each of the last 10 years than have opened. This is thanks in great part to changes in the golf ball and the distance it travels. Courses have had to change along with it. It’s now a slower game and more expensive than before, and that can’t be a good thing. We don’t want to change the game for the core golfer, but we need to make every effort to offer alternatives to bring more people into the game and keep them in the game. I think we need to develop a golf ball to suit the golf course, rather than build courses to suit a golf ball. Whether it’s a ball that goes 50%, 75%, or 100%, you play a ball that fits the course and your game.

“It’s not that big a deal. We used to do it when travelling to play the Open and switching from the large ball to the small. It took us only a day to get used to a different ball. But when land is a dear commodity and water is scarce, you need to do something to respond to today’s situation. It’s the same in life and business.

“We should continue to look at changing formats. We’ve done 12-hole events, and the feedback among women, beginners, juniors and seniors is that they loved it. If something as simple as that can bring people into the game and keep them, which is important, we have got to get serious about doing anything out of the box or unconventional.”      

So that's Jack's State of the Golf Nation. He's pretty upbeat, open to change, but still think there is a lot of change needed if the industry is really going to make itself into the enourmous global game that we all know it can and should be.


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TAGS: HSBC Golf Forum, Jack Nicklaus, Marriot Sawgrass Resort & Spa