Rory McIlroy: Speed up golf to attract more young players

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McIlroy handed BBC Sport NI 2014 award

Rory McIlroy has called for a faster version of golf in a bid to attract young players to the sport.

Sport England figures show that the number of 16-25-year-olds playing the game regularly almost halved between 2009-10 and 2012-13.

"Everything's so instant now and everyone doesn't have as much time as they used to," world number one McIlroy told BBC Radio 4.

"So you maybe try some way of speeding the game up."

Northern Ireland's McIlroy, who won the Open and the US PGA in 2014, added: "The viewership in golf is up but the participation is down.

"People enjoy watching the game but gone are the days that you could spend five or six hours on a golf course."

People playing golf once a week, every week, in England
Year14-25 year olds16-25 year oldsAll ages (16+)
2009-1095,700860,900
2010-1173,100833,200
2011-1255,900850,500
2012-1361,40052,400751,900

Golf's authorities have been reluctant to bring in changes in the past, with The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews only agreeing to admit women to its membership in September.

But McIlroy believes the sport's rulemakers are ready for new initiatives.

"I don't think they'd be against it, especially if they wanted to get participation levels up," said McIlroy, who finished second to Lewis Hamilton in the voting for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award.

"I don't think they need to alter tournament-play formats, I think that works very well. It's the grass roots... definitely not at our level."

McIlroy, who famously appeared on television to chip golf balls into a washing machine at the age of nine, wants young people to follow his example and take up the sport early in life.

"I feel as though I've inspired a lot of kids back home in Northern Ireland to pick up the game and play," he said.

"Hopefully I can continue to do that beyond Northern Ireland because it's a great game. It's given me a lot and I've loved every minute of it and I know if more people pick up the game they'll love it, too."

Analysis by BBC golf correspondent Iain Carter
Golf is undoubtedly failing to adapt to modern time pressures and needs to wake up to that fact. It's increasingly difficult to justify the amount of time needed to play a round within the confines of modern family life.
Initiatives are needed to speed up play. More severe penalties are required in the pro game which sets the example for the sport at large. Courses need to be set up with less rough meaning less time spent searching for balls.
The golf ball travels too far; shorter courses mean shorter rounds. And clubs should encourage nine-hole golf in family friendly environments.
This is one of the few sports families can play together, from grandparents to grandchildren, yet there are too few initiatives to make the most of this.

How should golf change to appeal to young people? Have your say in the comments below, on our BBC Sport Facebook page or on Twitter via the hashtag #whatgolfshoulddo

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