Golf must grasp opportunity to grow, says Slumbers

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Speaking ahead of the AIG Women's Open, Martin Slumbers, The R&A's Chief Executive, said the Covid-19 pandemic has given golf the chance to broaden its base and gain popularity.

Asked if there was evidence to back up claims that participation in golf has risen, Slumbers cited Sports Marketing Solutions' draft July report.

He said: "It shows that we are back already level with July of last year (2019), despite the fact that we had one month when the numbers went down 100 per cent."

"I think we have done a really good job of portraying golf as good for your health, good for your mind, and a sport that you can do in a socially distant and responsible way. There's always been a lot of sport lovers, but if you love team sports, whether you watch or play, that's going to be a challenge for the foreseeable future … and they are turning to golf."

"Our real challenge now is to make it sustainable. You have heard me talk about people will join golf clubs when golf clubs are selling the product that people want to buy. We've still got to do that, and we've still got to keep changing and we've still got to keep being modern and relevant."

"But this could be a real opportunity for the game, if we can grasp it and start showing the game in a positive way. I think that there's going to be a huge amount more debate about the need for health and the need for mental well-being out of this. It's been an extraordinary five or six months, and I think golf is right up there. I intend to use my efforts to maximise the value."

Slumbers also addressed the state of women's golf around the world.

"I think that women's golf is truly a global sport. I don't think there are many sports that are as global as women's golf. It's fascinating, I spent a lot of time behind the driving range (at Royal Troon) making sure it's all working properly, and you see the breadth of cultures. It's terrific," said Slumbers, who was diplomatic when asked if a women's professional Major should be staged in Asia.

He said: "I can only really talk about the one event that I'm responsible for. I think it would be presumptuous for me to comment on that regard.

"I think the great opportunity is particularly for the men's game in Asia, but the women's game can still grow. Who knows what the world is going to throw up in the next few years. But through the LPGA we have some fantastic Asian tournaments that really do showcase the players in Asia. and I certainly enjoy watching them."

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