The Outside View: Steve Carroll on clubs that refuse to move with the times

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I thought the manager was about to have a panic attack. There, sat in the lounge, were a room full of people all tinkering about on their mobile phones.

When they were threatened with expulsion – unless they immediately put away their dirty devices – I didn’t know who was more apoplectic, the manager or me.

Tradition was the reason cited for such a heavy clampdown, as it always is when golf clubs that can’t face moving with the times need a façade to hide behind.

I found all the fuss nauseating and as well as putting me off the club for life, I wondered how many of those sitting in the room would have the same view – and never darken its doors again.

It’s 2017 and golf still has a serious image problem.

Very recently, I clicked on a club website to check the visitor guidelines and found a scrolling page of don’ts. The word ‘prohibited’ was used frequently. I didn’t hand over a green fee.

But while foibles over how long your socks are, or whether you should be sanctioned for wearing a cap in a clubhouse, continue to put people off the game in droves, I fear it is the stubbornness over technology that will eventually mean the end for some of our venerable clubs.

I represent the last generation that grew up without mobile phones. My 19-month-old daughter already knows how to operate an iPad. Children today are lost without their electronic devices. They use them in a far more intuitive way than I could ever dream of and they are wedded to them from a very early age.

When they become adults, it is simply ridiculous to expect them to park their mobiles at the door before they step onto your hallowed turf for a few hours. Future generations simply won’t tolerate club bans on phones. They just won’t come.

For those who fail to heed that warning, as constrictions on our leisure time continue to bite and the myriad of entertainment options we can enjoy merely grows, a grave future awaits.

In 20 years’ time, I will be 60 and will represent the elder statesmen of members. If I’m not prepared to get into line and observe a no-mobile policy, what chance do clubs have of getting tomorrow’s potential stalwarts to do the same?

Technology plays a massively important role in our everyday lives and that trend will not subside. It will only grow.

I play my golf at a club where there are virtually no rules. Wear want you want in the clubhouse. Keep your golf shoes on if it suits you. Set up a laptop if you wish. Make as many calls as you like on your phone.

Society has not come to a crushing end. It isn’t anarchy in the bar. In fact, we are a thriving outfit, with a growing junior section, and a membership decades younger than the average.

Isn’t that a better option, doesn’t that represent a brighter future, than sending your valued customers off to the locker room in shame to make a call?

What are your views on the use of technology in golf clubs? Contact letters@gcma.org.uk with your thoughts.

By GCMA

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