They say you can’t please all the people all the time. Yet somehow, a day out with the family is supposed to do just that. Husbands, wives, toddlers, teens – everybody all together now – “That was an awesome time!”
An impossible dream?
No. But if golf is your recreational pursuit of choice, you must pick your spot carefully. Informed by a survey of our 87,000 Facebook fans, we identified some of the things that make golf fun for you and your family. For many, it was a combination of welcoming facilities that offer an array of playing opportunities outside traditional member timeslots.
“A good sub-junior program that is run during quieter times at the course (Sunday afternoons at our club) is essential,” says golf parent Kelly Garland. “Our club allows kids – with parents caddieing – to access the course, learn at their own speed without pressure from senior members to hurry up, and after their round the clubhouse has 20-30 kids and parents all enjoying a cold drink and celebrating the day’s winners in each grade. That’s fun!”
That touchy subject of attire featured prominently in the responses, too.
“Relaxed dress codes,” says John Zalski.
“Yes, nobody tells you what to wear when you take your kids to rugby,” adds Iain Parker.
Others believe a swift change in personnel would boost the fun-factor.
“What would make golf more fun? For my current board to quit, that’s what,” says a frustrated Mark Linford.
But then there are those, like Time Dwards, who wouldn’t change a thing: “I love my family and my golf. The two are mutually exclusive.”
And therein lies golf’s greatest conundrum: how do we attract more people to the sport without upsetting, or worse, driving its current crop of loyal participants away? It’s clear there are many who already feel threatened at the very thought of opening up their course to newcomers.
“How would I make golf more family friendly? About the same as what you’d do to make a strip club more family friendly. People usually go to golf for a break from their family,” says a straight-shooting Kyle Stringer.
Bill King chimes in: “Don’t tell my wife, though after 50 years she has probably worked that one out.” King’s humorous take didn’t end there. “A friend of mine made the mistake of inviting his wife to a pennant final and she discovered a round doesn’t take six hours.”
OK, so golf is indeed a great way to enjoy some much-needed downtime, whether that be on your own or with friends away from the family. But if hard-core golfers and intrigued non-playing families are to really co-exist in this post-COVID world, more clubs and companies need to play along if the latest Golf Australia participation report is any measure. In its latest study, titled “New member demand… The impact of COVID-19”, the sport’s governing body revealed more than 42,000 Australians had joined golf clubs in the 10 months to the end of October, representing a whopping 126 percent surge in new membership demand. Golf Australia’s general manager of golf development David Gallichio was optimistic about the findings, compiled by Golf Business Advisory Services, but highlighted the “critical” need for the industry to sustain the long-term interest.
“The numbers themselves are important right now,” Gallichio says. “But what is paramount for the game’s future is for us to ensure the retention of the new members and players by extrapolating the data and taking those lessons to our clubs and facilities.”
The strongest growth has been among males aged 20-49 with almost 75 percent of male membership growth from that cohort. Male membership growth has represented 88 percent of the total surge and it is women aged 50-plus who have been responsible for more than 56 percent of the female growth.
Gallichio said the research also pointed to the different ways new members were using their clubs. In the corresponding six-month period in 2019, new members played 64 percent of their golf at weekends.
“This year’s newcomers have switched that up to the point that only 56 percent are playing across weekends,” Gallichio said. “And we’ve been excited to see a 133 percent spike in new members in regional areas [to the end of October 2020], too.
“These are just some of the lessons we have to take on as an industry to ensure that new members get the most value from their investment and continue long-term.”
So the message is clear: more people are playing golf and, clearly, having fun doing it. Here’s a collection of those responsible for making the sport more appealing to the masses. And by masses, we mean families.
It’s a narrative that’s been doing the rounds for years: golf in Australia needs to be more family friendly. So the folk at Shanx Golf decided to do something about it – create a truly inclusive, family-based pathway to the game of golf via the construction of mini-golf courses.
“We wanted to create a unique golf-based product that breaks down the barriers to the game: time, cost and family-centric activities,” says general manager Peter Vlahandreas of Greenspace Management.
“A Shanx mini-golf immediately changes the demographic of a facility and invites families and non-golfers to participate in relaxed activities at the golf club.”
Vlahandreas, a man with years of experience of golf-club management, firmly believes what his company has created is the future of mini golf, and it doesn’t include spinning wheels, clown heads or rocks in the middle of holes.
“Our courses look and feel like real golf courses,” he says. “Because of this, Shanx targets a broad cross-section of users, from scratch golfers through to first-time players and everyone in between. We design and build our courses around how golf is actually played, rather than for amusement purposes, and in turn this creates a fun
yet challenging experience that you want to keep coming back and playing time after time.”
See greenspacemanagement.com.au for more details.
Performance Brands Australia
Performance Brands Australia is an importer and distributor of sports products and training technology from around the world. Director Clint Rice, a PGA member with extensive knowledge of the golf industry after playing on tour, leads this innovative company that is putting fun back into golf practice. Performance Brands Australia brings the highly marketed, most successful brands to Australia that can be used by athletes of any level. Among the company’s flagship line of products in 2021 are the WellPutt putting mat – challenge the whole family to see who really is the best on the greens – and the Rapsodo Mobile Launch Monitor [above] – the only launch monitor that uses the power of your mobile device to provide immediate feedback on launch data, instant video replay and active shot trace. While it’s built for and trusted by the game’s best instructors, the Rapsodo MLM is addictive for the whole family. Compete in long-drive contests, record and share videos over social media and, ultimately, improve your game and have more fun!
See performancebrandsaustralia.com.au for more information.
Thornleigh Golf Centre
If there was one knock on a place that offers state-of-the-art driving range facilities, two mini-golf courses [top] and great food all in one place, it was navigating the notoriously bad traffic along Pennant Hills Rd to get to Thornleigh Golf Centre [above]. Not anymore. With Sydney’s much-publicised NorthConnex – a nine-kilometre twin tunnel that links the M1 Pacific Motorway at Wahroonga to the Hills M2 Motorway at West Pennant Hills – now open, there’s not a truck to be seen, and a fraction of all the other traffic, making your commute to this outstanding family-golf facility a joy, regardless of which direction you’re coming from. Led by head pro Steve Aisbett, Thornleigh Golf Centre boasts a two-storey driving range with 50 bays, including 20 automated tees, and a jam-packed pro shop with all the latest and greatest gear to get you hooked on the game. With seven AAA-rated professionals teaching there each day, this is the perfect place to improve your game or host birthday parties and corporate golf events.
See thornleighgolfcentre.com.au for more.
Learning how to swing the golf club, let alone replicating Adam Scott’s flawless moves, can be frustrating and even drive many newcomers away from the sport. But Tim Kierath has designed a product to make golf’s introduction encouraging and fun.
Widely known as the founder of Hoselink, an online company specialising in patented, world-leading garden hose fittings that are reliable and burst-free, Kierath used his knowledge of product design to build a training aid that helps you mimic and achieve the feel of the golf swings of elite tour professionals. Designed for men, women and children so everyone in your household can get the feel for golf, Swing Eagle is the perfect platform for anyone to learn what a golf swing should feel like and let their muscle memory take over.
“For all the tips, pictures and videos in the world, none of them permit you to feel the swing employed by professional golfers. But Swing Eagle does,” Kierath says.
Swing Eagle guides your hands and golf club on the ideal swing path and with just one minute of daily training, recalibrates your brain and body to change your swing to the pro swing.
See swingeagle.com.au for more details.
City Golf Club Toowoomba
Atmosphere is everything in a family-friendly environment, and City Golf Club Toowoomba eagles this with aplomb, quite rightly marketing itself as a true “community club”.
Despite being the proud host of the Queensland PGA Championship thanks to its supreme golf course that’s open to the public seven days a week, it’s what the place does for non-golfers that puts it in a unique space in Australian golf. Newcomers can learn their craft on the driving range or challenge themselves with the putter on the club’s own mini-golf course, which offers 18 fun-filled, themed holes with many obstacles and twists and turns that’ll have you coming back for more.
Boasting three separate eateries – Reitano’s Bar, 25Fore Cafe & Grill and The Sweet Spot –the club offers lunch and dinner specials to the public, while its kids room, courtesy bus and free live entertainment on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights guarantee you will have a stress-free night out on the town. The club even has its own bottleshop and 200 gaming machines with Keno and TAB facilities, making City Golf Club Toowoomba a one-stop shop, whether it’s for golf or not.
See citygolf.com.au for more information.
Sanctuary Cove Resort
The thing about Sanctuary Cove Resort is it has everything any visitor could want. Not one but a pair of Top 100-ranked golf courses, elite accommodation, acres of water to swim in, restaurants, bars and an alluring marina precinct. It is as close to an all-in-one stop as you could ask for. In fact, were it not for the myriad other attractions on Queensland’s glittering Gold Coast, you probably wouldn’t leave until it was time to return home. That’s assuming you don’t live in the residential estate already, of course. After all, Adam Scott does whenever he’s home in Australia. There are few better endorsements of Sanctuary Cove than that.
See sanctuarycovegolf.com.au for more.
Fun is a subjective word, perhaps never more so than on the golf course. But if you aren’t having fun while playing at Joondalup Resort [above], then maybe golf isn’t the sport for you. The level of imagination required to conquer the 27 holes in northern Perth peaks on the Quarry and Dune nines, but is evident on the Lake course as well. Four or five hours spent deciphering Robert Trent Jones Jnr’s inventive layout and cheeky contours in a unique setting is an ongoing thrill. Off the course, Joondalup Resort caters for groups, families, couples and singles, meaning the fun never has to end.
See joondalupresort.com.au for more.
McCully Golf Schools
We try to convince our kids that learning can be fun, but is the same statement true in golf? Sure – if you’re the patient type (like most golfers have to be). McCully Golf Schools at Black Bull Golf Club on the Murray River offers multi-day programs to suit anyone looking to improve their game. “The three and five-day golf school programs give you the time required to understand how your swing works. Then how to help build on that knowledge to create a consistent golf game,” says veteran teaching professional Glenn McCully. And with the brand new Sebel Yarrawonga on-site, your evening activities are sorted.
See blackbullgc.com.au for more details.
Maroochy River mini golf
What if we offered you a brand of golf that was fast, fun, doesn’t take hours and hours, requires only one club and guarantees you won’t lose a ball. Impossible? No, it’s mini golf. Maroochy River Golf Club’s facility is one of golf-course architect Richard Chamberlain’s growing portfolio of mini golf designs. For variety (and fun), Maroochy River’s course features two cups per hole. “They’re still charging only $15 for a game but it gives the club the option to say, ‘You played to the red flag – give us another $5, go around again and play to the other flag,’ and hopefully you get $20 out of them and they’ve got two hours of entertainment,” Chamberlain says.
See maroochyrivergolfclub.com.au for more information.
Yarrawonga Mulwala Golf Resort
If volume impresses you when it comes to golf, there is no more voluminous publicly accessible golf to be enjoyed in one place than at Yarrawonga Mulwala Golf Resort, a time-honoured stop along the Murray River. With 45 holes on offer, it’s an ideal place to play and stay for multiple days on any river sojourn. The Murray course is the pick, but don’t discount the Lake course or even the par-33 Executive nine. Throw in various forms of accommodation, bars and restaurants, plus tennis, lawn bowls, croquet, a swimming pool and even a cinema, and you have family fun wrapped up in an all-encompassing package.
See yarragolf.com.au for more details.
Putt18 practice putting mat
Stuck for things to do during the holidays? Want to get your golf on when the sun goes down? Grab yourself the latest in interactive putting mats and join the Putt18 community.
Play other golfers at home or remotely, even start your own competitions of strokeplay or matchplay, as singles or in teams. The Putt18 mat [below] is perfect for junior development programs and a great
wet-weather entertainment option for all.
Order yours at putt18.com.au