- Barry Toohey The Daily Telegraph May 11, 2012 12:00AM
Jack Newton with Stonebridge Golf Club president Kerry Bartlett. Source: The Daily Telegraph
ASK Jack Newton what golf needs to do to pull itself out of the tight lie it’s in popularity-wise in this country and typically, he comes out swinging.
“The game needs to change,” Newton said. “If you haven’t got enough people coming through your club, old bastards like me are going to be dead and gone. What’s the future of golf clubs then? What’s the future of the game?”
Newton was back in his old home town of Cessnock yesterday at the official opening of the newly named Stonebridge Golf Club.
It was formerly Cessnock Golf Club and then The Oaks Golf and Country Club before it ran into financial trouble and closed two years ago.
The site was redeveloped and Newton, whose father Jack and grandfather Bill were both coal-miners at nearby Bellbird, was called in to redesign an 18-hole championship course in among a new residential estate.
He is justifiably proud of what’s been achieved but has challenged people to judge for themselves.
“There’s four million people trying to escape Sydney every Friday. This is where they should come,” he said. “This region is now a genuine golfing destination.
They should be rushing up here to have a game of golf I think rather than getting on a plane and going to Surfers Paradise.”
When it all boils down to it though, you get the impression Newton would just like to see more people playing golf, no matter where it is.
He worries about the sport’s future and where it is headed, claiming a long line of clubs have got themselves into financial trouble because of poor management decisions.
“A lot of old blokes are commandeering the committees and putting up fees without any improvement to the facility,” he said. “There’s a lot of clubs in Sydney whose books have been closed to new members for years that are now open.”
But he says the real changes needed to bolster dwindling player numbers have to be made at junior level to attract the players of the future. Problem is, it calls for some forward thinking.
For starters, he says it’s time to do away with some of the game’s rigid dress code regulations. “For young people, they (dress codes) haven’t been upgraded in 50 years,” he said.
“The standard answer you get when you question having to wear a shirt with a collar is it’s a tradition we must keep.
“I’m not suggesting allowing football shorts or a singlet. But I think there is other attire around now that young people like to wear that cost a whole lot more than a shirt with a collar on it.”
Newton, who has done more to promote junior golf in NSW than anyone else with the Jack Newton Golf Foundation, is not holding his breath, waiting for change to occur.
But don’t think for a minute he won’t use his considerable influence to continue to push for it.