For years Mum and I used to go on jaunts to Wentworth to watch the golf, whether it was in May for the PGA Championship or in October when it was the World Matchplay. My favourite was always the October trip. We watched thrilling head-to-head duels round the West course and witnessed swashbuckling Seve at his Spanish best and Ernie Els, he of the sublime tempo, triumphing on more than one occasion to our huge delight.
We went prepared for anything the weather could throw at us, usually did two rounds and we’d stop off in the tented village for a welcome coffee and sandwich at the halfway point. I remember pushing Mum up the hills so she wouldn’t slip in her wellies on the tricky slopes and we sidestepped our way down the other side. They were long, tiring, exhilarating days – golf fans generally have to work hard to enjoy their sport – but it was fantastic, great and fuelled my ambitions of perhaps one day being world No 1.
There was only one star of the show and that was the golf.
This week the 2017 BMWPGA Championship has so much going on outside the ropes you would be forgiven for not actually making it onto the golf course at all. By the time you’ve tried your hand at the 100 feet putting challenge and stepped into the virtual worlds of golf and cars (BMWs naturally) your heroes will already be on the back nine. You can create a film clip of yourself playing a shot into Wentworth’s final green, then try the virtual hole-in-one challenge before testing your reflexes with the radio-controlled cars on the BMW M race track. Challenges abound at every turn and then there are the shops, with the pro’s shop alongside a BMW Lifestyle shop – and that’s all before you stumble on “The Showstage”. Pardon? Yep – that’s right – a stage where Status Quo will be belting out their numbers on Saturday evening and on Sunday it’ll be the turn of the Kaiser Chiefs. Wow!
You don’t have to wait until the weekend for the music to start, however. The players have provided their favourite tracks to be played over the loud speaker systems at the practice ground while they warm up and when they arrive at the first tee there will be a couple of announcers keeping the grandstands up to date with who’s done what before handing over to the official starter, Alistair Scott.
All the razzmatazz will be supported by numerous izzy-whizzy apps and digital platforms informing us of everything at every conceivable turn. No need to walk a step – or, indeed, watch a single shot that matters. And the cost? That’s one of the most amazing facts of all. An adult can buy a season e-ticket for £85 which covers entry from Tuesday to Sunday inclusive, as well as admission to the Saturday and Sunday concerts.
Of course, these initiatives are all part of a drive to make golf more universally appealing and to win over fans from the other numerous sports and pastimes competing for their attention, time and money. Are we not concentrating too much, however, on the peripherals instead of the actual golf ? I do get the need to have all these extra hooks to bring people in to the sport but we need to engender their interest in the sport itself and then sustain and maintain that, hopefully fanning those flames into a passion.
Perhaps this IS the way to go about it – I really don’t know and I’m really pleased to see these initiatives but I just hope that when the crowds disperse after the Kaiser Chiefs gig on Sunday that all the spectators will be saying what Mum and I used to think:-
The golf was the star of the show.