Australian golf's leaders want more female events and more women on professional tours as they attempt to shed perceptions of the sport being pale, male and stale.
Golf Australia (GA) chief executive James Sutherland has unveiled a 2022-25 strategic plan, highlighting some similar challenges to those faced during his 20-year stint at Cricket Australia.
Golf is intriguingly placed because of COVID-19; GA reported its biggest membership spike in 50 years and an estimated 21 per cent increase in participation over the past 12 months.
But club membership was in decline for the preceding 20 years, while cancelling the men's and women's national opens in both 2020 and 2021 due to border restrictions has been an undeniable blow.
Sutherland, who refused to comment about Tim Paine's sexting scandal, has "no regrets" about pulling the pin on the Australian Open and Women's Australian Open.
"It just wasn't going to be possible ... we had to make decisions months ago," Sutherland told AAP.
"Having to cancel a couple of events has given us cause to think deeply about the role these events play, how they feed into our strategy.
"We want to create more events for women ... these mixed events have been very successful and very popular."
There will be five combined men's and women's professional events this summer as golf starts a push to attract younger players, families, more females and players from migrant backgrounds.
A mantra that "all golf is golf" has also been embraced, with public courses, driving ranges, mini golf and simulators all part of reshaping a reputation of exclusivity and expense.
"If you have a stick and you hit a rock, you are playing golf ... even playing golf on your iPhone or your iPad, that is golf," Sutherland said.
"It may well see us abandoning things that we've done in the past, that we've clung to for historical reasons."
Sutherland, standing alongside WPGA Tour of Australasia boss Karen Lunn and Australian PGA tour supremo Gavin Kirkman on Wednesday, noted the strategic plan came after unprecedented collaboration from the three organisations.
Andrew Jones, the former Cricket NSW chief executive who helped Sutherland launch the BBL and WBBL, has been a consultant during a ninth-month project featuring consultation with thousands of golfers.
Sutherland admitted there are similarities between golf and cricket, which has grown female participation after investing in the highest level.
"There is a perception that it (golf) is perhaps not as welcoming as it should be," he said.
"That our gates are not always open.
"We don't have enough women or girls on the professional tours, certainly less than we did 20 years ago. We want to change that.
"Part of that is creating a pathway and a product that young girls can see and enjoy.
"Creating a place to play where they feel welcome, can have fun with their friends, but also see a genuine career path."
Sutherland added golf must do more to highlight its status as one of few sports that men and women can play together.
"In our own family of five, everyone's a keen golfer. It's fantastic, it's a joy to play as a family," he said.
Australian Associated Press
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