The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our entire lives, let alone our golfing habits. What the future holds is anybody’s guess. Ever before the crisis occurred, many golfers were convinced the game needed a ‘roll-back’ to be sustainable into the future. Will the pandemic expedite the necessary changes or, will the game gradually return to a perceived unsustainability that had become normal?
While golf at club level may shrink, the game will go on whether there are pro tournaments or not. We will always have golf as a healthy pastime but the professional version is quite another matter; going forward it may not be profitable. Without profit it won’t exist. Who knows if pro golf may yet benefit as team contact sports struggle?
I can visualize my life without golf, but I cannot ever imagine not thinking and talking about it. That is where professional golf would be sadly missed – as a talking point. Top level pro golf provides me with an interest and something more enjoyable to watch on TV than so much other rubbish that I have become unwillingly familiar with in recent weeks.
All sport depends heavily on TV sponsorship deals. I’m sure the global corporations that all sports rely on are already reviewing their budgets and drastic cuts are imminent. In the immediate future patronage will be off the table and big-time sports will suffer as a result. If TV money is taken away what are you left with? In the case of golf, new, innovative, sponsorship ideas will have to emerge and one that springs to mind is the Saudi-based Premier Golf League, which may turn out to be not such a daft idea after all.
While free to air golf on TV appeared to be dead and buried, it may yet rise again like Lazarus because of its unparalleled reach into homes. It’s unfortunate that golf is so expensive to cover because it would be able to exploit the head start it seems to have on other, more popular, contact team sports. If the R&A and USGA are wise they will see a return to free-to-air as an opportunity to ‘grow the game’ as they are so fond of saying. With an almost insurmountable financial whirlwind sweeping the sporting world, investments will be made more wisely and ‘big sport’ will follow the money. Who knows where it will all end?
TV rights change far too often, making it difficult to invest effectively and substantially in production and editorial. It is also confusing and perplexing for consumers forced into changing their broadband supplier more often than they might want to.
It’s also possible that eSport will take over completely and all sport will be consumed in video-game format. What a disaster it would be if the regular sports fan discovered that it is not that much different to cheer for your favourite teams ‘virtually’ rather than in real life. It’s not implausible. For example: I have been a devoted fan of West Bromwich Albion for 66-years but I have never once been to The Hawthorns. And yet, for all of my life whenever I have played golf on a Saturday, the first thing I want to know when I come off the 18th green is how did West Brom do?
While all of that is being sorted out, amateur-participant sports could become the biggest winner and in that scenario there is none better placed to thrive than golf. It’s a game you don’t have to be very good at to enjoy. You can play it on your own. Anybody can play with anybody; the best player in the club can enjoy playing with the worst and vice versa; the oldest can play with the youngest; the opposite sexes can play it amongst themselves and with one other. Golf is far more flexible than most sports. We should exploit it.