Date: November 21, 2012
Author: Ewan Porter / Golf Australia

Ewan Porter blog: Making the numbers stack up

For generations, Australia has consistently produced world-class golfers. Despite the fact that in 2012, only Marc Leishman was successful on the PGA Tour, Australians generally boast a significant presence on the leaderboards of all the major tours on a weekly basis. There are many contributing factors as to why for such a small nation, we churn out some of the best golfing talent in the world, ranging from a climate conducive to playing golf year-round to what I ve always considered to be a very affordable pursuit compared to the United States and some Asian destinations. There s no question that the affordability of a membership to a golf club, public or private in Australia, is still significantly cheaper than the aforementioned countries. But over the past few years, I have been a little taken back by the dent left in my wallet from certain golfing facilities. To some, this may seem like a rant or some form of spoilt plea for lenience but I am approaching it in terms of the game remaining cost-effective and cost-attractive to everyone from my fellow professionals to club members and new juniors and families. As a member of the PGA of Australia, I part with approximately $1000 each year in member subscriptions to maintain the privileges I ve established. In the US, I pay $275 per year to compete on the Web.Com Tour and have played anywhere in the vicinity of 20-30 events per year from 2008-2011. If I was to join the PGA of America on top of this, only $300 extra would be required. Aside from famed venues such as Pebble Beach, Pine Valley, Cypress Point and Augusta National, I can play the majority of golf courses in the US at no charge so long as I subscribe to a courtesy call to the Head Professional prior to my round. On some occasions, including a handful of well known private golf clubs, I have even been extended the privilege of inviting along fellow golfers. In 2009, I spent a week in Melbourne preparing for a stretch of tournaments in that region and was excited to be playing on a daily basis at what I consider to be the best golf courses on the planet. With what I d seen in the States regarding course hospitality, I was a little surprised at the welcome at times. I will not name the three golf courses where I had disappointing experiences but I still remember the one where they were extremely generous in their hospitality and welcome. Whether a golfer is a pro, club member or, even more importantly, a new player, first impressions last a long time – bad ones last even longer. Being a Sydney-sider and not holding a golf club membership, I returned home recently and have visited a couple of local driving ranges to work on finding a game resembling a professional golfer again. On one occasion, I was charged $17.50 for a bucket of 100 balls. Maybe half of them had dimples remaining on the cover and the mats I hit off left my wrist begging me to take mercy on it. Now I realise that the dimples won t matter to everyone, nor the mats. Most people aren&apost trying to become professional golfers – they just want to have fun or spend some time doing practice. But at those prices for 100 balls, it starts to cost a bit to take teens to the range for family fun- particularly when you can kick a football in the park or practice your medium pace bowling in local nets for free. Arguments over value for money per opportunity also have the potential to impact future generations of golfers in Australia and by proxys the growth of our sport. One leading golf facility in inner-Sydney now charges in excess of $30 for a large bucket of balls. To think that hitting one large bucket per week for 52 weeks would equate to a sum greater than many annual golf club dues is a little mind-boggling. Imagine three kids heading to range to hit balls nearly $100 for an hour or so worth of entertainment in a competitive market for leisure time. In fairness, the majority of golf club memberships remain affordable and the way our club competitions are structured continue to flourish. But it s the increase in costs at grassroots levels that may see kids turn their attention to other sports and your average Joe decide to sacrifice a bucket of balls for other ways to spend their leisure time and money. So while our great and proud sporting and indeed golfing nation continues to ride high on overseas success stories, an eye to the future will be what allows superstars to shine through and ensure golf’s participation levels to maintain pace with competing codes. Ewan Porter is an Australian professional golfer who most recently played on the Tour in the United States. He won twice on that Tour – the 2008 Moonah Classic and the 2010 South Georgia Classic and is a freelance columnist for and has commentated for Fox Sports. He has just published his first book Tour Confidential – available on Amazon, Kindle and other online retailers. His views do not necessarily represent those of Golf Australia. You can follow him on Twitter: @ewanports