Golf Course Architecture - Issue 75, January 2024

40 The next generation DESIGNING FOR THE YOUNG Written by Adam Lawrence FEATURE The revival in golf since the pandemic has given the game a shot in the arm. But it remains dominated by middle aged and older players. How should golf go about attracting young people to play, and what role does course design play in that? Adam Lawrence investigates. The golf industry has long been extremely concerned about the ageing profile of the game’s participants. Go to any golf club, and you will surely see why: juniors are in short supply, young adults are also scarce, and even the middle-aged tend to be outnumbered by seniors. It has been obvious for many years that figuring out how to attract the next generation of golfers is a critical issue for the game’s prosperity in anything but the very short term. As is well known, participation in golf has jumped significantly since the Covid pandemic, and junior numbers have increased similarly. Figures from the National Golf Foundation show that in the US, the number of junior golfers increased by 36 per cent, or 900,000 people, between 2019 and 2022 (the biggest participation jump of any segment in the golf market). Clearly, this is a good start, but it is not, yet, enough to secure golf’s future. Does course design have a role to play in making the game more attractive to the young? The main obstacles that prevent people from taking up golf are well known, and they apply just as much, if not more, to young as they do to the old. The game is perceived by many as being too expensive, as taking too long and being harmful to the environment. It is clear that course design has plenty to say on all three of these factors. One way of dealing with them, at least in part, that has become increasingly popular of late is the construction of short courses, usually comprised exclusively of par threes, that can be played quickly and take up less space. But in practice, the short courses that have been built, much fun though they often are, has not done much to develop new golfers. This is principally because of their location: the short courses that have come about of late have, mostly, been constructed at either elite destination private clubs or high-end resorts, in both cases, principally to be used for a shorter round after the day’s main game has been finished. This they do very well indeed: Gil Hanse’s Wild Piglet course at Les Bordes in France, and the Coore & Crenshaw designed Sandbox at Sand Valley in Wisconsin are both examples of short courses that should make even