Lee Westwood has warned that golf needs a major overhaul of its image and format if it is to attract the next generation of players.
Speaking on his official Facebook page ahead of The Open, the Worksop man called on the world’s leading golf organisations to do more to appeal to young and female golfers, such as introducing a shorter format of the game and making the sport cheaper and more accessible.
Recommendations from the former World Number 1 also included enlarging the hole to make the game easier and more attractive to new players.
He said: “Golf is absolutely not doing enough. It needs to be promoted better - the R&A, the USGA, the PGA Tour, the European Tour, the Asian Tour, the South African Tour need to do more to encourage young players to take up the game. They need to do more in Britain to encourage women to take up the game – there’s a very poor percentage that are women golfers in Britain.
“It needs to have the stigma taken away from it that it’s an old man’s game and that it’s for the ‘toffs’ if you want to call it that. It needs to be more available to the man in the street. I’m from a working class background and I started playing on a municipal golf course - there need to be more municipal golf courses and golf needs to be made more available to everybody.
“Obviously golf could be made less expensive. It needs to be quicker, with a shorter format - five hours on a Saturday or Sunday is too long to be out of the house. It needs a two hour format. The hole maybe needs to be made bigger, made easier – it’s a tough game that can become painful at times so it needs to be made fun.”
In a separate Facebook Q&A Westwood admitted that he believes he can win The Open and that it would be pinnacle of his career. He also confirmed that he would one day love to captain the European Ryder Cup team. He said: “I’ve been involved in the Ryder Cup since 1997 and I watched it before then, so I would love to captain a Ryder Cup team someday – maybe five or six years down the line. Certainly when I get to 47/48 I’d love to be involved either as vice-captain or captain.”
His outside tip for The Open is Louis Oosthuizen and he named Ryan Ruffels as golf’s future star. He added that Rory McIlroy can win golf’s Grand Slam, saying it’s “only a matter of time” before it happens. Away from golf, Westwood backed England to win the Ashes and the Rugby World Cup, and listed Maroon 5 as his favourite band.