Conference Keynote: Martin Slumbers on golf’s bright future

The R&A chief executive gave the closing keynote speech at the GCMA 2017 Conference in November.  His key themes for ensuring a bright future for golf stressed that family golf, shorter forms of the game and the need for golf to become more accessible and affordable, were vital. “All the research shows that we are time poor and that weekends need to be more about family,” he told his audience. “The other way at looking at this is: Can clubs adapt their structure to be more family friendly? But, more importantly, does the club welcome families or simply just tolerate them? How does a club place families at the heart of the club?” Slumbers also said increasing the number of women playing the game had to be a major part of “all our strategies for the future”. He added: “At The R&A we are completely committed to increasing the number of women working in golf, and playing golf. “We’ve been working with a wonderful group called Women Ahead, and we’ll be launching a Women in Golf charter in the coming weeks. We’ve created a number of initiatives to support it and I would strongly encourage you to be part of this new charter.” On establishing shorter forms of the game, Slumbers again stressed that “time really matters if we want to have a future for our game”. “Do we have enough 9-hole competitions?” he posed. “Do we have to think about reserving early weekend tee times for the younger members who need to be home early? Do we really do enough to speed up pace of play, or do we just tolerate our members continually complaining? Have we tried Ready Golf?  “Do we provide things to do all year around, and do we genuinely offer flexible memberships to be able to encourage parents and children to join?” Accessibility and affordability was the final strand of Slumber’s message and he argued that golf was short of facilities. “I don’t mean more golf courses, but I do mean driving ranges with proper tuition, short par 3 courses and short game facilities,” he explained. “On my travels around the world I’ve seen so many lost opportunities to attract more players because of the lack of accessibility to play golf, and to have fun doing it. I’m very excited about the future of golf, but we do need to drive change if we are to garner that opportunity. I see absolutely no reason why we shouldn’t be able to attract new players, new families and new facilities.”
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