Golf in Germany: from elitist sport to popular recreation
Enlarge image (© colourbox) Despite its lingering celebrity sport aura, golf is today increasingly popular with all sections of German society. More and more people enjoy a game that tests both concentration and sporting prowess. The eternal quest for the perfect stroke has become an enthralling pastime.
Not long ago many people in Germany were convinced that “golf isn’t a real sport”, “it’s only for the elderly”, and also “hugely expensive”. It was seen as an elitist game, definitely “uncool”. This image is now on the way out, however, for in recent years the sport has undergone great changes and grown deep and strong roots. Just how strong these roots are is underlined by the latest figures from the German Golf Association. Following the huge increase in the game’s popularity in recent decades, some 610,000 people are today members of a golf club – making the sport actually bigger now in Germany than skiing, for example.
Part of the explanation may be that golf has become more accessible. Both old and new golf clubs have started to shake off their elitist image and welcome new members from all sections of society. On the outskirts of cities more and more driving ranges have opened, where people can go after work or seminars to relax and train their pitch or chip shots.
Enlarge image (© picture alliance / dpa) As the sport has become more accessible, its standing with the German public has risen to match. What was once uncool is well on the way to becoming cool. One reason is the current rejuvenation of the game: once seen as “a sport for old blokes”, it is now attracting more and more adolescents and young people. With Martin Kaymer, a successful golf pro, Germany has at long last found another real champion. That this can be critical in enhancing a sport’s popularity is clear from the example of tennis. When Boris Becker and Steffi Graf conquered the tennis world years ago, the “white sport” developed into a recreational sport enjoyed by both young and old.
Enlarge image (© picture alliance / dpa) For those who insist that golf is still uncool and elitist but want to share in the fun nonetheless, there is a new option: “cross golf”. In major German cities cross golfers play their game in the urban environment. On abandoned building sites or disused industrial areas the players identify a target, pick up a club and off they go. There are no fixed rules, no dress code and definitely no membership fees. With cross golf, golf is reduced to its basic essence, which is surely what it is all about: having fun.
© Federal Foreign Office // Bastian Salmen