Great Britain: Golf enthusiasm continues

Golf continues to prove popular in Great Britain, with ten percent more rounds of golf played in the first nine months of the year than in the equivalent period in 2021.

This is despite a small four percent drop in year-on-year play rates between July and September. It should however be remembered that the summer of 2021 was atypical, with rounds played experiencing an extended bounce after the lockdowns earlier in the year.

Continued strong participation in the UK

Contrasting against pre-lockdown years, Q3 2022 rounds were up 40 percent against 2019. Q3 was boosted by a drier than average July and August, but this alone does not account for the strong enduring appetite for golf.

The results can therefore be read as another indicator of strong ongoing participation. The North was the strongest performing region in 2022, recording one percent growth against the very strong third quarter of 2021.

“Golf continues to be a sport attractive across all levels of the game”

Richard Payne, Director at Sporting Insights, said: “This has been another good quarter for golf. The similarity in results between 2021 and 2022 suggests to us that golf is reaching a new normal baseline, which would be great news, because that normal is clearly a step up on where the game found itself before the pandemic. However, we are certainly not getting complacent because we know that the cost of living crisis is going to impact on leisure, putting pressure on memberships and green fee visits alike. What’s clear though is that golf is in a much better position to weather this storm thanks to the industry’s efforts over the last two years.”

Those efforts include work from The R&A to promote the links between golf and health. Phil Anderton, Chief Development Officer at The R&A, added, “It is again encouraging to see the positive data for rounds played in Great Britain for the third quarter of 2022.

“Golf was on the rise pre-pandemic and this latest data highlights how golf continues to be a sport attractive across all levels of the game through various formats. It is important for the sport to maintain this momentum and we are pushing initiatives such as the benefits of golf for your health strongly to continue to drive growth.”

Since 2000, Sporting Insights (previously known as Sports Marketing Surveys) has tracked rounds played at commercial golf courses across mainland Great Britain.

As part of Sporting Insights’ ongoing partnership with The Revenue Club, the Q3 report includes an additional section that looks at the booking channel trends from the 140 clubs that they work with.

(Text: Sporting Insights)

European Tour Knowledge Reports

Every Birdie Counts Campaign – European Tour group’s Golf for Good raises £125,000 for UNICEF

The European Tour group’s Golf for Good raised a total of £125,000 for UNICEF through its season-long ‘Every Birdie Counts’ campaign. The campaign, supporting UNICEF’s work as part of the COVAX Facility, raised sufficient funds to help the children’s charity. The did so by delivering 50,000 vaccines to some of the world’s most vulnerable and hardest-to-reach nations.

‘Every Birdie Counts’ is an integral part of the European Tour group’s overarching CSR Programme ‘Golf for Good’ during the 2021 season. Also, it raised a minimum of €1 for UNICEF for every single birdie made during the campaign, with €10 donated for every eagle and €1,000 for every albatross.

DP World Tour Championship boosted up the total.

The season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai gave a significant ‘Birdie Boost’ to those numbers. Then, the European Tour group’s Golf for Good pledged €75 for every birdie made at the final Rolex Series event of the season. This was to mark UNICEF’s milestone 75th anniversary as well as World Children’s Day, which coincided with day three of the prestigious tournament.

There was a total of €77,451 raised prior to the finale at Jumeirah Golf Estates, thanks to 57,641 birdies, 1,681 eagles and three albatrosses across a season which began with January’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

The DP World Tour Championship, meanwhile, yielded 862 birdies and 19 eagles, raising a total of €66,550 in a brilliant week for Collin Morikawa. Morikawa claimed the title in a dramatic fashion, becoming the first American golfer in the history of the DP World Tour to top the season-long rankings.

The European Tour group’s Golf for Good rounded up the total from approximately £121,250 to £125,000. Of course, the full amount will support UNICEF’s work as part of the COVAX Facility, and its aim of delivering three billion vaccines globally.

Supporting the UNICEF work.

UNICEF is leading the end-to-end supply of vaccines, as well as providing tests and treatments, in low-and middle-income countries. For instance, UNICEF focuses the aim to deliver three billion doses of vaccines in 2021 for frontline health workers, social workers, teachers and those at highest risk.


The commitment of Paul Casey with the cause.

Paul Casey, a 15-time DP World Tour winner and UNICEF USA Supporter, said: “It’s unbelievable what the European Tour group and Golf for Good have done. So much is talked about what we do on the golf course, but I don’t think enough is mentioned about what goes on for every community and country we visit.”

“In this case, it’s the global reach – partnering with UNICEF and £125,000 will go so far in assisting UNICEF’s work as part of the COVAX Facility, rolling out COVID-19 vaccines around the world. I couldn’t be more proud. Things like this make me proud of being part of the DP World Tour.”

“As a father, children are my primary focus when it comes to charity. It was World Children’s Day on Saturday during the final tournament, so I think this is very timely. You have a right as a human being to have access to certain things and children are always the most vulnerable. I tip my cap to all of those involved in getting this off the ground.”

The European Tour shows full support with the most vulnerable.

Keith Pelley, Chief Executive of the European Tour group, said: “We are proud to have partnered with UNICEF in their 75th anniversary year, by supporting their work as part of the COVAX Facility though our ‘Every Birdie Counts’ campaign.”

“As a global tour we committed to supporting communities and worthy causes around the world. Therefore, to that end, this donation is a fitting end to our 2021 Golf for Good campaign. It will provide enough funding to help deliver 50,000 vaccinations to some of the most vulnerable and hardest-to-reach nations on earth.”

“It was also fitting that the ‘Every Birdie Counts’ campaign should finish with such a flourish at an event sponsored by our new tour title partners DP World. They have been supporting UNICEF in the logistics and delivery of the vaccine globally. Our sincerest thanks to UNICEF, DP World and of course all of our players who, through their wonderful golf all season, helped make this happen.”

UNICEF is one step closer to accomplish its mission.

Steven Waugh, Interim Executive Director of the UK Committee for UNICEF said: “If we have learned anything from the coronavirus crisis, it is that our lives are interconnected. COVID-19 does not respect borders. At UNICEF, we know that if we only protect high-income countries, life will not return to normal. If COVID-19 is spreading anywhere, it’s a risk to people everywhere.”

“As part of COVAX, UNICEF is leading the biggest health and logistics operation in history to procure and deliver vaccines. A total of 3 billion vaccines around the world by the end of 2021. In order to achieve this historic mission, we need the help of our supporters and partners.”

“I would like to share my sincere thanks to everyone at the European Tour group, who have helped raised an incredible amount for UNICEF’s work around the world. Your support means that we can help deliver 50,000 vaccinations in low- and middle- income countries around the world.”

Press Release by the European Tour Group Communications Team.


Research: Golf participation growth in GB and Ireland

New figures reveal an increase in golf participation. 2.3 million more adults played on-course in Great Britain and Ireland last year, and the sport is now being encouraged to grasp the opportunity to retain new and returning players.

Research led by The R&A, together with England Golf, Golf Ireland, Scottish Golf and Wales Golf, demonstrates how the sport thrived in 2020 despite the significant challenges of Covid-19.

The two new participation reports, produced by specialist research agency Sports Marketing Surveys, show that a significant number of players enjoyed golf on full-length courses as well as alternative forms of the sport, including the use of driving ranges, Par 3 golf and pitch and putt. Other encouraging findings show an increase in the number of female golfers and a reduction in the average age of participants.

Richard Payne: “We are really excited”

Reflecting on the research, SMS director Richard Payne noted, “For golf participation to have grown in the way it has in the context of the external pressures it has faced is nothing short of amazing. We suspected this might be the case when our figures showed that more rounds were played in 2020 than in 2019 despite course closures, but rounds played is only one part of the story. We now know that the growth wasn’t only down to existing golfers playing more, but also significantly boosted by new players coming into the sport. More people on driving ranges, par 3s and full-length courses is good for the whole game, from course operators to manufacturers to retailers, events and broadcasters. We are really excited to help the golf industry take advantage of this, and we’ve already been having lots of great conversations with clients keen to understand how research can help them build on the momentum.”

Phil Anderton, Chief Development Officer at The R&A, said, “We have seen a real surge in the number of golfers in Great Britain and Ireland playing the sport and this is reflected by the high demand for tee times and clubs reporting a strong interest in membership last year.”

“Golf has shown that it can provide significant health benefits, and this has been important for many golfers during these very challenging times. It is vital that golf seizes the opportunity to maintain this heightened interest by offering new and returning golfers compelling reasons to stay within the sport and enjoy it with friends and family,” he said.

Key highlights from the 2020 Great Britain Golf Participation Report:

  • Total adult golfers on a full-length course (9 or 18 hole) increased by 2.1 million players to 5.2 million – the highest figure recorded this century;
  • Of these golfers, 36% identified as returning or new golfers – with 16% of players starting or trying golf for the first time because of the pandemic;
  • The average age of golfers fell by five years to 41, with the majority of new golfers aged under 55;
  • 25% of female golfers were new to the sport – and tried it for the first time because of the pandemic;
  • Driving range use increased from 2.3 million to 4.3 million players;
  • The number of golfers who only used Par 3 courses more than doubled, and those who only played on pitch and putt courses more than tripled.

Key highlights from the 2020 Ireland Golf Participation Report:

  • Total adult golfers on a full-length course increased by 219,000 to 540,000
  • 18% returned to golf or started or tried golf for the first time because of the pandemic
  • A third of adult golfers who tried golf for the first time were under 25 years old

Following the easing of lockdown restrictions, The R&A identified the need to further understand the new demand and how different types of golfers were engaging with the sport.

Post Covid Opportunity Research

The Post Covid Opportunity Research was a supplementary project carried out by SMS. It assesses the experiences of golfers during the pandemic, their motivations for playing and their long-term plans for the future. Among new golfers, 98% of those interviewed identified they are enjoying playing golf and 95% see themselves playing golf for many years to come.

The impact of Covid-19 restrictions on mental and physical health and loneliness has been considerable, with the research showing how golf has helped in these areas.

Key findings include:

  • Among avid/regular golfers, 31% had experienced some negative impact on their feelings of loneliness/isolation as a result of the pandemic. Of these, 79% believe playing golf had a positive impact.
  • Among lapsed/returning golfers, 44% had experienced some negative impact on their mental health as a result of the pandemic. Of these, 92% felt that playing golf had a positive impact.
  • Among occasional/infrequent golfers, 34% had experienced some negative impact on their physical health as a result of the pandemic. Of these, 70% agreed that playing golf had a positive impact.

The research also outlined recommendations that clubs can take to retain new players. These include making sure golfers feel welcome and valued; cultivating a friendly culture and relaxed atmosphere; promoting participation options based on ability and experience; offering excellent customer service; providing an efficient booking system; and prioritising the quality and maintenance of the course.

Anderton added, “The mental and physical health benefits of golf have helped boost participation in 2020 and that is hugely encouraging given the sport offers a wonderful form of exercise out in the fresh air for all ages and abilities.”

“With more female players also coming into the sport, it presents an opportunity for golf clubs to harness interest from this key demographic and to engage in our #FOREveryone campaign.”

“The campaign encourages clubs to consider how they can attract more women and girls into the sport and challenge unhelpful stereotypes to demonstrate that it is an enjoyable pastime and career for people of all ages and backgrounds.”

(Text: Sports Marketing Surveys)


Sun protection and sport: new insights

Skin in the Game

 In every sports fan’s life, there comes the devastating, disconcerting moment when you realise that you’re past it. Players half your age start making their debuts. Competitors ten years your junior win titles. You are forced to confront the reality that in fact, you probably won’t make it onto the tour, into the side, or through qualifying. No matter that you never consciously or logically dreamed of ‘making it’, it is still a bitter pill to swallow.  

Fortunately, there is much more to sport than the professional ranks, and, at risk of lapsing into cliché, it is true that it is never too late to get into or stay in sport. Naturally, certain sports lend themselves to longer participation than others. The R&A, the custodian of the rules of golf, actively promotes the game as being “A sport for life, which can be played and enjoyed by people of all ages, backgrounds and levels of ability.” 

But sports can only be ‘for life’ as long as they are practiced safely. Many sports have made massive recent strides in this respect. In extreme sports from climbing to skiing, protection, in the form of helmets, for example, is second nature. Cricketers wear pads and boxes and helmets to protect themselves from impact. Rugby players wear mouthguards as standard. Concussion protocols are being constantly reviewed across multiple sports. What’s often much harder is to convince people to protect themselves from less obvious, less visible risks.  

Recent research conducted by SMS on behalf of the Melanoma Fund revealed a concerning carelessness among UK golfers when it comes to the risk of skin cancer and precautions that can help protect their skin. Only 42% of surveyed golfers use sunscreen when the weather demands it, and nearly 30% admitted that they actively avoid sun protection in favour of a tan.

With melanoma rates doubling in the UK in the last thirty years and poised to reach nearly half a million global cases by 2040, it has never been more important to understand and protect against the risk. It is a cause that Slip! Slap! Swing! has been set up to champion. Richard Payne, SMS Director, is an ambassador for the charity, which aims to change golfer behaviour on an individual level as well as encourage golf courses to get Sun Protection Accredited. 

Reflecting on the vital importance of the campaign, Richard commented:
“Often, sadly, it has taken a public tragedy to provoke change in sport. The death of Natasha Richardson transformed the conversation about ski helmets. The death of Philip Hughes has led to prototype helmet designs in an attempt to ensure nobody else suffers in the same way. Golf has fortunately escaped this so far, although numerous players, including Justin Thomas and Adam Scott, have had scares. The challenge is to convince golfers to individually and collectively change their attitude to sun protection before a high- profile tragedy kickstarts the conversation.”

Done right, sport can not only extend life, but enhance it. Whether on the fairways or on the court or on the waves, a life with sport can be significantly richer than a life without it. Protecting yourself to ensure that your sports career and your life are as long as possible comes with no drawbacks and many benefits. 
(Text: Sports Marketing Surveys)


Matsuyama can turbocharge Asian golf. So can research.

Hideki Matsuyama is a golfer who feels like he has been around much longer than he has.

Part of the effect is generated by his beautifully struck irons, which carry him serenely from tee to green and make his game seem mature beyond his years. In part it is his composed, friendly demeanour. Mostly, it is because of how much he has accomplished in the sport.

Matsuyama first finished at the top five in a Major in 2015 and rose to the top five in the world in 2016. The next year, he romped to a WGC title at Firestone, shooting a barely believable 61 in the final round to win by five. Now, with a victory at the 2021 Masters, he finally has the Major title that his talent has demanded for some time.

With his triumph, the 29-year-old completes a pair of Japanese doubles at Augusta. For Matsuyama himself, it is a Green Jacket to go with the Silver Cup he won a decade earlier as the leading amateur. For his country, it means Japan is now home to both the Masters champion and the Augusta National Women’s Amateur champion, following Tsubasa Kajitani’s triumph earlier this month.

Matsuyama joins female players Hisako Higuchi and Hinako Shibuno in Japan’s stable of major winners. 2021 now holds the chance for him to improve his already impressive best finishes at the tournaments that define golf’s calendar. Ties for fourth and sixth at the PGA Championship and Open Championship, combined with a second place at the U.S. Open, prove that this is a player capable of winning on all types of golf course in any conditions.

He will be hotly fancied in particular at an even rarer chance for glory. It is common to talk of a home favourite being cheered by an Olympic crowd. Following Tokyo’s decision to restrict foreign fan travel as a result of the COVID pandemic, that will never have been truer than in 2021. Olympic glory is a challenge that England’s Justin Rose, the first-round leader who Matsuyama overhauled with his Saturday charge, has conquered, claiming golf’s first Olympic title in 112 years in 2016. As for Hideki, he is no stranger to gold medals, having already topped the podium in both the individual and team golf events at the 2011 World University Games. If he can follow Rose’s lead again and win in a home Olympics, golf in Asia might just find itself in overdrive.

Already, the sport has been enjoying something of a boom in the East. On the professional side, Matsuyama’s maturation comes at the same time as other standout young stars like Sung-Jae Im and Si Woo Kim are making strides up the rankings. The women’s world rankings are currently led by three Koreans. On a grassroots level, the demand to play golf has been fuelled by lockdown and travel restrictions, leading to golf membership enquiries and prices reaching record highs in the region. While this has benefitted those managing golf courses, or selling on memberships, which, at top private clubs, are often tradeable debenture type subscriptions, the continent still has much to do to ensure that everyone who wants to play can find a tee time to do so. High population density and a relative lack of golf facilities means that tee time availability can be expensive as well as competitive.

Eric Lynge, chief executive of the Asian Golf Industry Federation (AGIF) and SMS’ special advisor for Asia, commented:

“It is a fantastic result for Asian golf! The region’s golfing community is thrilled. The challenge now is to capitalise on the momentum and make sure that Matsuyama and Kajitani’s Augusta triumphs are channelled towards broadening access to golf on the continent. Another key initiative in that respect is gathering robust, regular data on participation and playing habits across the region. The AGIF and SMS are exploring the possibility of launching new research to start quantifying fluctuations in participation and examine how this is impacted by a range of factors including the professional game, national or local initiatives and media exposure.”



Bernhard Langer talks to Mercedes-Benz: Mercedes-Maybach GLS

Earlier this week you were able to experience the Mercedes-Maybach GLS. What do you think of the car?

BL: I really like it. It’s a fantastic car, both visually and in terms of luxury and space. This for sure is the benchmark when it comes to a luxury SUV. Mercedes-Maybach stands for luxury at its best and this is the proof point. Beyond the interior and exterior design, which I really like, I especially appreciate the comfort. I guess you can’t get more comfort within a SUV. Definitely the perfect choice when you go on a (golf) trip with friends or family.

If you could take your family and friends out on a trip in the Mercedes-Maybach GLS. Where would you go?

BL: I guess in the US it could be almost everywhere, but definitely outside the big cities and closer to mountains and nature. Colorado and Utah would be good spots. In Europe it would be definitely the
Alps. I could imagine starting at my hometown in Bavaria and from there straight to the Alps – yes, that would be the perfect route.

This week at The Masters, all players get their very own dedicated Mercedes-Benz. Do you prefer a shuttle service or driving by yourself like this week at the Masters?

BL: Oh, I like being shuttled but it is always nice to hold the steering wheel yourself. It calms me down and lets me have a relaxed start into the day. The approach to the ANGC’s premises on
Magnolia Lane towards the club house is always a special sight. In addition, my own vehicle provides me with added safety as part of all the measures to protect against COVID-19.

After a dedicated Mercedes-Benz car at Augusta, what and where will you be driving next?

BL: I will be enjoying my own Mercedes-Benz back in Florida. I really like driving my own car, especially when I have the chance to take it to tournaments on the PGA Tour Champions.

You also were able to take a seat in the all-new Mercedes-Benz EQS with its Hyperscreen. What were your thoughts when you had a look at this feature?

BL: This for sure is the biggest screen I have ever seen in a car. But it makes perfectly sense and means a new level of driving assistance. It is like your personal caddy in your car. With its curved form, it reminds me of a golf hole from above.

(Text: Mercedes Benz)


Restrictions Eased: Golf Back in England

After a long wait and a bleak winter, restrictions are finally starting to ease in England.

The sun is shining, birds are chirping, and we can now take part in a limited selection of government sanctioned outdoor activities like tennis, grassroots football and golf.

In accordance with the government’s plan to gradually ease lockdown measures, golf courses across England have been given the green light to reopen from the March 29th.

England’s courses have been closed since January 5th in order to limit community spread of COVID-19.

The decision was confirmed by vaccines minister, Nadhim Zahawi, in a series of televised press interviews on Monday 22nd February.

Golf came back in Wales on Saturday March 13th, while courses in Scotland remained open throughout the Winter, albeit with limited capacity.

Casual golfers or anyone looking to start a new hobby may not be setting up their first post-lockdown tee for a little while yet. A large number of clubs in England have reopened to members only as a way to keep numbers down as restrictions continue to be in place.

Players will still have to maintain social distancing and other measures to limit the risk of spreading COVID-19. (Image: Getty)

Club houses are set to open up to guests on April 12th, with hungry golfers only allowed to bring takeaway food and drink in the meantime.

Attempts to reopen courses earlier than March 29th were unsuccessful.

England Golf and the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Golf published a report detailing how golf could be played safely in accordance with COVID-19 health guidelines, which led to strong public criticism of the government’s decision to close golf courses.

Criticism of the decision frequently centred on impacts on mental and physical health.

A petition to reopen golf courses immediately gained more than 130,000 signatures. It was debated in parliament one week ago on the 22nd of March, with no decision reached to open earlier than the planned date.

“Sport is crucial for our mental and physical health,” the government responded to the petition in a statement on the 18th of January.

Other outdoor activities like tennis and football are allowed from today. Prime minister Boris Johnson has described such activities as the “best way to restore freedom while minimising risk”.

March 29th is a big step forward in the government’s reopening programme which is currently still on track to be over by the 21st of June 2021.


Golfer’s CBD has saved my career – maybe even my life

Chris Bibby went from the career high of fourth place at the 1998 Portugal Open on the European Tour, to the depths of contemplating taking his own life on a motorway bridge, as he was racked with constant pain and confined to a wheelchair.

But after discovering the life-changing effects of Golfer’s CBD, the 42-year-old is now looking forward to a far brighter future and even has ambitions to reignite his competitive playing career.

A European Tour player in 1998-1999, Manchester-based Bibby went into teaching before his diagnosis with Multiple Sclerosis in 2015 and became head professional at Whitefield Golf Club in 2019. But he then dealt with increasing health issues with excessive inflammation of the joints and muscle spasms which deteriorated so much that he was unable to even walk.

After feeling that his long career in golf was effectively over, Bibby is not ashamed to admit that he even got to the point where he wondered whether life was still worth living.

Bibby said: “It had got to a stage where it had got really bad. I’m not going to lie – it got to a stage where I said to my wife ‘I think this is it. I can’t even stand on the range and watch people hit balls’. I was just in agony.

“How could I teach if I couldn’t show people?

“But I look back on my darkest time when I was in an electric wheelchair and just wanted to end it all. I took myself down to a motorway bridge but then realised I couldn’t get out of the chair to get over the barrier.

“Thankfully, I’m a lot more positive about the future now. It has changed my life. In a nutshell, I think Golfer’s CBD has saved my career – 100 per cent.”

CBD is short for cannabidiol, one of 113 cannabinoids identified by scientific research into the cannabis plant. The health benefits are a result of the gold standard extract used in Golfer’s CBD products. In addition to cannabidiol their broad spectrum CBD oil contains other beneficial cannabinoids, phytonutrients, flavonoids and terpenes. These compounds are known to reduce the risk of cancer, boost the immune system, fight disease and increase overall wellness.

There are significant benefits on the golf course where CBD positively influences mood, stress response and motor-function. The combined benefits on and off the golf course makes Golfer’s CBD the perfect supplement for players who want to feel healthy and produce their best golf.

Bibby only started trying the products in December 2020 but has noticed a huge difference already with the joint inflammation reduced significantly, his spasms almost eradicated and psoriasis effectively cleared in the space of a few weeks.

He said: “I heard about it and felt I had nothing to lose. I noticed an improvement within a couple of weeks and now I’m even back running and hitting balls again.

“I know some people will not believe it can make this kind of difference, but it has to me. It’s just helped me in so many different ways.

“There is no new treatment or any other medication or change in lifestyle. It’s this and nothing else.”

Now Bibby, who turned professional in 1994 with a handicap of plus-three, is contemplating another tilt at Tour golf.

He said: “I’m aiming to compete on the region and possibly some EuroPro events. But my ultimate goal would be to play on the Seniors Tour in eight years’ time.

“This has given me a new lease of life.”

Golfer’s CBD director, Andy Dixon, said: “When you get this sort of response from someone, it is inspiring and makes it all worthwhile. Chris believes we have helped save his career and changed his life in so many ways. We are just delighted we have been able to help him along the road to recovery.”

(Text: Azalea Press Release)


Coronavirus in The US: What Does It Mean For Golf Courses Nationwide?

With the Novel Coronavirus taking the world by storm, The United States included, many are left wondering what the current status of golf is. With nearly 5,000 confirmed cases of Coronavirus in the USA and with schools, government subsidies, sports leagues and more shutting down nationwide the of access to golf courses might surprise some people.

Coronavirus in America: What are the options for playing a round of golf?

With nearly 5,000 confirmed cases of the novel Coronavirus in the United States across 49 of the 50 states and nation-wide closures of bars, restaurants, government buildings, parks and more, the majority of people would safely assume that there is no chance to get out for a round of golf. The answer is surprisingly quite the contrary, as the majority of golf courses in the United States remain open for public play despite the rapidly spreading Coronavirus. Adding to the surprising level of public golf courses remaining open is the recent suspension of PGA events for the foreseeable future including arguably the most popular of the year, The 2020 Masters Tournament. It is a logical question to ask oneself if the most popular professional golf event in the world has been canceled, why on earth would courses remain open for amateur golfers? The answer more than likely lies within the fact that professional golf events hosts thousands upon thousands of spectators whereas a personal round of golf is limited to extremely small group sizes. Perhaps the answer lies within the game of golf itself given that it is played outdoors on a massively scaled area of play with groups typically being a maximum of four players.

United States Forbidding Large Gatherings

            The common theme in the United States currently is forbidding gatherings of more than 50 people, especially in indoor close contact settings such as bars and restaurants, quite the opposite of a large outdoor area where only four people will come into contact with each other. It is important to note however that despite the majority of courses remaining open, government officials are still urging individuals to withhold from playing golf despite the lower risk. A main controversial topic surrounding the current status of golf courses across the country is the average age of the player. By now it has become common knowledge that the Coronavirus is much more of a danger to older individuals than younger individuals and as most people in the golf industry know, the age of the average golfer is typically on the older side.

Golf Courses: Non-Essential Businesses

            Golf courses fall under what the United States are calling “non-essential” businesses, simply meaning that they are not necessary for everyday life unlike hospitals, supermarkets, post offices and more. Having said that, the majority of states are only “calling” for the closure of golf courses rather than strictly enforcing it, essentially meaning that it is the recommendation of the government to close but it is ultimately up to the individual course to make the final decision. Municipal golf courses in states such as Pennsylvania and California remain open with many courses implementing special installments to slow the spread of the virus. For example, golfers are allowed to play the 12 municipal golf courses throughout Los Angeles with the ability to ride solo in carts without an additional fee. Additionally, workers have installed barriers up to six-feet in order to minimize contact among players.

While the health and safety of citizens is paramount to playing a round of golf, some individuals who can’t help but want to play a round of golf are not so lucky in states such as Michigan. The governor of Michigan has since signed an executive order placing restrictions on “places of public accommodation” that applies to golf courses and country clubs alike.

Most Notable Club Closures

            Perhaps the most notable closing of all golf clubs in the United States is the closing of Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia in which chairman Fred Ridley sent a notice to members yesterday announcing the closure of the club. The average golfer must take this news with a grain of salt however since most know the extreme difficulty of getting the opportunity to play the most elusive club in the world. On the other side of the situation, the TPC network of golf clubs across the country, including TPC Sawgrass, will remain open and continue normal operations.

Please remember when making the decision to play golf or not that the health and safety of yourself and your family are much more important than playing golf. The golf courses will not go anywhere anytime soon and it is not worth it to put yourself and others at risk. Please follow the advisories of your local and state governments in regards to the best practices.

Continued Coronavirus Updates

Live updates regarding the Coronavirus worldwide can be found via the World Health Organization updates page here. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Cologne, Germany


PGA Tour: Christie Kerr and Paul Azinger Speak at the 2020 Golf Channel Media Conference

LPGA Professional Christie Kerr and Hall of Fame PGA Tour professional Paul Azinger speak at the annual Golf Channel Media Conference in Orlando, Florida

Q: Cristie are you looking forward to transitioning to television?

CRISTIE KERR: Well, I’m not done yet. I just finished sixth last week in Australia.

Q. How did this come about?
CRISTIE KERR: It’s just kind of a fun thing. It’s interesting to learn about it and to be able to see if I want to do it after golf, and I know Molly Solomon pretty well from The Golf Channel, and she’s provided me with some opportunities to get some experience, and I was in the booth in Orlando during the Sony Open on the weekend this year as well as this past year doing the CME TOUR Championship for the women, my Tour, in November.

Q. So this is your PGA TOUR debut?
CRISTIE KERR: Yes, with my good friend Paul Azinger.

Q. Your new colleague David Feherty, they asked him to do it, and he said, this beats playing golf. Is there anybody you would kind of look toward as far as an on-course reporter like Roger Maltbie?
CRISTIE KERR: I look up to everybody. I’m honored to be here working with them this weekend, and I’ve definitely picked their brains about different things. They’ve got a great team, so it behooves me to be able to kind of get information from them and just kind of lean on them when I’m sure I’m going to mess something up this week.

Q. What are you most looking forward to?
CRISTIE KERR: Just the experience. Just everything. Just also seeing the guys play. We don’t get to see them play that often. We’re not exposed to the PGA TOUR that much. I wish they would bring a mixed team event back. I know you played in that.

PAUL AZINGER: Several times.

CRISTIE KERR: I never got to play in it, so I’m like, man, I wish they would bring a mixed team event back to the U.S., with the PGA and the LPGA. I think that would be so much fun.

Q. Do you watch golf much?
CRISTIE KERR: Yeah, I watch golf. I’m a huge golf fan. I fly over to Hawai’i for one of our tournaments on Saturday so I can watch the Sunday of the Masters, make breakfast. It’s a tradition. So yeah, I’m a huge golf fan. I watch as much golf as I can, while doing a wine business and having two kids under the age of six.

Q. Will it be nerve-racking? Will you be more nervous to be a reporter than to play in the event yourself?
CRISTIE KERR: I think the feelings I’ve had being here this week have been a little bit different than playing. Playing it’s like you’re very focused, you have your routine of what you do. Like this is a different experience for me. I think it’ll be a rush. I think it’ll be — I just think it’ll be a lot of fun. I know a lot of the guys out here on TOUR, and I spent five hours on the golf course out here scouting out things yesterday. Not the drop zones and where they are apparently, but just bringing back memories of when I played here as a junior. I remembered a lot more of the golf course than I thought I would.

Q. Paul, what would your advice be now that you’ve been doing this for a while, the transition of going from a playing career to broadcasting? There’s a lot of timing involved. It’s so different than what most players probably think. It’s probably tougher than what most players may —
PAUL AZINGER: The mechanics of it can overwhelm you sometimes, I suppose. But you get used to it. It never bothered me. I don’t think it’s going to bother her. The only thing that would make her nervous is not having been around the men’s game that much. If you were doing the LPGA it would be easy as pie. There wouldn’t be any nerves. It’s what you wonder what you don’t know that’s the worst thing. In the end it’s golf, so she’s going to be able to look at the ground and look at the lie and tell us how far it is. It’s either evaluate — be yourself, that’s the thing. She knows golf as well as anybody. She said she spent five hours — you didn’t spend that much time in your career looking at the course. She’s going to be great.

Q. It’s not like you had a really job description or apply for a job with Molly, but when you look at Paul’s role as the analyst, Dan as the traffic cop in the booth and the reporter role, reporters have so many different definitions. Do you play it straight? Do you try to add humor? Do you bring the empathy of someone who’s succeeded at a high level? How do you see the role of all of this for you?
CRISTIE KERR: I have no idea, honestly. This is my first week on the PGA TOUR. I’m just trying to get through tomorrow.

Q. What’s the mindset? You’ve talked to course reporters.
CRISTIE KERR: I think just be accurate, tell if somebody hit a great shot, brilliant shot, somebody hit a bad shot. Try to talk about what I do know and not try to make up for what I don’t know about the players out here because that takes time. I mean, I think when Dottie first started doing the PGA TOUR, she didn’t know a lot of the players, especially there’s such an influx of all these very, very young players, so I’ll just try to talk about the things that I do know. Hopefully not say something stupid and be able to get through Thursday and go have my glass of wine.

Q. Certainly not on these telecasts in recent years, but you probably have never seen an analyst that was unduly harsh to a player, but just your thoughts about it from a player’s perspective?
CRISTIE KERR: About being a player reporting on players?

Q. Yeah.
PAUL AZINGER: Someone is unduly harsh to her or to us?

Q. Just in general. Johnny Miller had a rap for calling it as he saw it, but there’s also a balance, too, isn’t there.
CRISTIE KERR: Yeah, there is a balance, and I’m not going to be somebody that’s going to sit there and try to say some things to get noticed for myself. The show is the show, and the players have the stage. I’m not going to be like, hey, I’m Cristie Kerr, I’m here, I’m going to say this and that so I get noticed. It’s the show. It’s the golfers who are playing. If I have some intelligent things to say and people like them, yeah.

PAUL AZINGER: The best advice I got was from a guy named Bob Howard. Some of you may remember Howard. When I got the job with Faldo at ABC, he said, just remember, let the picture be descriptive, you be informative. We can all watch it with the mute button on. And then my wife always says before I leave the room, just remember, now, nobody is tuning in to hear you. But in the end, that’s your job. This is what you do.

She’s going to be great. She’s really truly going to be the analyst on the ground. That’s how it works. She loves golf and she knows golf, so she has a responsibility. Hicks or the hole host will go, and the person on the ground is next, that’ll be her. The wind is blowing left to right, he’s going with a 3-wood or he’s going with a 5-iron, he’s got 100-something yards and he’s got to get it over that bunker there because that’s what you would see if you were the player. That’s how it works. I think you never know until you’re doing it, but she’s done it. She knows how to do it.

CRISTIE KERR: The biggest difference is the distance out here and how far certain people carry their 3-wood, so I know whether they can get over the bunker or whether it’s an iffy shot. I can read a lot of what’s going on between player and caddie to see if they’re comfortable, confident, uncomfortable. You can mention and notice those things. You can tell when somebody is out of their routine. You can say that. I’m just going to try to report on what I’m seeing and not talk about what I don’t know.

Q. Any on-course reporters tell you the importance of turning off your mic when you’re not on screen?
CRISTIE KERR: Well, it has an automatic on and off switch, so it’ll be okay.

Q. Yeah, Feherty has some great stories where he failed to turn it off.
PAUL AZINGER: You know, Feherty was on the ground a long time, and he and Maltbie are probably the best ever at what they do, being on the ground. Being on the ground is a trip. It is fun. I think you’re going to love it. I’ve been on the ground before.


PAUL AZINGER: I did the Ryder Cup in 1995 with Tommy Roy back then, and it is a blast. But the stuff that happens, you just can’t believe the stuff that happens on the air.

Q. I know you’re old enough to remember, I don’t know if you are, but Bob Rosburg on ABC. He was wrong so often, no chance —
PAUL AZINGER: He’s got no chance. That’s what he was famous for.

Q. Cristie, you won a championship here a while ago, right, when you were a junior player?
CRISTIE KERR: Yeah, 1995 with a big afro and Coke bottle glasses.

Q. How old were you?
CRISTIE KERR: 14, 15. ’77 I was born, so however old I was there, 17 maybe. I don’t even know. 1995, and I was born October of ’77.

Q. Who’s your favorite on TV when you watch?
CRISTIE KERR: Analyst, commentator?

Q. Besides Paul.
CRISTIE KERR: Yes, of course Paul.

PAUL AZINGER: Thank you very much.

CRISTIE KERR: I think the whole team here is great. I hate to single anybody out. It is a very well-oiled machine. I’m just hoping to be part of that machine this week, and no, I’m not running for politics.

PAUL AZINGER: If you go outside of golf, my favorite analyst was Gruden when he was doing it, but honestly, John McEnroe is my favorite analyst.

CRISTIE KERR: Both very opinionated.

PAUL AZINGER: Yeah, I just loved McEnroe’s style and the way he went about it and all that. I’ve changed so much since I really just thought about doing McEnroe, but it’s different at NBC.

CRISTIE KERR: Peter Kostis is amazing, so is Dan Hicks.

PAUL AZINGER: The whole host — Hicks, Tirico.

CRISTIE KERR: Terry Gannon is great. Terry does figure skating.

PAUL AZINGER: Steve Sands does a nice job.

CRISTIE KERR: They wouldn’t have a job at the network if they weren’t very good at what they do.

Q. Do you have a broadcasting schedule beyond this tournament?
CRISTIE KERR: No, I don’t. I think I’m going to have a blast this week because I know I can’t play. Like when I was doing CME it was a great experience, I was there, but part of my heart hurt that I wouldn’t playing. But I did a great job, and I learned a lot. But being here, doing this, knowing I can’t play in the tournament, it’s going to be a lot more fun for me, I think.

Q. What did you learn? What’s the biggest thing you learned?
CRISTIE KERR: There are a lot of moving parts in TV, and how everybody has their slotted roles, and everybody has to do their roles to make the whole giant machine work. It’s pretty impressive operation if you’ve never been in a control room, there’s about 100 screens.

Q. With that in mind, have you gotten used to people talking into your ear and giving you thoughts as you’re performing?
CRISTIE KERR: Yeah, well, I’m sure I’m going to get used to it that first nine holes for sure. But it’ll be a little bit different this time because at CME I had two ears in, and I didn’t have the headset that just has one ear. So I had one for producer, one for show, and I’m going to have two and one this time, which I don’t know what I prefer, so we’ll just see what happens.

Q. And last question on that is equipment has gotten lighter. I’m not talking about wedges and clubs, I’m talking about the utility belt you have to wear. Have you gotten used to all that?
CRISTIE KERR: It wasn’t bad when I tried it on and walked around and stuff.

PAUL AZINGER: We’re going to rehearse this afternoon. We have a 4:00 meeting probably the last 20 minutes, we’ll talk about last week and then what the setup is. The officials come in and talk to the whole team, we ask questions about the course, where the drop zones are, what are the drop zone yardages, will you give us drop zone yardages in week because some courses you don’t even need to know that, there’s no water. But we’re going to go out and rehearse, everybody is going to practice, you’re going to practice a little bit down there, maybe call some practice shots today for fun.

CRISTIE KERR: I don’t know what they said, today or tomorrow morning.

PAUL AZINGER: Just all that. It takes a minute.

CRISTIE KERR: Bones is like, you never want to — he said he stepped out of play to announce into another hole where they were playing, so he said this course shouldn’t be a problem, but there’s a lot of little minutiae kind of stuff where you can’t talk downwind where they hear you. I’m like, I’m going to mess all this up. No, I’m sure I’ll be okay.

PAUL AZINGER: The wind mic is gold because if you’re talking downwind they’ll hear it. They’ll snatch around, that’s the last thing you want to hear.

CRISTIE KERR: Yeah, that’s the last thing I want to hear, so Bones and I will be —

PAUL AZINGER: You have to know how to get in position in time to get all your information, so you’ve got to know where to be. You want to see where it’s going a lot of times, but when you’re the broadcaster you’ve got to see where it is, so you’ve got to be out there. You’ve got to see where it lands. If you’re back here on the tee, you’re seeing where it’s going, that’s great. Second shot you’ve got time to see where it’s going. Tee shot, you’ve got to be halfway out there.

Q. When you’re on the golf course, you’re reliant on your shot and what your caddie has to say. In this situation you’ve got a whole truckful of people that are trying to put you in the best position to be successful. Is that a different mindset?
CRISTIE KERR: I mean, it’s definitely — well, I mean, my caddie and I just like when you played, we are a team, but it’s just a much bigger team, but you still know who you’re reporting to and who you’re going to hear critiquing from and what you have to do.

PAUL AZINGER: The hope, I think, in the end, is that we can all just be trying to have a conversation, and we’re just going to include her in it. A lot of times if you’re going down to the course reporter, the host, Gary Koch or whoever it is, Steve Sands tomorrow or Notah as the analyst will probably ask a question, what’s it look like, what you got, and off we go. It almost always will be a question. Everybody can answer questions.

Q. Nervous about if any rules situation comes up?
CRISTIE KERR: Well, I’m not in it, so I can call for a rules official. I don’t have to worry about taking a wrong drop. I mean, I can talk about these are the options in a lateral hazard or whatever. Who knows.

Q. You’ll have a blast.
PAUL AZINGER: That’s the best thing about it is you never know what’s happening. You never knew Patrick Reed was going to move sand. You didn’t know so-and-so was going to hook it in the water.

CRISTIE KERR: He didn’t think he moved sand.

PAUL AZINGER: You didn’t know what’s-his-face was going to blow a four-shot lead or a guy was going to come from behind and shoot 61. You just don’t know.

CRISTIE KERR: Being on the other side of it this week, I just feel so bad for the person who had to report that.

PAUL AZINGER: Oh, the Patrick Reed thing?


PAUL AZINGER: It was a weird dynamic, I’ll tell you, and then Hicks and I went down to the putting green and said we’ve heard from everybody else, but before we go on air do you mind talking to us, from you, we want to hear it from you so we know what to say so we get it right is what we said. He was great. He just explained — yeah. It’ll hang with him forever, I’ll tell you that. He’s got to be on his best behavior now.

CRISTIE KERR: He’s a unicorn with the way he handles pressure, though.

PAUL AZINGER: It’s unreal.

CRISTIE KERR: Most people would go hide in a hole.

PAUL AZINGER: You might want to all be aware, too, he didn’t hit it that great. He had 45 one-putts. If he hits it good, Bryson, he didn’t hit it that great on Sunday, and he had three three-putts. These two guys — you’ve got two guys that didn’t really play that great that both could have, should have won. I always say, not a lot of guys can win unless they’re playing great golf. Rory is one of those guys. Well, I think those two guys — he proved he can win when he’s not playing as best as far as I’m concerned.

CRISTIE KERR: I mean, how many victories do you have?


CRISTIE KERR: And how many times did you just play lights out where you hit it great? Half the time?

PAUL AZINGER: Not very many.

CRISTIE KERR: Yeah, same.

PAUL AZINGER: The weeks I ever won, for whatever reason nothing really bothered me.

CRISTIE KERR: Yeah, you just get in a groove and get the ball in the hole.

PAUL AZINGER: Even the first day, buried under a lip on the first hole and it doesn’t bother you because you know you’re hitting it great. There’s something at peace about it. I saw Viktor Hovland today, too.

CRISTIE KERR: Oh, you did?

PAUL AZINGER: I wanted to know how he felt coming down the stretch, so I just asked him point blank.

CRISTIE KERR: Did he know the putt was to win?

PAUL AZINGER: Yeah, he knew it all. From 15 on, he described a shot he had on 15 that was — he said he wanted to have it come and swing in but he hit it hot and it kicked straight and got on the same line and went in, so he said he got lucky there. But then he said everything just relaxed for him, and I thought, oh, yeah, I’ve had that, because that’s what happens.

CRISTIE KERR: It’s the zone.

PAUL AZINGER: Once you get it going, it’s like, whoa, this is awesome. And now it’s on, you’ve got the same rhythm, everything relaxes. Sometimes you’re not because you’re not hitting it good. Everything relaxed for him the other day. Did it feel as good as the Amateur, because we called the Amateur — anyway, I love Viktor Hovland. Of the three, Wolff, Morikawa and Hovland — somebody did ask me who I thought. They’ve all won, of those three. Last year they asked me who I thought would be the best, and I said, I think Viktor Hovland is going to be the best of all of them. I hope that Puerto Rico jinx isn’t real. Anyone who’s ever won in Puerto Rico has never won again.


PAUL AZINGER: Uh-huh, like 11 straight years.

CRISTIE KERR: Yeah, but he’s from Norway. He’ll be fine.

Q. Who are you looking forward most to watching? Obviously you’ll have an assigned group.
CRISTIE KERR: Yeah, I don’t know who I’m going to be with.

PAUL AZINGER: You’ll be with some show pony.

Q. Who are you most interested in seeing, whether you’re assigned to their group or not?
CRISTIE KERR: I’m a libra; you’re never going to get a straight answer out of me. Yeah, so —

PAUL AZINGER: I’m looking that up.

CRISTIE KERR: I balance the scales.

Q. Why do you think Viktor is going to be the best of those three?
PAUL AZINGER: Why do I think Viktor will be the best?

CRISTIE KERR: He’s got that look in his eye.

PAUL AZINGER: He just gets it, that part, and he’s a big-game player I just feel like. He’s been through a lot. We watched him win the Amateur. I called the Amateur when he won it, and if you just watch the way he hits his wedges, it’s just is on another level. And he drives it nice and hits it far, but you and I both know, when you’ve got somebody that can peel those wedges like that, it’s like, oh, he’s going to get eight to ten wedges the rest of his life every day. That’s just the way golf works.

CRISTIE KERR: He’s fearless now; what is he, 21 or something?

PAUL AZINGER: Confidence. He’s just polished, and he’s got that personality that just seems to be — he’s like a Tom Kite personality with a better smile.

Q. I was going to say, it’s hard to get the smile off his face.
PAUL AZINGER: He’s Kite with a better smile. Nothing ever bothered Kite that much. It doesn’t look like anything bothers Viktor Hovland, and he smiles. He Matt Kuchars it to death.

CRISTIE KERR: Kuchar smile.

PAUL AZINGER: Doesn’t he, Viktor? He’s got a beautiful smile. That kid just looks happy. He just looks happy.

CRISTIE KERR: Hashtag, 25 years later us.

PAUL AZINGER: Curmudgeon.

CRISTIE KERR: That’s golf, you know.

Q. Did you hear the Norwegian call on Viktor Hovland’s win?
CRISTIE KERR: I did, yeah.

PAUL AZINGER: They call golf every week, you know, over there, and was that the best reaction you ever heard in sports really? It’s like what they do in Mexico City.

Q. He was the first one to win from Norway on the men’s Tour.
CRISTIE KERR: Unbelievable.

PAUL AZINGER: I wish I could have seen the translation of what they were saying, as they were going off, just the volume. It was just such a guttural reaction, wasn’t it, from those guys? I loved it.

Q. It was pretty good.
PAUL AZINGER: You heard it, too?

Orlando, Florida

February 26, 2020

Q. Yeah, it went viral.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports