An interesting article in the Australian Financial Review last week on the subject of golf. The AFR is, of course, not famous for its radical take on events. Its analysis of the problems facing the sport on a local level should therefore probably be required reading for all Councillors and staff at Sunshine Coast Council – those who have recently pledged $450,000 to building a course in Maleny.
The gist of the piece is that Golf is a sport in trouble: according to Golf Australia itself, the sport’s peak body, ‘50 per cent of Australia’s golf clubs are in “financial distress” and 51 per cent have 100 members or less.’
Golf Australia’s own research apparently shows, ‘participation levels are down 11 per cent since 2000. That number is deceptive. Golf’s biggest age bracket is the over-65s – and among them, participation rates have held steady. The downturn is due to steep falls in participation at all age levels below that bracket… rates in the crucial 15-to-24 age bracket have dropped from almost 6 per cent to less than 2 per cent. This missing junior generation will eventually become a missing middle-aged generation.’ (my emphasis)
The article goes on to list some of the problems with Golf and the way it is played – the rigid conservatism of some of the clubs (men not being allowed to wear ankle socks, no mobile phones on the course or in the clubroom), but one of the more interesting findings is that people don’t have the time to play eighteen holes. Nine hole golf courses are, it seems, the way to go.
Now I’m not a disinterested observer here. I was, along with 73% of this community*, strongly opposed to the building of a golf course on Council land adjacent to Maleny township. Land that could be used for much better public purposes. Council, however, have been resolute in their support, even in the face of a business case they regarded (at the time of awarding funds) as inadequate.
When statistics such as these are publicly available surely there is a responsibility on those disposing of rate payers funds to consider the wisdom of pursuing an eighteen hole course on this land? Shouldn’t they at least be considering limiting the size to nine holes?
The full article can be read here.
*Caloundra City Council survey 2007