Can Niall Horan, Gareth Bale and Mo Farah save golf? R&A puts faith in celebrities’ hands

The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, known for its long delay in accepting women as members, is now making efforts to modernize. Recently, pop singer Harry Styles created a buzz when he appeared and played at the Old Course. In a bid to promote diversity and attract more players, the club’s executives, led by Phil Anderton, the R&A’s chief development officer, are launching a new initiative. This includes Golf. Golf platform, an online pilot featuring searchable lists of driving ranges, simulators, and municipal courses.

The campaign will also feature videos with famous personalities like Gareth Bale and Mo Farah, aiming to showcase the virtues of the sport to their extensive social media followers. Anderton aims to address the perception that golf is not seen as a modern game by the public, with research suggesting that 92% of people hold this view. By appealing to both older and younger audiences, the R&A hopes to bring in more participants and ensure the sport’s future growth. The program will be extended to the 200 national federations, providing practical support for the development of the sport. Although some traditionalists may remain skeptical, Anderton believes that these changes will ultimately benefit golf’s long-term thriving.

The R&A is investing approximately £400,000 in the project so far, with celebrities contributing their services voluntarily. The focus will be on promoting nine-hole formats, driving ranges, and six-hole programs for children to make golf more accessible. However, Anderton acknowledges that traditional golf clubs will continue to exist, as the goal is to offer diverse options and cater to various preferences. While preserving traditions in St Andrews, the R&A is also pioneering innovation with the “Golf It” concept, a vast indoor and outdoor golf attraction set to open in Glasgow. This includes pitch and putt, adventure golf, and a double-decker floodlit driving range.

By targeting younger adults who currently engage in other sports, the R&A aims to expand the sport’s appeal. Anderton emphasizes that the initiative is not a response to competing organizations but rather a commitment to support and collaborate with federations and affiliates worldwide. The R&A intends to leverage its position as a guardian of the game and build upon the sport’s existing strength. The forthcoming research by the R&A will demonstrate the sport’s sustained growth despite previous concerns. This proactive approach aims to ensure golf remains vibrant and relevant for generations to come.

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