Driving ranges, most run on a pay-and-then-practise basis, have become one of the sport’s boom businesses over the past 20 years or so.
Photograph: Brian Snyder/Reuters When Tiger Woods was 14 he was acutely aware of the racist undertones that lingered in country clubs across the US.
The world No1′s success ever since may have challenged golf’s outdated perceptions of race, but 23 years after conducting that interview there remains a worrying shortage of non-white amateurs playing the game in England.
“I can always feel it’, I can always sense it,” said Woods in 1990.
“People staring at you and thinking: ‘You shouldn’t be here.’” It is a sentiment mirrored in figures obtained from Sport England, which reveal that only 2% of a total 850,500 people who play on a weekly basis are non-white.
It is an alarming statistic and falls significantly below the equivalent figures in football, rugby union, cricket and tennis.
There are certain things one must put up with on a golf course to appease the elitist status quo.
Yet although it is possible to bite your tongue while getting barracked for walking into the clubhouse with a shirt untucked or having the temerity to wear a cap indoors, ignoring the game’s stark failure to embrace all demographics across society is harder to stomach.
There are clubs across England that still have no members from ethnic minority backgrounds, while high-profile incidents such as Sergio Garc a’s comments on Tuesday night and the assertion from Woods’s former caddie Steve Williams in 2011 that he would “like to shove it up that black asshole” have cast shadows over the game.
It was only last year when Augusta National first permitted two women to become members, meanwhile, one being the former US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, following concerted pressure.
Jaz Athwal became the first Asian captain of a golf club in England 13 years ago and organises the annual UK Asian Open.
Based in Bradford, Athwal believes that racial abuse on the course has reduced during that time, but more needs to be done to improve participation levels.
“I think things are changing for the better but you’re never going to eradicate it and I don’t think Serg o’s comments help,” he said.
“The old twitching of curtains and people thinking: ‘What’s he come for, no one’s ordered a taxi or a takeaway’, have gone.
They don’t have to worry that there will be a corner shop on every tee or their 18-hole course won’t be reduced to 17 because someone’s nicked one.
We pay in pound coins, not rupees.
“It doesn’t bother me these days.
It used to but now I shrug my shoulders and think if people don’t want my money then I’ll go and play somewhere that they do.
“The governing bodies are concentrating on things that are important to them, and maybe the 2% aren’t as important as sponsorship.
They need to be more engaging and take people’s advice.
We go into schools and try to break down the perceptions of golf clubs to kids, and change the perceptions of the kids because they think it’s a white middle-class game that’s unattainable to them.
“The wealthy clubs can pick and choose the members that they want, not just if they are black and white.
But Tiger Woods, for all his faults, has made golf cool and brought it to the masses.
Serg o saying what he says, that doesn’t help and doesn’t do golf any good.” In recent years the issue of racism has caused huge controversy in football after two high-profile incidents.
The Garcia-Woods incident now threatens to cause similar furore, but the more serious concerns lie at grassroots level.
The 2% participation figure, which is made up of participants over 16, compares with 29.4% in cricket and 18.3% in football.
However, Brendan Pyle, the development manager at the Golf Foundation charity that encourages participation for young people in deprived areas, insists work is being done to improve the problem.
“We’ve had a focus on city areas in recent years.
We’re developing a new way of playing golf away from the golf club which is known as street golf, which uses a safe ball which will travel approximately 100 yards and means we can take the game into disadvantaged and underprivileged areas.” Teaching ethnic minority youngsters away from the surroundings of a club may be one way to improve participation levels.
But changing perceptions that golf is a sport for only the elite is a long battle that requires much more attention.
“When we do coaching sessions in Bradford’s inner city schools we don’t say: ‘Oh, you’re white, you can’t play’,” said Athwal.
“Next time the governing bodies are at their board meeting, have a look at how many black faces are around the table that’s exclusivity.”
Adam Scott, the Masters champion, uses an anchored putting stroke, which will not be allowed from 2016.
Photograph: Phil Noble/REUTERS The R&A and the United States Golf Association have confirmed that a ban on anchoring a club during a putting stroke will take effect from 1 January 2016.
In a joint statement on Tuesday, golf’s governing bodies formally adopted Rule 14-1b that was first proposed last November.
Players and the golfing community were given 90 days to discuss the proposal from that point, during which the US PGA Tour voiced opposition to the plan.
In a report outlining the reason for the ban, the R&A and USGA stressed that belly and long putters will be able to be used with a wide variety of types of strokes.
Peter Dawson, Chief Executive of The R&A said: “We took a great deal of time to consider this issue and received a variety of contributions from individuals and organisations at all levels of the game.
The report published today gives a comprehensive account of the reasons for taking the decision to adopt the new Rule and addresses the concerns that have been raised.
We recognise this has been a divisive issue but after thorough consideration we remain convinced that this is the right decision for golf.” “Having considered all of the input that we received, both before and after the proposed Rule was announced, our best judgment is that Rule 14-1b is necessary to preserve one of the important traditions and challenges of the game that the player freely swing the entire club,” said USGA President Glen D.
“The new Rule upholds the essential nature of the traditional method of stroke and eliminates the possible advantage that anchoring provides, ensuring that players of all skill levels face the same challenge inherent in the game of golf.” David Rickman, Executive Director of Rules and Equipment Standards at The R&A, said: “This Rule change addresses the future and not the past.
Everyone who has used an anchored stroke in the past, or who does so between now and 1 January 2016, will have played entirely within the Rules and their achievements will in no way be diminished.” 14-1b Anchoring the Club In making a stroke, the player must not anchor the club, either “directly” or by use of an “anchor point.” Note 1: The club is anchored “directly” when the player intentionally holds the club or a gripping hand in contact with any part of his body, except that the player may hold the club or a gripping hand against a hand or forearm.
Note 2: An “anchor point” exists when the player intentionally holds a forearm in contact with any part of his body to establish a gripping hand as a stable point around which the other hand may swing the club.
Rule 14-1b will not alter current equipment rules and allows for the continued use of all conforming golf clubs, including belly-length and long putters, provided such clubs are not anchored during a stroke.
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DORNOCH, Scotland — Todd Warnock fell hard for Royal Dornoch Golf Club the first time he visited.
“It’s just so magical, so lyrical,” he said. “It’s a thinking-man’s golf course.”
Over the years, Warnock, a former managing director of investment banking at Credit Suisse First Boston, would return, sometimes alone, to Dornoch. He’d spend his days playing the great Scottish Highlands links, then retreat to his room in The Royal Golf Hotel, just left of the first fairway, to read and write.
About six years ago, he got curious about an old Georgian house on Golf Road, just behind Royal Dornoch’s clubhouse and less than 100 yards from the first tee. He now owns that house, which dates to 1843, and is almost finished what appears to be a magnificent renovation, converting it into an eight-bedroom hotel.
The Links House at Royal Dornoch is scheduled to open June 1, and the American tour operators with whom I toured the property were generally wowed by what they saw.
“It’s going to be something unique and special,” said Debbie Bussey of Absolutely Golf & Travel.
John Murray of Golf Travel Etc. predicted “it is going to be easily the best accommodations in Dornoch.”
“It really fits a need in that part of the world a five-star experience up there,” said Bill Hogan, president of Wide World of Golf.
A new addition, the Mews, has three bedrooms. A separate building has been set aside for storing and drying golf clubs and other gear.
Room rates during the peak season, June 16 to Sept.
15, top out at 295 pounds (about $460) per night. Groups can rent out the entire Links House for 2,000 pounds (about $3,115) with a minimum two-night stay.
Warnock now a senior adviser to Chicago-based RoundTable Healthcare Partners, a firm he helped form in 2001 is trying to create intimate, boutique accommodations for golf groups.
“We’re trying to have that manor-home feeling,” Warnock said.
There is a scotch honor bar in the library.
Each bedroom is named for a Highlands salmon river. Warnock and his wife, Liz, designed and commissioned special fabrics for the furnishings, and stocked Links House with antiques, many acquired in Edinburgh. Best of all, a putting green, maintained by Royal Dornoch’s greenkeepers, occupies the space between the main house and the Mews.
The tour operators saw that amenity as a slam-dunk for guests who want to wind down with scotch, cigars and a putting contest.
Warnock’s hope is that guests use Links House as a base to play Royal Dornoch, explore surrounding golf courses such as Brora to the north and Castle Stuart to the south and also take advantage of some of the Highlands’ popular sporting activities, including hunting and fishing.
Graham Spears of Sterling Golf Tours called Links House “much-needed” and added, “I think he will kill it with (Dornoch’s) international members.”
Links House can accommodate eight couples, though it might be a better fit for golf-intensive groups.
“For eight guys taking a single room, it is the perfect establishment,” said John Gosselink of Fore Seasons Golf Tours.
While the tour operators were impressed with what they saw, one of their chief concerns was availability.
“I think it’s going to be difficult getting accommodations in there from May through September,” Hogan said. “I think they’re immediately going to start thinking about adding another eight or so rooms.”
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