Mar 11, 2015 | 09:19 am

Royal Reckoning

Golf's global footprint has finally been truly determined thanks to a new National Golf Foundation report that was funded by the R&A and 15 leading golf companies. No more guestimating or fudging the numbers. Now we really know. Drum roll please. At the end of 2014, there were 34,011 golf facilities in 206 countries. Ten countries accounted for 79 percent: U.S., Japan, Canada, England, Australia, Germany, France, Scotland, South Africa, and Sweden. Not suprisingly, the vast majority (45 percent) were in the U.S., but it was interesting to see that 71 percent of the clubs worldwide were open to the public. The 23-page report also tracked golf development and found 696 courses under construction or in advance planning, with 80 percent in Asia, Europe, and North America. But it also noted that some countries opened their first course in the last couple of years, including Belarus, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. The NGF team spent four years and 25,000 hours compiling the report, which you can read here.

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Mar 10, 2015 | 09:31 am

Still Rory By A Mile

Dustin Johnson's victory in the WGC at Doral catapulted him into the top 10 of the World Golf Rankings for the first time in months, and has spurred talk that he's the one true rival for Rory McIlroy. Maybe so, but McIlroy—even playing poorly by his standards last week (14 bogeys, 2 doubles and a 3-iron into the water) managed a top-10 finish and maintained a solid hold on the number-one ranking, the 71st week he's held that position. World number two Bubba Watson, by finishing second at Doral, gained a bit of ground on McIlroy, but the gap between Rory and Bubba remains huge—not quite the kind of gap Tiger enjoyed during his heyday but a big one nonetheless. Currently, the point difference between McIlroy and Watson is about the same as between Watson and Patrick Reed whose world ranking is 17th. So if Dustin Johnson—or Bubba or Messrs. Day, Scott, Fowler, Spieth, or anyone else—is going to challenge for the No. 1 spot, he will likely need to win at least two or three more events before Rory adds another title. Unlikely.

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Mar 09, 2015 | 09:34 am

Childs’ Play

It isn’t only the players who are younger at golf events. If the PGA Tour has its way, the audiences will be younger, too. The tour has launched a new media campaign aimed at millennials, that large portion of the population—said to be around 75 million Americans—born since 1980. Using the tagline (and occasionally the hashtag) “more than golf,” the tour wants to reach new and younger crowds. Quoted by Fox Business, David Pillsbury, president of Championship Management for the PGA Tour, said, “We’re trying to create that festival environment, where there’s something for everyone. Some fans coming are not familiar with golf at all, but they’re coming because it’s an event. It’s not just because of golf, it’s about the food, fashion, it’s a sexy event to attend and you get to see some athletes you hear your golf friends talk about.” Is it working? At the Northern Trust Open in Los Angeles a few weeks ago, the tour brought in food trucks, “hip” clothing designers, and an alternative-rock concert that started after Saturday’s round ended. According to the tour, ticket sales to 25 to 34 year olds were up in L.A. this year, and concession sales were up, as well.

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Mar 06, 2015 | 10:34 am

Two To Go?

After the R&A decided last year to accept women as members, the golf world has been watching what the three remaining all-male clubs on the Open Championship rota would do. Make that two. Royal St. George’s in England (above), which last hosted the Open in 2011, voted 90 percent in favor of immediately changing their gender make-up, according to news reports. That leaves only Royal Troon and Muirfield, both of which have said their membership policies are being reviewed. All well and good, but as an article in The Telegraph newspaper from Britain puts it, “It’s going to take more than a bunch of wealthy blazers to rip up their archaic rule books to improve the landscape for female golfers.” It notes that only one in eight golfers in the UK are women, while the world average is one in four, due to the fact that “the perception of the golf club as the last male bastion has, to some degree, been perpetuated by the most famous golf tournament being staged at courses which defined their membership policies by gender.” The article also cites a survey that says, “People more would be interested in taking up the game if it was financially feasible and if they could learn with family and/or friends and if they could play shorter courses. But what it also unearthed was that females would be encouraged to commit to the sport if clubs were ‘less masculine,’ ‘less intimidating’ and treated them as ‘valued customers.’” While the survey was done over there, those interested in growing golf over here might want to take note.

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