Ever since cricket managed to reinvented itself so powerfully with Twenty-20, the golfing world has been looking for a similar equivalent: a shorter form of the sport, one that could be enjoyed by everyone, one that did not require a deep and profound understanding and skill level to enjoy, something that offered immediate excitement and fun.
There have been several attempts: Powerplay golf being the one that gained the most traction but, if the truth be told, they all failed.
Only 3% of the UK’s population are interested in playing golf. There may be a few more who are interested in watching and even a few more that might one day consider that they may like to play golf, but for now we are stuck with a participation level of just 3%. This is a truly hopeless percentage for any support that wants to have an impact across the country. Marketing and advertising returns are poor enough to start with, but when you first have to target just 3% of the population, then finding new customers becomes even harder.
It is not surprising that in recent times golf club facilities have been trying to win customers from each other, rather than trying to find brand-new customers. In simple terms this is an easy to understand strategy.
The way to win customers from another facility is normally by offering more for less money. This is bound to incite a drop in price, a drop in profitability, and before long a drop in service must also be the result. So the golf business is getting worse, unless it can find a new way of attracting participants to golf facilities. FootGolf has been very popular and brought golf courses to a wider audience, but some would argue that kicking a ball is so alien from hitting a ball that the sport of golf itself is not being helped.
At last, after years of scratching our brains finally there seems to be some logic emerging. And the answer is... Putting.
As with many eureka moments, the answer has been staring us in the face, or to use another tacky idiom - under our very feet - all the time. Putting greens are numerous and there are already at least 5000 such greens in the UK. Every golf course has at least one: there are even greens made from artificial grass, many of which are doing huge levels of business and are wonderful commercial entities in their own right.
Many local Councils used to have such greens and my own first experiences of putting were at the seaside putting course above Westgate Bay where I first held a golf club and participated in putting with my reluctant mother on a family holiday. It is a shame that most councils have let the quality of their putting greens go and in many cases these putting greens have closed and with it the opportunity of young children to dream about the ‘grown-up’ sport of golf!
For the last dozen or so years, golf centres in the UK have gradually been turning to adventure golf as a means of generating more interest, more money and greater participation levels at their centres. This has worked with great success, but not everyone can afford the £300,000 or £400,000 that it costs to set up such an adventure golf course. Perhaps we can achieve some of the same commercial returns on grass putting greens. It is no secret that the Himalayas golf course at St Andrews has thousands of people playing on it every week of the summer. It is a great commercial success and delights all that use it.
Unfortunately, practice putting greens have for the main part been regarded as small additions to the rest of the playing surfaces at golf courses. There are notable exceptions with Sunningdale, Royal Wimbledon, Walton Heath and Little Aston all having spectacular and beautifully-conditioned putting terrains at the heart of their golf offerings.
Putting greens are for the main part viewed as an expense by the administrators and managers of golf facilities. British Putting intends to change all of this. For it is these very putting greens that can be the lifeline for any golf club, course or range interested in reaching out to the broader community and increasing participation, fun, dwell times, food income and bar takings.
Co-founder of British Putting, Colin Jenkins elaborates:
“Every club can take part and the easiest way is to run a regular event based solely around putting, but with social interaction at its heart. For example at Basildon we will be offering 18 holes of putting, with some fun and inexpensive prizes together with a barbecue burger and chips on every Friday in the summer at a cost of £8, reduced to £6 for those people with a season ticket. Friday evenings can be very popular, but not so that the business is over run with too much trade.
By adding this putting event to mix, we are very confident that we will increase bar trade substantially, generate lots of good feeling, raise some money for the Golf Foundation and remind everyone that Basildon Golf Course is a great place to spend your leisure time.”
British Putting is open to absolutely anyone and any facility can join up and host events and be part of the organisation with useful branding, commercial ideas and an interactive website which will drive trade to your venue.
The cost is just £10 per month plus VAT. You will be able to take part in competitions, with county and regional finals adding much excitement to the mix. The British Open Putting Championships will be held at Basildon, with its fabulous new putting green on September 1st & 2nd this year. We will be covering this in much more detail in the coming months. There are so many great opportunities to seize with this sport within a sport, which is now emerging to far greater prominence.
The formal launch of British Putting is at GolfBIC in Harrogate on Wednesday January 20th . To find out more information, sign up and register your interest, please visit: www.britishputting.com