After reading the New York Times cover story on dwindling U.S. participation, John Huggan sees many of the same issues afflicting golf in Scotland.
Of course, increasing participant numbers is never really going to happen, no matter how many schemes golf's alphabet-soup organisations come up with to justify their increasingly pointless existences. As long as the golf club system itself is in place, the game is doomed to stagnate. Clubs, after all, are by their very nature exclusionary and exclusive. Especially at the so-called 'high-end' establishments, wonderful golf courses sit all but empty on far too many beautiful summer evenings. The concept of opening the premises up to local youngsters is something that is not only frowned upon, it is never actually considered by club committees whose next original thought will be their first.
Is it any wonder then that Scotland's best golfer is a rapidly ageing 44-year-old whose best days are very much behind him? Is there a less-welcoming environment for young people than the typically rule-ridden and grey-haired golf club? No you can't wear your jeans or your trainers. No you can't play before 4pm in the winter months. No you can't play off the back tees even if you can beat 99% of the members (who should be playing off what are still archaically referred to as the 'ladies tees'). No. No. No, no, no.
And what is being done to arrest this decline in Scotland? Well, take a look around at all these lovely new golf courses being built. What do you mean, you can't? They won't let you in the gate, you say? They're not looking for people like you? All they want are the affluent minority who will buy a gaudy home in the expensive housing estates surrounding these high-end clubs? And they cost the earth to play anyway?
Oh well, there are other less time-consuming games where the equipment is cheaper and you can actually play with the kids. Anyone for tennis?