Gary Player: 2017 had a hard act to follow after stellar last season

I am at home in South Africa over Christmas and New Year and it gives me plenty of time to reflect on what a fascinating and wonderful year 2016 was for golf. For me, the highlight was to Captain the Men’s and Women’s South African teams at Golf’s return to the Olympic Games in Rio.

To be among 11,000 athletes in the Olympic Village was an experience I’ll never forget and I was so happy to see that the golf event was so well attended. Just think, in Japan in three years’ time there will be 20,000+ people there every day.

I didn’t think that the Olympics missed the top-ranked men who stayed away. Once you were there, all the focus was on who was there, and not who wasn’t. One thing I will say about golf in the Olympic Games – we must adhere to the quickness of the Olympics Games and move away from the format of the 72 hole stroke-play medal tournament that mirrors what is played around the professional Tours.

I would like to see Men and Women play together and in a betterball format so that the sport is played quicker. The Olympics is almost all about speed when you think of the sprinting, swimming and cycling and so forth, and I believe golf needs to keep up and quicken up if it is to remain relevant.

Men and Women competing together will be a showcase to smaller countries that do not have a tradition of golf that women are significant in the sport and from that we will attract a lot of new players.

I was absolutely flabbergasted at the standard of play the women produced and I think the world has got to wake up to the fact that the women play phenomenal golf and there should be more money and sponsors and more of a balance with the men’s game.

 

“One thing I will say about golf in the Olympic Games – we must adhere to the quickness of the Olympics Games and move away from the format of the 72 hole stroke-play medal tournament.”

Intrigue

Change is the price of survival so we’ve got to do things that intrigue people. I want to see a woman who has never played golf before to say ‘gee, I watched this lady pro playing with a man pro and she played so well – she played as well as he did.’ Maybe then she’ll take that home, talk about it with friends and family and it gets the development of the game going.

We need more young people to play this phenomenal game, because it’s a game you can play your entire life. So we’ve got to keep experimenting and see what we can do to make the game more appealing.

I designed a golf course in Missouri, USA, that has 12 holes. It’s perfect for people who don’t have a whole day, because, let’s admit it, that is how long 18 holes can take to play golf. They can play 6 holes, or 9 holes or 12 holes if they please and it’s been a roaring success. You have the choice!

Looking at the Ryder Cup, it brought people who aren’t golfers to see this spectacular event, and it did more good than the Masters, The Open or the U.S. Open. There were more people there, more viewers than any other event.

It’s a significant tournament in history. You don’t have to be quiet anymore. It has created a new atmosphere. We’re going into a new era where it’s a completely different game, where kids want to play golf and take their cell phones with them. You can’t tell them ‘no cell phones.’

We have got to go with the flow if we want young people to play. If we keep telling them ‘You cannot do this, you cannot wear that,’ then they’re not going to play golf. They are going to go and play another sport. Golf has to adapt and I’m fascinated to see where the governing bodies of the world will take it.