The PGA of Australia has come out swinging at suggestions the sport in Australia is in disarray and that interest in golf is declining.
PGA of Australia chief executive Max Garske says reported unflattering comparisons with the Greg Norman era are misleading.
His statements follow the release of the 208 Sweeney Sports Report and some related media commentary.
Garske disputed the Sweeney report’s findings that golf “suffered most” over the last 12 months with claimed “record lows” in relation to participation and television viewing.
“The Sweeney Report and the consequential media commentary have painted a flawed and potentially damaging picture of the Australian Golf Industry,” Garske said in a statement.
Among the report findings were that the proportion of people who watch golf on TV had dropped to 19 per cent, down from a peak of 42 per cent in 1990-91 – when Norman was the No.1 player in the world.
It also said overall public interest in the game was at an all-time low of 23 per cent, down from last year’s 31 per cent, and the proportion of Australians who said they played golf, 14 per cent, was the survey’s lowest ever.
“Australian golf is constantly compared to the time when Greg Norman was at the peak of his game,” Garske said.
“The sports and media landscape of the 1990s bears little resemblance today.
“Consider this. Of Greg Norman’s 20 international victories only two were shown live on Australian TV compared to all 87 of Tiger Woods’ victories being beamed into Australian homes.
“People consume their golf interest in different ways today and their ability to consume it when and how they like is virtually unlimited.
“It is misleading to compare a domestic free to air audience of 2008 to one in 1990.”
The PGA produced its own statistics, from a number of sources, including that:
- The Australian Government’s Exercise, Recreation and Sport Survey (ERASS) found that over 1.13 million Australians play golf each year. This is around 7 percent of the total population aged over 15 years
- Between 2001 and 2006, golf remained second on the ERASS Top Ten organised sport activities list, behind only aerobics/fitness and ahead of netball, tennis, all football codes, cricket, basketball and lawn bowls
- The Australian Golf Industry directly employs over 23,000 people and has an annual economic value to the Australian GDP of $2.7 billion – by far the greatest sport/industry contributor to the Australian economy (source: Ernst & Young (2006))
- Australia currently has over 100 male PGA professional’s playing on international golf circuits, including 24 on the US PGA TOUR, which includes 12 ranked in the Top 100 Official World Golf Rankings and two, Geoff Ogilvy and Adam Scott, in the top five (source: Official World Golf Rankings as of 29 June 2008)
- Australia currently has 30 female Professionals playing on international circuits, including 10 in the Top 200 Rolex Rankings with Karrie Webb at World Number 5 (source: Women’s World Golf Rankings as of 30 June 2008)
- Over 39 percent of all golfers maintain golf club membership (source: Golf Australia, 2008)
- In 2006/07 over 31,000,000 rounds of golf were played – a steady result over the past three years (source: Golf Australia, 2008)
- In 2007 over 1,535,000 dozen golf balls were sold in Australia compared to 1,472,000 dozen in 2004 (source: Aust. Sporting Goods Assn (ASGA) Golf Surveys 2001-07)
- Total wholesale sales of all golf equipment in Australia increased by nearly $20 million between 2001 and 2007 to $166.6 million (source: ASGA Golf Surveys 2001-07)
Garske pointed to the amalgamation of golf governing bodies in this country in recent years to answer criticism that the game is too fragmented.
And he suggested some media reports read too much into problems finding financial backing for some major tournaments in Australia.
“By itself, a golf tournament in Australia without a naming rights sponsor is not the sole barometer of popularity, support or interest in golf here,” he said.
“It is evident from broader analysis that the state of the Australian golf industry is far from dire. Never in history has the industry worked so closely together in an effort to develop the game at every level and, contrary to recent speculation, we are extremely confident of a promising future.”
See the full PGA statement here