In The Rough - Golf's Uncertain Future


2017070320170705 (R4)Mark Hodkinson investigates why golf is declining while cycling thrives.

Golf is in a hole with huge numbers leaving the sport while cycling is free-wheeling to incredible popularity. Mark Hodkinson examines this social and sporting phenomenon.

Golf clubs, many dating back over a century, are closing all over Britain at an alarming rate, with potentially catastrophic consequences for the industry.

Participation has also declined steadily over the past decade. According to England Golf, between 2004 and 2013, one in five golfers in England gave up their club membership.

But golf is still the fifth largest participation sport in the UK and brings £3.4 billion to the British economy. So can the trend be reversed?

Journalist and broadcaster Mark Hodkinson investigates the fall-off in the company of Golf Business magazine editor Alistair Dunsmuir, John and Marie Llewellyn who started the website Golf's Missing Links and John Hopkins, former golf correspondent of the Times.

Mark considers whether declining participation is principally down to changing social trends. We work longer hours, have less free time than ever before and more households have two working parents. Who has the time to spend a whole day on the golf course? Also, despite golf's young and cool starts such as Ricky Fowler, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Speith, the sport retains its high-brow image with cliquey clubhouses, ties and jackets, no trainers, ladies afternoons and so on.

So what are we doing if we're not playing golf? Thousands of ex-golfers have swapped their plus fours and clubs for Lycra and a bike. In the wake of Bradley Wiggins' and Chris Froome's victories in the Tour de France, and the successes of Team GB in recent Olympics, the sport is ever growing.

A Smooth Operations production for BBC Radio 4.

"Mark Hodkinson investigates why golf is declining while cycling thrives.

A Smooth Operations production for BBC Radio 4."