Philip Morley, BGIA Chair Reflects
How has your first year in office been?
After many years of working in the golf industry, I came into the role as BGIA chair with a concern over the fragmentation within the industry and how things could possibly get done because of this structure. Having had the chance to look closer at how our industry is assembled it now makes more sense to me.
Golf is very specialised, it consists of manufacturers, retailers, professionals, amateurs, club managers, course managers, green keepers, ranges, tournaments, rules, and young golfers, so to have one organisation or strategy covering all these aspects would be very challenging and would probably satisfy no-one’s needs.
Having had the opportunity to meet with most of the various executives of the governing bodies and associations in golf, I am now much more confident that there are common objectives for all and that they are working together. The new CEO’s at the R&A, PGA and England Golf give me great confidence that the communication and partnerships required across the industry are in place and can be further developed for the good of the game.
Can you explain what is great about golf equipment?
I think the contribution that the manufacturers of golf equipment have made, with the millions spent on R&D to develop better products across the board has been overlooked: maybe people are blinded by the commercial marketing that is done, but if we look at the product development that has taken place, it has made the game more enjoyable for everyone that plays and this must be a major factor in the future of our great game.
For example, 20-25 years ago, there were no electric trolleys, now the majority of players use them to make their round of golf more enjoyable; they have allowed many mature players to lengthen their playing careers and undulating golf courses to retain members. Golf shoes are now as comfortable as slippers, but still offer fantastic performance and the styles and colours available are amazing!
Rainwear and base layers mean we no longer have to dress up like Michelin Man to play golf: with the new high-performance garments, we can keep warm AND have freedom to swing a golf club! Golf clubs themselves have developed incredibly, some putters now look futuristic and work beautifully, the development of ladies’ golf clubs to offer great performance is spectacular, as is the range of junior equipment which offers new players the best chance of making a good start when taking up the game.
Has the market grown substantially in the UK?
I think the industry has re-sized in recent years, but is now in a strong, stable position to grow again. Everyone in the industry has had to have a good look at what they have been doing and raise their game to match the challenges of the modern world and remain relevant in today’s market.
What are the most important things that create new golfers, and how are BGIA helping to promote this?
Golf needs to be enjoyable and less formal; golf clubs are changing to become more friendly and approachable, but it is not as quick as the market would like. I see the proprietary golf clubs being able to change more quickly to match the needs of their customers than private members clubs, which are still held back by some members wanting to keep things exactly as they were. Tradition in the game is very important, but we must change to grow and change is a challenge!
At the BGIA we have been operating National Golf Month for the past four years - this innovative campaign is managed by a former BGIA Chairman, Doug Poole. Doug works with Bauer Media, who generate a marketing campaign to attract more golfers to the game using a combination of print, website articles and radio backed by National Golf Month’s own social media support to reach out to golf clubs and professionals around the UK.
The BGIA also feel that the health and wellness benefits of playing golf are not promoted enough, so we are establishing a pilot test to get golf socially proscribed in doctors’ surgeries. The BGIA also organise a charity golf day at the wonderful Woburn Golf Club each spring to support the fantastic work done by the Golf Foundation which develops junior golf in the UK. And, our own Grow Golf fund have been delighted to support the On Course Foundation this year, we have paid for several residential introductions to golf for injured service personnel to try golf with professional instruction.
What precisely does the BGIA do and how does one join?
In a nutshell, the BGIA (British Golf Industry Association) represents UK manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors of golf products and services and provides a united voice for all members, whether large or small. We campaign for sustained growth in value and participation across the sport and supporting industry. Members of the BGIA are automatically members of the Federation of Sports and Play Associations (FSPA) – Europe’s largest sport and play federation.
The BGIA provides its members with a range of benefits and services including export, promotion, and networking. We are a not-for-profit trade body and so membership subscriptions are ploughed back into the various activities we undertake on behalf of member companies.
A number of excellent networking events are offered by the BGIA throughout the year to our members. The Annual Dinner and Charity Golf Competition attracts over 100 top industry executives and is now a regular, highly anticipated event in the golf industry calendar.
If you would like to consider joining, please contact BGIA Association Manager, Ciara Morgan - firstname.lastname@example.org
How is golf going to achieve better publicity in the coming years?
I am confident that the communication within the industry is now better than it has ever been, and the desire to have a consistent format of good news stories about golf is seen as vital by all parties. Plans are being developed to create a structure to bring all the stories together and for them to be presented and communicated out to the World in a strong, positive, and consistent manner, and we think that this is a great initiative.
Do you think the tour stars of today could be encouraged by various sponsoring manufacturers to help to promote the game more at grassroots level?
The tour players can help support and shape the future of the game, they should be fantastic role models for young golfers who are the long-term future of golf. With the vast sums of money, they play for at stake it is understandable that they need to remain in a "bubble" to enable focus and avoid distractions. However players like Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Seve Ballesteros and Tiger Woods have given a lot back to golf and created a great legacy for golf and themselves and the modern tour players should be encouraged and inspired to do the same for the long term good of the game.