Golf: Smail tees off on golf in New Zealand

By Dale Budge

David Smail tees-off at The Hills during the BMW ISPS Handa New Zealand Open. Photo / Getty Images
David Smail tees-off at The Hills during the BMW ISPS Handa New Zealand Open. Photo / Getty Images

Leading Kiwi golfer David Smail has teed off on the state of the sport in New Zealand.

Speaking on Radio Sport's The Vox show, Smail argues that while the sport has taken off overseas the game in New Zealand is going backwards, with declining membership and a lack of television coverage the main problems.

"It is probably a bit of a shame that New Zealand hasn't quite tacked on to that [global success] just at the moment," Smail told host Kent Johns.

"Golf seems to be struggling club wise and doesn't seem to have the members it should. While there are some good amateurs coming up golf is sort of heading in the wrong direction a bit at the moment. Down at my local club there just aren't as many people around anymore. There were probably twice as many members 10 years ago.

"It is probably a time thing. People have busier lives and there is less time to find five or six hours in your day.

"It should be going well - we have Lydia [Ko] at the top and Danny [Lee] is going well as well. It should be going really well but unfortunately I can't really see it."

Golf has often been criticized for not being inclusive enough - adhering rigorously in some cases to strict and even archaic protocols. Smail acknowledges that the sport here is making small progress in becoming a more open sport.

"I think they are trying to take steps that way," Smail says. "I know there are quite a few clubs that are relaxed about dress codes and stuff like that to try and get more people into golf and not feeling like it is that posh sport and that you have to do the right things and be in the right jobs and that sort of stuff.

"Somehow we need to find more people to play the game."

With Lydia Ko the number one player in the women's game and Danny Lee showing good form on the PGA Tour Smail believes the sport domestically should be thriving but he points to one major issue that is thwarting the success of the leading elite players rubbing off on the local game.

"Probably one thing that is bad is losing all the golf coverage [on television]. We only get the majors now and a lot of my mates are pretty upset about it. You can see why. I am not a huge golf watcher myself but I can see how not having the golf on every weekend is pretty hard."

Smail, who has spent a number of years playing professionally on the Japanese Tour is back in New Zealand this week competing at the Akarana Open in Auckland - an event on the Charles Tour. He says coming back home after so much time abroad makes it easy to see the stark contrast to the rest of the world, where the numbers of people playing are skyrocketing.

"I spend so much time away and you see the different programs all over the world and people really excited about playing golf but you just have the feeling here that it isn't happening. I don't know how to change it."

- NZ Herald

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