By Gary Firkins, Founding Director
Two stories in the news recently underlined just how poor golf’s reputation is and why, as an industry, it is still not proactive enough in communicating why it is relevant and beneficial to a diverse, contemporary audience.
Firstly, the Daily Telegraph carried a prominent headline ‘Muirfield Golf Club finally admits its first women members, 275 years after it opened.’
Secondly, the BBC reported that Scottish Natural Heritage has recommended that Menie links – which forms part of the Trump International Golf Links in Aberdeenshire – should lose its status as a nationally important protected environment. It reported sand dunes had been “destroyed”, causing permanent habitat loss.
These news stories reinforce all the old clichés: golf is a sexist, elitist game and bad for the environment, too.
While there are always two sides to every story – and Muirfield’s announcement was meant to be good news – the perception is negative. The problem for golf is that perception is reality.
In my experience as a journalist and brand communications consultant, golf clubs and golf resorts are poor at communicating to their own members and customers, let alone the outside world.
So, it’s no surprise that the wider negative reputation of golf is often unfairly applied to all golf venues.
Yet there is an opportunity to tell a very different story.
Recent golf market research – including that published by Syngenta’s industry leading Growing Golf campaign – indicates women are very interested in taking up golf, attracted by the opportunity to spend time relaxing outdoors and socialising with family and friends.
Golf courses can also be precious ‘green lungs’, especially within urban areas, and important spaces for people to de-stress, benefiting biodiversity and recreation for both physical and mental health.
In short, golf has positive, relevant messages to communicate that would benefit its reputation at both the macro and micro levels.
Reputation matters, of course, because it has a direct impact on the value of a business and its ability to operate sustainably. (Think about the value to Muirfield of being an Open venue – and the commercial value of the Open to the R&A.)
But here’s a watch-out. Reputation doesn’t come from just saying the right thing; it’s what you do that really counts.
And from the right actions, come the right words.