First we must unify, then simplify our message to newcomers. By Christian Hamilton

Looking at Golf Australia’s area of programs and the next steps in 2021 and beyond, I think it’s really important to highlight two key areas: (1) If we are to realise our true potential as a sport, we need to be unified and collectively understand the need to simplify the messaging to communities on how people can enter and get involved our sport; and (2) Understand the value for clubs and facilities in aligning with Golf Australia and PGA national programs – MyGolf and Get Into Golf. 

Golf Australia and the PGA collaborate extremely closely on these initiatives, ensuring the two peak bodies stand together on these key participation initiatives.

Having a whole-of-industry approach that includes governing bodies, stakeholders and clubs and facilities around developing a clear message to the consumer on how they can enter the sport will be critical to the sport’s success over the next decade and beyond.

We recognise that if all clubs and facilities had a variety of ‘stand alone’ group offerings, this is very confusing for new people looking to enter the sport. Golf is unique to other sports, where the entry point for all is through the 1,600-plus individual clubs and facilities across Australia.

If we are to compete with other sports for people’s leisure time, we need to make the entry into the game as clear and seamless as possible, and that means a whole-of-industry supported pathway for people looking for offerings from our highly skilled PGA professionals and our community-instructor workforce. 

We recognise that many clubs around the country have fantastic “stand alone” offerings outside of the MyGolf and Get Into Golf family. We’re not asking these clubs to change their group/program curriculum, just ensure that people can find what they are looking for by aligning in one national brand that we can promote to the 1.25 million Australians (Nielsen Sports Research, 2016) that want to get into the game of golf but don’t know where to start.

Since its inception in 2014, MyGolf continues to grow at a strong pace, with more than 800 registered MyGolf facilities across the country, 20,000-plus kids in club-based programs and more than 30,000 in school-based programs.

The uptake of clubs getting behind the recently launched national adult program, Get Into Golf, has been equally encouraging, with 93 percent of 800 program participants being women. This is a great strategic tool for clubs to use to grow female participation at their club or facility.

It’s never been easier to build a strong connection with your local community through MyGolf and Get Into Golf. It’s worthwhile taking a look at the recent enhancements Golf Australia and the PGA of Australia have made to the MyGolf and Get Into Golf programs:

It’s free: Firstly, it’s free to get involved… and both MyGolf and Get Into Golf can be whatever the club needs it to be. Clubs can choose the length, time and price of their programs, including free come-and-try offerings with the new website platform and clubs and facilities keep 100 percent of the program revenue. 

It’s backed by a national marketing campaign: It’s supported by a significant national marketing strategy including paid digital marketing campaigns, club advertising grants, radio, use of GA and PGA-owned channels and resources for clubs to promote their own programs.

There’s loads of value for participants: For MyGolf, kids can have a participant pack now delivered to their door including a “Golphin” brand club, bag, balls and program cap and stay connected between sessions with a new online learning area of the MyGolf website with games and activities, videos and interactive quizzes. MyGolfer’s are also exposed to on-course opportunities through MyGolf Junior League, club vs club or intra-club competitions and money-can’t-buy experiences through our GA and PGA national events calendar.

Value for clubs and facilities: The new MyGolf and Get Into Golf website launched in July has a new clubs and facilities portal to manage both MyGolf and Get Into Golf programs from the one location. Doubling up as a resource centre, clubs can now get their hands on all the program marketing resources in the new dashboard, manage programs and payments and communicate with program participants from the one place. The new portal dashboard also has a built in “club database” where clubs can get all of the information of their program participants before the for session of for future club marketing campaigns. It’s a one-stop shop to manage all aspects of your clubs offerings.

We have staff across the country to help: The program is supported by staff across Australia. We are there to help clubs and facilities ensure their programs are a success in not only bringing in new people to the game but ensuring they feel welcomed and supported in our sport. 

For further information on becoming a registered MyGolf and Get Into Golf Centre, visit or  

• Christian Hamilton is the senior manager for programs and inclusion at Golf Australia


Many young careers have been thrown into the unknown. By Scott Hend

Scott Hend

It’s not uncommon for me to play in more than 30 different countries in a year. That’s the life of a travelling tour pro who bounces around between Asia, Europe and the United States. That’s all going to change, at least for now. I pretty much knew things weren’t going to be good from the get-go with regards to the pandemic. I have friends in the medical industry that warned me about the lockdown debacles that were ahead of us, and the vulnerability of, well, basically everything.

Make no mistake, life on tour has been turned upside down for some. For me personally, it won’t change a lot. Because the European Tour has pretty much wiped out this season and made the exemption category carry over, I really don’t lose a year at all. If anything, it’s better for me as it takes my exemption period in Europe closer to the age of 50 and the seniors tour.  

Yet for others in the early stages of forging a career path, their immediate futures have been thrown into the unknown. It is much more difficult to travel now – prices, schedules and just getting into some countries is difficult to organise. The quarantine protocols in some places make it simply not feasible to hold golf tournaments. We can’t quarantine for two weeks in a hotel then come out and just play a tournament. We have to travel and stay in “tournament bubbles”. There are fewer flights to places and longer routes. Prize purses are not as high and there are fewer tournaments to play in. But it will all change back for the better, we just have to ride it out. We as golf pros are just getting used to the new regulations we have to operate under these days. Times change and to survive you have to be adaptable, or you will fail.

I’ve been sensible with my travel commitments. I just wear my mask and wash my hands, same as I did before. My caddie, Tony Carolan, got stuck in the UK on the way to the US Open because he wasn’t on the USA-approved travel list. So calls had to be made and he was able to travel the next day, thankfully. More paperwork and headaches is what it’s produced, as well as a mandatory two-week hotel stay while returning to Australia, despite having one PCR test per week while out on the road working.

But again, I don’t think it has made much change in pro golf. Guys on tour are still doing their thing. Professional golf for the most part has always been community-focused and helps people, as well as providing entertainment for them. It’s more the amateur side that has suffered – the guys who crave their weekend match-ups and lunches with their mates and haven’t been able to do so. 

What I can say this pandemic has done is changed the way I think about travel and people themselves. Golf is golf to me, I will always treasure playing it. I feel sorry for the younger guys starting up, as some have gone broke and their dreams are somewhat stunted or been wiped out. COVID-19 has also proven to me how silly and selfish people are, and how easily people can be
led astray.

My advice for any young Aussie pro is simple: play as many pro-ams in Australia as you can and become an all-round player. Then head overseas as soon as you have the opportunity to. The future isn’t in Australia, you need to get on any other tour you can ASAP. This pandemic won’t slow me down. I want to win as many times as I can. I’m still hungry for golf and titles. I still love playing golf as much as I can. And I’ll never get sick of winning.

• Scott Hend has been labelled Australia’s most well-travelled golfer, having spent more than 20 years bouncing between the European, Asian and PGA tours and chalking up 15 professional victories worldwide.


After losing our “majors”, 2021 signals a new beginning and opportunity with The Players Series. By Nick Dastey

Late Sunday afternoon on March 1 at the beautiful Millbrook Resort in Queenstown seems a life time ago. As I watched Brad Kennedy put the finishing touches on an incredible final-round 63 to overrun Lucas Herbert and take out his second New Zealand Open, little did I realise it would be the last official Order of Merit event we would see on the ISPS Handa PGA Tour of Australasia in 2020. Two weeks later we were in lockdown and facing a worldwide pandemic that would (and still is) creating havoc in all corners of the globe.

Summer in 2020-2021 will look very different with our major events unable to proceed, however, we will still be staging approximately seven events from mid-January through to late March, including traditional events such as the Victorian PGA, the Queensland Open and season-ending New South Wales Open, which will return to Concord Golf Club, a club with a great history staging tournament golf.

Out of any crisis comes opportunity, and with the Australian ‘majors’ not taking place we have a great opportunity to showcase the rest of our tour, which now includes the new The Players Series (TPS) events. 

TPS events – a joint initiative between the PGA and ALPG – will see male and female professionals competing against each other for the same title and prizemoney, on the same course with the course scaled to create an equal challenge. TPS will become a feature of our summers for years to come and complement the events we already have. 

With the support of Golf Australia, the series will showcase the nation’s elite amateurs gaining invites into the tournaments, with the best junior golfers also joining the event post the cut to feature in the weekend play with two professionals competing in a 36-hole ‘Junior Players Series’. Here they will get the opportunity to learn first-hand from the pros what it takes to win “down the stretch” on a Sunday afternoon. 

The R&A is also supporting TPS as it sees it as an important initiative, not only for golf in Australia but also on the global stage as it will further showcase how the sport can be played at the elite level with both men and women competing equally against each other.

The first TPS will take place at Rosebud Country Club in late January and be hosted by Australian golf great Geoff Ogilvy, while the second event will take place at the start of March with former rugby league great Braith Anasta hosting the players at Sydney’s Bonnie Doon Golf Club.

These events will be played alongside our already established events taking place in the first quarter, and each event provides a great opportunity for Australian golf fans to get out and watch the huge amount of talent on show in a far more intimate manner, with the ability to walk the fairways alongside players such as Ogilvy, Kennedy, Herbert, Marcus Fraser, Min Woo Lee, Zach Murray, Anthony Quayle, Michael Sim, Dimi Papadatos, Matt Griffin, Jarryd Felton, Blake Windred and many more who are expected to feature across the summer.

The ‘majors’ may be missing, but as a sport – and as golf fans – we have a unique chance to showcase and build these events to support our huge talent pool, all of whom are itching to compete. It’s a tremendous opportunity to create some momentum for our tour as a lead-in to the 2021-2022 season when the marquee events return in conjunction with a new appreciation and profile for the many other quality events and players that feature on the PGA Tour of Australasia.     

• Nick Dastey is the PGA of Australia’s tournaments director, Australasia


Golf clubs may have to re-align their expectations of what can and can’t be produced out on course. By Brett Robinson

Superintendents sweep at dawn

COVID-19 has provided innumerable challenges for golf course superintendents and their teams. For states such as Victoria, particularly metropolitan Melbourne, courses have been closed for long periods with major disruption to staffing and course works. In other states it has been business as usual (albeit with COVID-19 restrictions in place), while some are reporting a surge in golfer rounds, which has placed increased demands on their playing surfaces. 

The pressure on superintendents has been immense, not only having to worry about their courses but also their families, their own mental health and that of their entire staff. They have had to juggle multiple requirements and in many instances have stepped up as leaders at their club in implementing a raft of changes. If there is one thing COVID-19 has highlighted, it is that adaptability and resilience – the hallmarks of any good superintendent – have never been more important. 

In Victoria, restrictions have been felt differently by clubs, with some taking advantage of no golf to fast-track renovations or disruptive course works/improvements, while others have halted all major projects and simply concentrated on essential maintenance. Staffing structures have varied from full staff and full-time, to others working just a few days per week and supplemented with annual leave or leave without pay. Casual and seasonal staff were the first to be cut, with JobKeeper instrumental in keeping ground staff employed. Sadly, staff morale at those courses hardest hit has taken a big dive, especially where there have been discrepancies in hours worked/not worked compared to clubhouse staff.

Going forward, the big challenges for golf course maintenance will be the pressures placed on budgets and labour. We have heard many superintendents being asked to trim already incredibly lean maintenance budgets. There is also a very real concern over skills shortages due to people being stood down finding jobs (often better paying ones) elsewhere and not coming back into the industry. Clubs that rely on seasonal staff (mostly from overseas) are also needing to rethink their labour arrangements due to international travel restrictions.

Communication, such an important aspect in keeping people connected during COVID-19, will now be more important than ever. Where decisions are being made that impact maintenance inputs (whether product, machinery or labour), communication with and input from the course team is critical. A short-term decision to appease the bottom line of a spreadsheet could have serious long-term impacts for the club’s greatest and enduring asset – its course. With any potential reduction in resources, golf clubs may have to re-align their expectations of what can and can’t be produced out on course. Superintendents are adept at maximising the resources they have at their disposal to produce the best surfaces possible, but there comes a point where too little becomes too much. 

To finish on a positive note, with golf being a sanctuary for many given it has been one of the few physical pursuits where social distancing is achievable, hopefully this period will bring some people back to what is really important in golf course maintenance – the basics – and appreciate what we have a little more. COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of the golf course environment as a whole and the positive role it plays in mental health and well-being. The notion of golf being a good walk spoilt nowadays couldn’t be further from the truth. 

• Brett Robinson is the editor of Australian Turfgrass Management Journal, incorporating the Australian Golf Course Superintendents Association


After riding a wave of sales, a lot will now be influenced by the economy. By Ravi Abeyaratne 

Momentum Swing: Retail

The past six months have seen a big uptake in golf participation. This has led to a significant increase in golf equipment sales. While some, sadly, have struggled through COVID-19, golf is experiencing a boom. There are many reasons why. Working from home, people have more time. With overseas travel on hold, people have more disposable income  to spend locally – government stimulus packages like JobKeeper and JobSeeker have certainly helped here. With very little to no community sports being played, people are looking for other healthy outdoor activity and golf has been one of the beneficiaries (like bike riding). So what does golf retail look like in 2021? A lot will be influenced by the economy and the state of play on working from home and travel. With a lot of new golfers coming to the sport, we anticipate continued growth next year but not to the scale of what we’re experiencing leading into Christmas.

People have made the initial investment (buying their gear), so the biggest challenge for the industry now will be providing a favourable playing environment to keep this influx of new golfers engaged. How do we ensure this newfound crowd stays in love with our sport? With community sports most likely being given the green light to return early in 2021, people will have more options again. Suffice to say, golf’s time to seal the deal is now.

• Ravi Abeyaratne is the marketing director of Drummond Golf


As borders open up, the value of using a travel operator has never been more apparent. By Mike Sidgreaves

While the game itself – golf clubs, driving ranges, apparel and equipment sales – has not only been surviving but thriving through the pandemic, there is one area in the golf world that has definitely taken a unprecedented hit… the golf travel industry.

With travel brought to a complete standstill, those working in golf travel spent the early days of the pandemic cancelling tours and moving golf trips, not to mention working hard to obtain refunds or credits for their clients. New travel enquiries were then at a complete standstill, with no one knowing what the future held.

Once the country’s initial lockdown ended earlier in the year, however, and with the ongoing restrictions of international travel, people started thinking about things they could do domestically and the sentiment towards getting away and resuming their ‘normal lives’ saw enquiries and bookings leaning towards one of the biggest seasons the golf travel industry has seen.

The second wave of COVID-19 in Victoria handed yet another brutal blow to the golf travel industry, however most travel agents had worked with their suppliers to ensure they could provide a safety net should further travel disruptions come into play.

As borders open up, the value of using a travel operator has never been more apparent. Travel is more complicated than it has ever been, especially with uncertainty still existing, so using a specialist who can help you navigate the issues, and be there to fight for you with suppliers if restrictions return, is as important as ever. And it shouldn’t cost you any more than if you booked it yourself, so why not take advantage of what they can do for you?

Booking with a golf travel specialist gives you the reassurance that if there are further disruptions to travel, your investment in your golf trip will be safe. Through their long-standing relationships with hotels, golf courses and other suppliers, a good golf travel operator will ensure that if COVID-19 travel restrictions come into play, you will at the very least get a credit to be used at a later date and, in many instances, you will be able to get a full refund. 

And think of it this way: if you book your trip with a golf travel specialist, you just have one phone call to make if restrictions return. If you book it yourself, you will have to cancel all the separate components of your trip and try to negotiate credits where possible with no guarantees. On top of that, you are likely to get a better price through a golf travel agency due to negotiated industry rates, so it won’t cost you any more to have a golf travel specialist do all the work for you.

This year has definitely seen many ups and downs for golf travel specialists. However, one thing is very apparent: travel is definitely on the minds of golfers and as travel restrictions ease.

Of all the significant changes I’ve seen, by far the most heartwarming is how popular intrastate regional destinations have become. Many of these places are seeing doubling or tripling of normal turnover year-on-year, which is great for regions that have done it particularly tough in recent times with bushfires, etc. There really is no better time to get out and experience how good golf is in this country. Make the most of the opportunity to experience regions you otherwise wouldn’t have considered pre-COVID-19.

• Mike Sidgreaves is the managing director of The Golf Travel Agency


In an industry crippled by job cuts, golf must learn to tell its own story. By Martin Blake

A weird thing happened to Australian golf during the past 20 years, and hardly anyone really noticed. It’s a shocking reality to confront. But the media dropped the game, and by that, I mean what we would call the mainstream media. It has ramifications for tournament golf here in the future.

The number of full-time golf writers and broadcasters in Australia is trickling down towards zero. The cash-strapped newspapers don’t have golf writers anymore; only specialists in other sports who drop in at the golf when it’s in town.

So at an Australian Open, you will have a decent band of media people in the press tent, albeit that few of them are beat writers as such. At an Australian PGA, considerably fewer. At a Women’s Australian Open or a Vic Open, hardly any.

Jim Tucker, a long-time advocate of golf and a great journo, has left the Courier Mail in Brisbane. Patrick Smith, The Australian’s acerbic columnist and another who followed golf closely over a prolonged period, has retired. The Age, my old paper, has not had a golf writer since I left in 2012. Nobody gets replaced in this environment.

The Sydney Morning Herald uses the able Adam Pengilly, but he’s required to cover racing and NRL, too. Which is a pattern in all this. Brent Read covers golf for The Australian extremely well, but his No.1 gig is NRL. Russell Gould at the mass-selling Herald Sun in Melbourne loves his golf and covers it well, but he also does cricket in summer.

The media outlets – the newspapers and the radio – have relied on Australian Associated Press, the national news agency, for their coverage of overseas golf, and even some local tournaments. Only problem is, AAP just got sold off and cut in half, many of their staff sent to the dole queue.

AAP is a hugely important institution for golf, or at least, it was. Evin Priest recently and before him Ben Everill and Andrew Both covered North America for Australia’s news outlets, but Priest – an excellent operator who was the lifeline between Australian golf fans and the players – was brought home and put on a casual contract. He’s still filing pieces for AAP (and Australian Golf Digest), but his coverage for the newspapers is within those limitations, naturally.

As a result of all these things happening, only the very top end of the market is covered. The women’s tours get virtually no coverage. The European Tour is invisible and so is the Asian Tour. Minjee Lee could walk past a sports editor without a second glance; Min Woo Lee and Lucas Herbert’s European triumphs in 2020 hardly rated a blip on the media radar here.

Of course, we have the industry and specialist magazines like this one and thank the Lord for that. They must be getting lonely in the fight to preserve and improve golf in this country. Who else fights the fight over Moore Park in Sydney, or Northcote in Melbourne, or numerous other public facilities being eyed-off for development or for increased parkland space?

I’m not sure who.

Covid-19 has exposed the difficulty of the situation, smashed open the little cracks. Our tournaments disappeared for the 2020-2021 summer because of border closures, quarantine and myriad complications.

How come Europe and the PGA Tour in the United States can continue, you say, but not us? Well, that’s about television revenue. They have it, and we don’t. Television pays nothing to cover golf in Australia. TV, of course, has its own troubles.

The PGA of Australia had a team look at all the contingencies to hold our main events this summer, and they quickly learned that even if players agreed to come to Australia from overseas they’d have to quarantine for two weeks (thus missing out on playing opportunities). Then there’s the cost of making a tournament Covid-safe: upwards of $200,000 was the number they were looking at.

That’s how fraught our tournaments are. This is the reality we are dealing with in Australia, and we desperately need Covid to cease to be an issue quickly, or our tournaments for 2021-2022 will be endangered as well.

It’s a gloomy environment in which the media doesn’t especially care for the game anymore. In a post-Covid world, it might be even harder for tournament golf to attract the attention that it did in, say, the Greg Norman era.

The only choice for golf, as I see it, is this: tell your own story. Tell it well and speak loudly. Because you won’t get much help from anyone outside the tent.

• Martin Blake is president of the Australian Golf Media Association. He has covered golf since 2002



Can two-balls change the perception that golf takes too long?

COVID-19 has levelled just about every industry in the world, including golf.

But while certain facets of our industry may never recover – or will at least take years to bounce back – it has grown in some areas and there are things the pandemic forced on the sport that it should continue doing after the dust and destruction of the pandemic settles.

Just ask Adam Scott.

Australia’s winner of the 2013 Masters at Augusta National could have settled just about anywhere he wanted in the world when the PGA Tour was suspended for 90 days and the world shut down.

But he chose Australia, specifically the sleepy Sunshine Coast where he lives when he is home. So at peace was Scott on the ‘Sunny Coast’ that he came close to deciding not to return to the PGA Tour for the remainder of the year. “At this point my (only) motivation is, if the Majors were cancelled I probably wouldn’t return for the year,” Scott told Australian Golf Digest at the time. “But there are three Majors out there and someone has to win them.”

Scotty used that rare three-month window at home without competition to get back to his roots. He played money games with aspiring amateurs and pros. He used his profile to showcase local tracks to the country and the world. He passed on his wisdom to the next generation.

During his many casual rounds in Queensland, the now 40-year-old also noticed a change in golf that he thinks should be here to stay.

“It was interesting to see how two-ball (tee-times) really worked well at some clubs and not others,” Scott says. “Some clubs were playing in three hours and some were taking 4 hours, 15 minutes. That’s the same on the PGA Tour: it takes 3.5 hours to play in two-balls and five hours for three-balls. 

“From a general look at the game, that was appealing for a lot of people. All of a sudden, playing nine holes takes 1 hour, 15 minutes. We can get out before work, maybe even at lunch, certainly after work in summer. That’s something the golf industry should look at taking advantage of going forward. Changing that perception that golf takes too long. Or we should be formalising two-ball tee-times, even if it’s only for nine holes and only on certain days.”

And as for the PGA Tour of Australasia, the pandemic forced organisers to try to restore the Australian summer of golf to its halcyon days when there was a defined schedule from October to March.

The original plans, announced in May, were altered again due to international and even interstate travel restrictions. Scott feels it will be tough for some time, but has faith the Australian tour will come good eventually.

“I don’t know enough to have an informed opinion, but what I do know is events outside the United States are in a tough position to become relevant, significant events. For example, while we have a two-week hotel quarantine in Australia, who is coming to play? It’s a very, very difficult situation, for any country. I wouldn’t have my hopes up for this year or this season’s events in Australasia, but I would have my hopes up that the PGA of Australia and the Australian tour are making good plans for the future.”    – Written with Evin Priest