Thoughts From 38,000 Feet

I’m yet to be persuaded that a ‘World Tour’ in golf would be beneficial for the game as a whole. Gary Player obviously believes it’s the right path to go down, like that of the ATP Tour in tennis. I can see the argument- Let’s put on bigger and better events, take the world’s best golfers to all corners of the globe and lay on a show like nobody has seen in golf before. 

What would be the benefits of this? And also, who would be the beneficiaries? Commercially, I imagine it makes considerable sense to condense the golfing world into a smaller, more attractive sphere of talent, where every time golf is shown on television, it has a bigger impact due to the golfers on show. It is also more likely that large corporations would want to be involved in this style of coverage. 

The broader question though, I think, is who benefits the most from this? Is it the game as a whole? How would the demographic outlook change within the game? Would a World Tour have a larger impact or a further reach around the world? 

Whenever I’ve discussed this topic in the past with either Laurie or my manager at IMG- David, (who are advocates of a ‘World Tour’ by the way) the point I’ve always raised is earning potential. The wonderful thing about golf as it is currently, is that you can have a player ranked 200 in the world, and still earn a very good living. If you contrast this with tennis and the ATP Tour, it’s incomparable. A player ranked 200 in the world of tennis is unlikely to earn anywhere near the amount of money a golfer would. I see this as a huge plus for golf. Consider the consequences of this. If you have a deeper wealth distribution, then you will also have a broader monetary contribution. Whether that be in the way of taxation, which leads governments to support society in a better way and potentially grant sporting organisations more money. Or whether that be in ways more charitable. 

Take me for example. I decided to give my Frilford Heath sponsorship money away in 2016 and again next year in 2017. In 2016, that money helped fund 52 new junior golfers have coaching. And in 2017, that money will be put into local primary schools, with the help of the Golf Foundation, so that more young kids who didn’t have access to golf, now will. This isn’t about me being generous, this is about me being able to be generous. This is a tremendous offshoot in golf. 

I’ve also wondered actually how big the impact would be in parts of the world where golf isn’t currently a major sport, should we develop a World Tour. Is golf in India, or parts of Africa, or parts of Asia not yet popular because they simply haven’t watched Rory McIlroy hit a golf ball? Or is it down to other factors? 

A good example of this is what’s happening in Rio, post Olympics. I read an article recently that said the golf course where they held the event in Rio, is to be closed. Or turned into something else. I can’t remember exactly what it said, but it wasn’t positive for golf. This alludes to the paragraph above. There simply isn’t the infrastructure nor the social and economic conditions present in these parts of the world to warrant a World Tour spending lots of money, making a radical change to their sport, which is potentially destructive in some way, hoping that they can inspire a generation of people to pick up a golf club. 

Therefore a new World Tour would probably be most impactful in parts of the world where it is already pretty well known and already frequently participated in. Say North America, Europe, Japan, and maybe China. Of course, there is potential here for golf to become increasingly popular due to more economic prosperity and better infrastructure. However, when you consider that the main attraction of a World Tour would be the guaranteed presence of the best players, you’d then have to ask what would the impact be from that. Does China need to see more of Rory? Does Japan need to see more of Stenson? Does America need to see more of Danny Willett? Honestly, I think the answer to that is no. It could well be that in fact that’s exactly what’s needed for the sport. Nobody knows the answer to this of course, I just have my doubts about its potency as a model. 

So who benefits from a new World Tour? The answer; the top players, and that’s probably about it. 

If all current Tours merged to create a World Tour, we would have job losses. We would have less wealth distribution throughout the game. We would have less trickle down effect of wealth into local communities due to there being less money earned across the board. We may create bigger and better spectacles for golf to showcase its attractiveness for sure. And we would have huge purses for players to compete for. But would that offset all of the negatives? 

Again, I’m not convinced. 

Golf has so far managed to defy the merger and acquisition frenzy that has run riot among businesses since 2008. While the European Tour may not be able to yet produce a credible alternative to the PGA Tour in terms of prize money, it has helped contribute to a wider spread of wealth throughout the world. I see this as the sole reason we need to resist a World Tour for as long as we can. 

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15 Responses to Thoughts From 38,000 Feet

  1. Smudger says:

    Another thoughtful piece Eddie. Not sure if I agree with all of what you say but that’s the beauty of what you write about i.e. thought provoking subjects which can lead to interesting discussions.
    Keep up the good work!

  2. Dean Walker says:

    Im not so sure about a World Tour either. Golf is so healthy and I think it’s great the way it is.

    I’m not even sure it would benefit the best players too much, they would soon get burnt out and fed up of all the travelling.

    They would probably be richer but are any of them bothered by money any more?

  3. Jamie Bradley says:

    Eddie, do you support changes to format shorter quicker things and more team based approach ?

    I quite like the hero challenge thing and think it would be interesting over 3 or 6 holes

    J

  4. Ian says:

    I agree with the sentiment Eddie. Look at the champions league in football. The top clubs have got richer and widened the gap to the other teams in their respective countries leading to reduced competition and two or three horse races (Leicesters amazing title aside!) and the lower teams struggling to compete. It’s has also made the transfer system reach ludicrous levels which in this day and age of poverty is morally not right. I am all for the spreading of the wealth. It gives hope to the up and coming generation that they can earn a decent living at the game even if they are not the worlds best. I am all for that.

    • Harry says:

      Ian not that I follow football but you are spot with your view. I follow a couple of young pro’s and they really struggle to make ends meet and to reduce the wealth distribution that Eddie mentions would not improve the lot of players outside the top 200 and ultimately reduce the numbers of players able to lay professionally

  5. brian manson says:

    I completely agree with your comments.

  6. David Flynn says:

    I tend to agree with you Eddie. On the odd occasion I can get the time and money to visit to a top European tour event, it’s nice to see at least some of the well known players compete. I feel the better known names will only compete in the best paying tournaments. What is really good to see see is players like you giving back to grass root golf. If only more sports people would take this action then more people of all ages would get the opportunity to enjoy there own sporting preferences. Spread the word.
    N

  7. Nova Matheson says:

    A thoughtful article and I tend to agree with you especially in regards to the distribution of wealth. Also admire you “giving back” to the sport. In reality growing the sport is not feasible in all parts of the World given how expensive the sport is and having been an avid tennis player for many years as well that sport has the same issues and as you say not a “decent” living for many ranked over 200 sadly. Merry Christmas and Wishing you much success in the New Year!

  8. David Everett says:

    Well put Eddie. I think the world is too often adversely affected by “more.” It turns quickly into “too much.”

  9. Willie Dunlop says:

    Great article Eddie and you have hit the nail on the head. Similar things are being talked about within the elite football teams, not good for the game. Taking the game to nations where the majority of the population can never afford to play the game will not help the game. Never knew they were turning the course in Rio into something else, sums it up.
    Wealth distribution has to be the way forward in this now totally inequal World we live in, the same for sports.
    You are doing your bit to help young golfers, however, this should be a government task so everyone who has an interest can try it.
    Merry Christmas to you when it comes and I honestly hope the New Year bring you the success you richly deserve.

  10. Matt Partridge says:

    Eddie, very encouraging to hear a professional sportsman suggest greater wealth distribution. My ten year-old daughter is one of the 52 juniors at Frilford Heath helped by your generosity. If only more people with the ability to share in such a way also had the motivation and heart to do so. Thanks, to those of us who notice, we’re grateful.

  11. Graham Yates says:

    Another good article Eddy, I would be interested to know how many other golfers of your standing do things for their local community.
    As for a world tour of golf, I agree with your reasonings, is there not enough already, perhaps not in the right places, but I think that the European Tour is doing well by gradually expanding the tour.
    Have a good New Year and look forward to following you again in 2017.

  12. Terry Wright says:

    Not unlike the Premiership in football really. Those who benefit are the big names not football as a whole.

  13. Neil says:

    Great article, have heard about your blog but not had much chance to dip into it. My thoughts are same, unless someone is an ardent tennis fan it’s hard for most people to name the top 20 in the world beyond the big names per se. Golf is different due to the variety of tours and winners say in Europe and the US every week that are announced in the sports bulletins every weekend so people get familiar with these players and then attend the various competitions when they come around. The format proposed may well work for a few years but would probably get over exposed a bit like the Champions League.

  14. Great post Eddie, I agree that the wealth has got be spread further. European Tour is great example of that. Should be copied.

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