David Howell is urging golf clubs and ranges to be more flexible to encourage new players to the game. However, the two-time Ryder Cupper does not believe golf suffers from an ‘elitist’ attitude.
Howell, speaking exclusively to The Golf Paper, vented his frustration that a fall in golf participation is down to its so-called ‘stuffy’ nature.
“It annoys me when I hear that golf is perceived as this elitist sport,” said Howell. “Like it is an old man’s game for the privileged. Sorry, but that’s not my experience of golf; that’s not how I learned the game. I started with a ball and a club in a field.
“I grew up playing and learning my golf at a course in Swindon called Broome Manor, a municipal course. You could play in your jeans; there were very few restrictions – it was just the perfect environment for golf.
“I was in China recently, and they have a real problem over there developing the game because it really is all high-end, private members golf – and proper high-end.
“There is very little opportunity for kids, in fact anyone other than those from the upper-classes, to get into the game. Until they sort that out, they are not going to be a golfing nation, in my opinion.
“But golf is not elitist in Britain. Look at Scotland, yes there are many private members’ clubs, but they are pretty cheap to play and they are accessible. That’s what golf is built on up there: it is accessible to the working man.”
Howell, who divides much of his time between the course and TV studio with his work for Sky, also weighed into the debate of the Open Championship moving to the pay-per-view station following The R&A’s decision to sell viewing rights.
“People are saying that taking the game away from terrestrial TV will do it harm, and that it will kill the game over here. But let’s be clear, if we are relying on four days of terrestrial TV to grow the game in this country, then we really do have a problem.
“On the Sky TV versus BBC issue, Paul McGinley made a very good point. Yes he is pro Sky, but he pointed to the glaring fact that they have done such an excellent job with their coverage of football. They have made it so much more entertaining. Football has just gone from strength to strength. Look at the Ryder Cup; since Sky got involved, that event has grown massively in popularity to be one of the best and biggest events in the game.”
Meanwhile, Howell, who will line up at the BMW Championship at Wentworth next week, is confident that his game is ready for an assault this season where he can add to his six tour wins.
“After winning the Dunhill in 2013, things didn’t go that well in the first half of last year. But then back end of 2014, it started to pick up, and into this year it has been great.
“I have had three chances to win this year, yes I haven’t been able to do it, but I have been there. Tournaments are getting bigger now, and it would be great to consolidate this form.
“Top 50 in the world is where you want to be, and the easiest way to get there is to win, rather than come second.”