Barney Ronay is right to criticise the pro golfers taking part in the Saudi-backed LIV events (In their naked self-interest, LIV golfers are being refreshingly true to the sport’s roots, 11 June). However, golf has never been the bastion of elitism that he implies.
At my local club in Edinburgh, junior memberships start at £10 a month – and we pay £29 per month for our 13-year-old to be a member of a football team. A senior member playing twice a week will pay about £7 per round. The club has 15 membership categories, with a sliding scale of fees to make the game affordable to as many people as possible; such inclusive pricing models are common at other clubs.
Also, you don’t need “hundreds of pounds of equipment” to play golf. I could easily buy a workable set of secondhand clubs for around the price of the new Liverpool FC kit.
I am a classroom assistant. I don’t earn enough to pay one penny in tax. Are there golf venues that I can’t afford to visit? Sure. Are there clubs with membership fees way beyond my means? Certainly. Are there clubs that might balk at accepting a humble classroom assistant as a member, even if I could afford the fees? Probably – but only a tiny fraction of the 550 clubs in Scotland.
As a director of Whitby Golf Club (a voluntary and unpaid role) on a majority-female board, I read Barney Ronay’s article with a mixture of anger and disappointment. All professional sports are far removed from grassroots participation – when was the last time the local kids were allowed a quick kickabout on the turf in their local sports stadium?
Many golf courses have public access through footpaths and rights of way. Here at Whitby, our course is located on a stretch of heritage coastline and is a vital green space and amenity maintained by the club.
Your article does a disservice to those of us who work tirelessly to promote and develop our golf clubs as part of our local communities. There are hundreds of clubs like mine – run by their members and engaging in the daily fight for survival. I challenge Ronay to visit us here in Whitby to understand what golf is really all about.
Whitby, North Yorkshire
I grew up in Edinburgh and have played golf for nearly 50 years. I have contrasting views – one that very much agrees with the game Barney Ronay describes and the other which is heartfelt but which, on reflection, feels somewhat insular.
In Edinburgh in the 1970s, there were more than 50 golf courses, a lot of them council-owned, so golf was cheap and there were few entry barriers. When I was 12, my mum encouraged me to play golf in the hope that it would become my “thing”. She organised lessons for me, and I thank her endlessly as golf did become my thing.
I moved to Swindon in the 1980s and found a great municipal course and again it seemed as if “everyone” played. I then joined a private club, and it was here that I encountered members with sexist and racist views. I never for a moment blamed golf for these attitudes – it is the people I blame. Membership fees are now around £1,000, so that is a huge entry barrier.
I now play at a local course that has a twilight rate of £18, which I’m lucky to be able to take advantage of during retirement. My left-of-centre attitude dislikes the LIV tour immensely in the same way that I dislike Saudi sportswashing in football and Formula One.
The PGA Tour’s decision to ban the “rebel” golfers who are competing in the Saudi-backed LIV series is all about protecting its own financial interests. The money war is already lost, so unless they adopt the policy of international cricket boards around the world, who allow their best players to play in the cash-rich Indian Premier League for a few weeks every year, golf will tear itself apart, leading to a poorer sport for all golf fans.