Golf Australia: Teeing up a bright future

Golf Australia boss Stephen Pitt has praised the Australian Golf Industry for uniting as one when times were tough, but admitted the game was never in serious danger of losing its battle with the financial crisis.

Pitt weighed in on golf’s very own issue of ‘climate change’ following figures being released by the Australian Golf Industry Council last month that showed Aussie golfers were in fact taking to the fairways more often, bucking the ever-growing fears that clubs were staring down the barrel of defeat.

Golf Australia boss Stephen Pitt Stephen Pitt

The head of GA revealed key statistics put forward to him had indicated all along that the industry was managing to keep its head above water.

“The survey data from the ERASS (Exercise, Recreation and Support Survey) study bounced around somewhat and that probably created a belief that there was a downturn,” Pitt told Golfer Pacific.

“Golf Australia’s view and that of most of the other industry bodies was that other key indicators had stayed stable or even improved during that period.

“Consequently we were not surprised when the latest figures showed a surge in participation.

“The global economy has gone through dramatic movements in the last two years and organised sport generally has been under pressure, but golf has stayed very strong through those challenges.”

The Australian Golf Industry Council released a tally of club member competition rounds played across Australia last year.

A summary report provides industry guidance on full year 2009 rounds trends versus those recorded in the previous year as tracked by GolfLink.

GolfLink recorded about 11.265 million competition rounds played in 2009, an increase of 6.9 per cent on 2008, generating an additional $4.56 million in golf club revenues.

Much of the increased rounds came from male golfers – up by 7.7 per cent and they contributed 81 per cent of total rounds played.

Female rounds were up by 5.5 per cent, while NSW topped the states tally with about 4.3 million rounds ahead of Victoria (3 million).

Queensland, hit by floods, had about 1.9 million ahead of Western Australia (872,000) South Australia (787,000) Tasmania (273,000) and Tasmania (49,000).

So what does Pitt put this positive growth down to?

“Probably the most important factor regarding the growth in participation has been the increased access of the game,” he said.

“New facilities have continued to come online and clubs have become more imaginative in their product offerings – for example, with more flexible membership or playing options. It is testament to everyone who plays golf and the industry itself that it has remained competitive despite the challenges in Australia and around the world.

“At the core of our responsibilities is to have more Australians playing more golf and these figures reflect that.”

And with such impressive figures, Pitt said nobody could ignore the Tiger Woods-factor.

The defending Australian Masters Champion had a major influence on the number of rounds played in this country following his triumphant visit Down Under last November.

For the period October 2009 to March 2010, club competition rounds across the country, as recorded by GolfLink, grew by 3.8 per cent over the corresponding six month period in 2008/09. Nationally, in the month of November, club competition rounds increased by 8.6 per cent over the same month in the prior year.

“The increased media coverage of golf around (Tiger’s visit) would certainly have helped,” Pitt said.

“The main reason we run tournaments like the Australian Open is to showcase the game and to help create role models that will inspire people.

“I think Greg Norman in particular over the past 25 years has proven what a really positive role model can do for the growth of the game.”

Pitt said there were a number of initiatives ready to be implemented to ensure the growth of Australian golf continues.

“We are launching a new and coordinated junior development platform that will help engage kids in schools with golf and then link them into club programs via MYGolf and the PumpGolf programs,” Pitt said.

“In conjunction with our state bodies we are strengthening our women’s networks around the country and are also launching a casual player program that will help us connect better with casual players and hopefully link them with clubs and facilities.

“We are also doing a lot to make the game more inclusive for a range of people.”