Adapt or die, management specialist tells golf clubs

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WHILE insisting that golf clubs like Muirfield are “idiot proof”, a leading figure in the game has claimed the majority will continue to struggle in a difficult time for the industry unless they move into the 22nd century.

Dana Garmany, founder and CEO of Troon Golf, one of the world’s leading course management companies with a portfolio spanning 28 countries, also called for “bifurcation” in the sport but only to help beginners.

Speaking in St Andrews, where he is attending this week’s Golf Business Forum, Garmany told The Scotsman: “Clubs that don’t change in line with the changing age demographic don’t seem to be worried about longevity and are going to continue to struggle.

“Some places are idiot proof. The likes of Muirfield, Seminole and Augusta National, for example, where they have strict dress codes and the history keeps going.

“But at some clubs that has got to go away and finally clubs in America have woken up to the fact that people who work in businesses can’t go off the grid for five hours so they are allowing them to use cellphones and smartphones.” Value for money and, in particular, time are the two main factors Garmany believes golf has to get right as clubs battle to retain members, with very few in Scotland now having a waiting list.

“Twenty years ago 95 per cent of guys would take a decision to join a golf club themselves but nowadays it is a joint family decision as they are looking for programmes for the spouse and for the kids,” he added.

“Also, I’ve got friends who can pop out of the office in their lunch hour for a game of tennis or go to the gym for a workout. Golf doesn’t have that element at the moment and it’s why we are introducing par-3 courses within courses – creating holes between 75-100 yards – that people can play in less than an hour.

“Put it this way, snow boarders saved the skiing industry. The traditional skiiers didn’t like them at first as they thought they were punks but their money kept the skiing industry going and, at 40-year-old, those snow boarders are becoming skiiers.

“Maybe if we can introduce people to golf by attracting them to an option that takes less time they will maybe also come a full circle.”

Admitting the St Andrews gathering was a “great opportunity to share ideas”, Garmany, who has Turnberry on that impressive portfolio, also offered his view on the anchoring ban set to come into effect from the start of 2016.

“I think anchoring involves only a small percentage – maybe five to eight per cent,” he said. “However, while I’m a pretty traditional guy, I’m also a big believer in bifurcation and there are lots of examples of that in other sports. Whatever technology is out there should be available to people starting out in the game but then as they step up and become better players, maybe there should be a different set of rules.”