Every UK golf club should offer scholarships to local youngsters, and ‘archaic’ dress codes should be binned, according to three-time European Ryder Cup captain Bernard Gallacher.
Gallacher, who represented Europe at the Ryder Cup eight times and three times as captain, believes more needs to be done to make golf a more inclusive, diverse and accessible sport, despite the ‘highly positive’ Rule 25 update.
The new Rule 25 provides modifications to certain Rules of Golf to allow players with specific disabilities to play fairly with players who have no disabilities, the same disability, or a different type of disability.
Modifications can be made for players who are blind, amputees, those who use assistive mobility devices, and those with intellectual disabilities.
Gallacher, who is also an ambassador for Golf Care, said: “Rule 25 is a positive, much-needed step towards inclusivity, but golf can’t rest on its laurels—there’s a long way to go yet.”
Rule 25 now applies to all golf competitions and forms of play. However, players with neurological or orthopaedic conditions, players of short stature or who are deaf are currently excluded from any modifications.
“Straight away, therein lies another issue,” added Bernard. “Golf has an old-fashioned stereotype which must be broken down if we ever want to see real progress and representation in the game.
“We’ve also seen an increase in women and players from ethnic minority backgrounds taking up golf post-pandemic. The industry has a duty to ensure these new-found golfers stay involved in the game.”
It comes as the R&A recently appointed Neal Graham as its new development manager in the Middle East, with Eden Thompson taking on a similar role in Africa. It’s hoped these key industry appointments will help drive golf accessibility and inclusivity throughout said parts of the world.
But back here in the UK, besides developing funded scholarship programmes for young golfers, Gallacher also believes that the existing golf club and, indeed, driving range models need refreshing.
He said: “Golf clubs need to drop the archaic dress codes and adopt a more relaxed attitude towards game attire. You aren’t going to attract a new generation of golfers by perpetuating the tucked-in shirt and chinos look forever. The UK is beautifully diverse—golf needs to reflect that.
“We should be encouraging young golfers to wear whatever they feel comfortable in when playing golf. That’s the first step in creating an inclusive and welcoming environment. You can’t call yourself a ‘sport for all’ and then demand everyone dress the same. It doesn’t work like that anymore.
“Clubs and driving ranges need to up their marketing game in 2023, too. Social media is where most people find out about things and make purchase decisions, particularly younger people, so it makes no sense whatsoever for clubs to have zero presence. Many golf clubs are actually doing good work—our problem is that nobody knows.”
Gallacher also believes the Golf Foundation needs more support and funding from the wider golf industry, and is calling for change. The Golf Foundation works specifically to champion children’s involvement in golf and helps clubs to expand their junior offerings.
The charity launched its Golfway initiative in 2021—described as ‘a fun, new method of learning golf for kids in school’. It’s hoped the programme will be delivered to two million children across 7,500 UK schools over the next five years.
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