THE BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, which got under way yesterday, used to mark the start of a two-month spell where you could watch golf on terrestrial television on a regular basis.
Four days of coverage from Wentworth would be followed by all of the action from the Scottish Open and The Open itself, with the Masters and the World Matchplay Championship also featuring on the schedules at other times of the year.
Since 2012, the amount of golf shown on free-to-air television has dropped dramatically. No terrestrial broadcaster other than the BBC covers the sport at all, and even the time they devote to golf programming has been drastically cut back.
Golf fans now have to make do with just six days of live coverage a year. Four of them come at The Open, with the other two being the weekend action at The Masters.
The action from Wentworth this week will be condensed into two one-hour highlights programmes over the course of the weekend, with similar coverage of the Scottish Open also available.
This cannot be good for a game that has seen levels of participation drop over the last few years, and it is another example of the professional side of a sport riding roughshod over its own grass-roots in the pursuit of money.
I’m sure that the European Tour is doing brilliantly out of its deal with Sky Sports, and their coverage is very good, but to get more people playing, golf needs better television exposure.
More often than not, children and young people are spurred into taking up sports that they see on television, so by taking golf off our screens, the powers that be are setting themselves up for problems down the line.
Of course, we cannot lay the blame for the dwindling number of players on this alone, and clubs need to play their part as well.
I’m pretty sure that the main reasons behind the drop in golfers are time and money.
People lead busy lives, so fitting in a four-hour round of golf can be a problem, particularly for people with families. There’s not much clubs can do about this, though nine-hole options could be a way forward.
However, there is plenty that can be done to address the cost of playing the game. Finding upwards of £1,000 to become a member of a club for a year is not something that everyone can do, while weekend green fees at most clubs are at least £30.
That’s too much for most people, but to be fair, if clubs are finding that they are still busy, then why shouldn’t they charge high prices?
It’s the ones that are not so busy who need to think about reducing round prices for visiting golfers. They’ll be much better off in the long run, and will help to keep people playing the game.