Greg Norman: Golf needs savvy, social media types to survive

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Greg Norman suggests changes for younger golfers
144th Open Championship
Venue: St Andrews Dates: 16-19 July
Coverage: Live across BBC TV, Red Button, Connected TVs, online, Radio 5 live, sports extra, tablets, mobiles and app.

Two-time Open winner Greg Norman says golf must embrace the digital age to attract new talent and survive.

The man nicknamed Great White Shark says the game must open up to "savvy, social media, connected with a device [types] with a Twitter account".

Relaxing dress codes and playing music on the course are two ideas suggested.

Participation fell in England last year and Norman, 60, said: "If a kid wants to get in a golf cart and play loud music, let them do it, absolutely."

Norman was speaking to BBC Sport before the 2015 Open at St Andrews, which starts on Thursday.

He added: "The traditionalists will say you can't do that.

Greg Norman
Born: Mount Isa, Australia, 1955
Nickname: Great White Shark
Majors: The Open 1986, 1993
Career victories: 91
PGA Tour victories: 20

"But if you want your club to survive, if you don't want the burden of maintaining it out of your own pocket, you have to bring in the youth.

"If someone wants to play nine holes, fine - but let the son play with his father with his headphones on. Let them dress a little bit differently."

Greg Norman
Greg Norman was world number one for 331 consecutive weeks in the 1980s and 90s

A Sport England survey earlier this year showed the number of people playing golf at least once a week has dropped from 751,900 to 730,300. This number was at 889,100 for the same period in 2005 to 2006, meaning a total loss of 158,800 regular players in the past eight years.

World number one Rory McIlroy, out of this year's Open with an ankle injury, said in December that golf needed speeding up to attract young players

But golf's authorities have been reluctant to bring in changes in the past.

It was only in September that The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews agreed to admit women to its membership, with Augusta doing similar in 2012.

Asked about Norman's comments, Peter Dawson, chief executive of the sport's rule makers the R&A, claimed the number of rounds played this year had increased significantly in "most major golf markets" and that he did not want to "talk ourselves into a participation drop that's greater than it actually is".

Speaking at a news conference at St Andrews, Dawson said there was "no one all-embracing solution" to the issue of participation, but did agree that courses should structure their fees to allow shorter forms of the game.

"People have less time, they want faster gratification these days. And if they want to go out and play six holes or nine holes, best of luck to them."

And he said golf clubs wanting to make changes to increase participation were free to do so: "If there are certain parts of the world or certain golf courses or clubs that want to allow that to happen, that's fine. If there are others that don't, that's fine, too.

"I can imagine plenty of golf clubs or golf facilities where if they had that policy it would reduce participation. I can also imagine where it might increase it. So it's a matter for courses and clubs themselves to appeal to their own market, it seems to me."

Greg Norman
Greg Norman won his first Open at Turnberry in 1986 and his second at Royal St Georges in 1993

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