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Golf Australia Express : Issue 38
director of South East Asia Pacific, Leighton Richards. As former brand director of iconic watchmaker Tag Heuer, Richards knows his stuff when it comes to brand positioning. He says that while the game is heading in the right direction, too much of it remains in the conservative corner. “I would say that the game is still pretty much conservative,” he says. “But when you look at the PGA Tour and see some of the new younger influences coming through you can really see that conservatism is changing rapidly.” Richards believes the absence of clear direction at the top is holding back the game’s expansion. Like the game itself, changing this brand is incredibly complex. “It’s really hard to look at golf as a brand because I think it's still quite fragmented,” he says. “The biggest challenge the game of golf has is to get all stakeholders far more aligned to strive for one particular vision.” It makes sense. But the USGA and R&A calling for more conservatism and restrictions at a time when golfing liberalism is all the trend seems counterintuitive to what’s in the game’s interest. “There’s a paradox between what the governing body wants to hold onto versus what you are seeing in some of the younger, more influential Tour players like Rickie Fowler and these guys coming through who want to use belly putters and wear colourful outfits.” “There's lots of rumours about that belly putters will be banned. To me that’s schizophrenic because if we're really wanting to hold onto the traditions of the game, why did we ever let metal woods come into it? “Suddenly they're saying the game is going to be too easy, which I totally disagree with. “The USGA are holding onto a traditional view. That's going to beatotalwarasIseeit.” RICHARDS IS QUICK TO point out that golfers on the PGA Tour—and the women on the LPGA Tour who have changed “conservatism much quicker and at a much greater rate than the men have”—will not alone determine golf’s brand. He pointed out the success the AFL had targeting a community approach in conjunction with a focus on its players. “Has golf really addressed, or gone down the path of community involvement? “Golf clubs still really don't like kids at the golf club. They really are not that welcoming of women. You have the women's day on Wednesday—well what message does that send? We don't want the men and the women together. “When you look into golf clubs, which is another golf stakeholder, the culture and nature of the environment of golf clubs is still conservative. “And Australia is behind the US in terms of loosening strict rules at golf clubs. “To me it's still about getting the governing bodies aligned in growing the game,” Richards says. “And let's not forget the impact of the Olympics. If anything, let’s hope the Olympics aligns the governing bodies in one certain direction.” It would appear taking advantage of this modern day movement is vital to golf's growth as rival sports continue to grow in popularity. “Now is the time. We are seeing a trend—at least overseas in younger players—and golf’s not as daggy as it was.” In many ways, the times are finally a changin’ for golf— only five decades after Bob Dylan warned us. Hey, better late than never, right? OTG “Now is the time. We are seeing a trend— at least overseas in younger players—and golf’s not as daggy as it was.” Ben Crane, formerly golf's slowest player, heads the revolution as frontman of Golf Boys. But first came a hilarious series of YouTube clips. This one on slow play [above] is our favourite.