DEPENDING on whom you speak to, golf is in a state of varying degrees of difficulty – in some cases rather dire – or it’s simply just coasting along without registering much, or any, growth at all.
Either way, this sport, like so many others that can be picked upon across the spectrum, could do with a decent shot in the arm, some sort of impetus that could prompt a turning of the corner for the sport and lift it to the levels where it really belongs – up there with the best.
To suggest that there might be a single answer or only one way to achieve this is way off the mark. Just as impossible as it would be for a single entity and just one person to pull it off.
No. The only way forward would be a coming together of several, or many, facets of the sport, all of them working in tandem and with the common goal of growing golf.
This week Tan Sri Tunku Imran Tuanku Ja’afar, a former president of both the Commonwealth Games Federation and the Olympic Council of Malaysia, as well as a member of the International Olympic Committee, urged the local golf industry to make a collective effort and chip in with the development of the sport.
In particular, Tunku Imran, who has huge reserves of experience and vast knowledge of sports administration having served in various capacities of leadership in the World Squash Federation, the South-East Asian (SEA) Games Federation, Taekwondo Malaysia, the Squash Racquets Association of Malaysia and the Malaysia Cricket Association of which he remains the patron, challenged golf clubs and courses to weigh in with assistance for the nurturing of junior golf in Malaysia.
He called on golf clubs to allow juniors to “play for free”.
Tunku Imran said that the Hainan Golf Association had managed to persuade their clubs to do it and that it was proving the key to the successful development of their sport.
Sharing his thoughts after a charity golf game in Kuala Lumpur this week, Tunku Imran said that he would not expect the juniors to play as and when they wished.
But instead, said that things could be worked out in such a way that the slots offered to the juniors did not infringe on the club’s
day-to-day operations or inconvenience members, if it was a members’ club.
He said that there were distinct similarities between golf in Malaysia and Hainan, a destination he recently visited. And it was from here that Malaysian golf could learn a thing or two, he added.
Tunku Imran noted that Hainan has top-class golf clubs that are patronised by a steady stream of tourists from across the globe. And the big difference being, he pointed out, was that the China clubs worked together – amongst themselves – to help promote the sport and was one way through which junior golf benefited.
Several of the leading clubs here, if not all, have their own junior programmes but they have not
yet publicly invited juniors to play for free.
Sime Darby Property, Hospitality & Leisure chief executive officer Steven Thielke said they had not been approached about any such arrangement or exercise but added that TPC Kuala Lumpur, which falls under his portfolio, had their own junior programme in place, as well as an academy.
Palm Garden Golf Club in Putrajaya also have their own academy, whose juniors get to use the facility.
The club said in a statement that they too allowed the juniors from their academy to play the course as part of their package.
“At the moment juniors who are not attached to the club do not play the course (for free), but it might be something that we can look at it if it is raised with Palm Garden” added the statement.
Gamuda Director of Club Operations & Townships Tang Meng Loon said they too had not been approached about such a set-up but added that they would give it due consideration and help wherever they could.
Kota Permai Golf & Country Cub in Kota Kemuning, Shah Alam and Horizon Hills in Johor Baru are the two Gamuda courses that fall under Tang’s watch.
“If it was raised through the right channels, a proposition such as this would certainly be considered, ” said Tang. “Our clubs are all for trying to help develop junior golf and golf in general in this country. So, if we can make a contribution then that is what we will try to do.”
Els Club Malaysia, with two courses in Johor Baru – Ocean and Valley – and Teluk Datai in Langkawi, do have a programme whereby juniors can play for free.
“It falls under our Troon Family programme, ” explained an executive of the company. “Juniors are welcome to play for free but they must be accompanied an adult.
“This programme which has been in place for a while now, caters specifically for juniors under the age of 16.
“Also, if there is anything else that we can assist in the development of the game, then we will certainly consider it and see how best to move forward, ” he added.
This is the sort of mentally that will help golf grow and should be applauded.
It is also the sort of stuff that will help dim the views of those who think that the game of golf might not be doing as well as it should.