How many times have you heard this old chestnut trotted out over the last few years?
It’s nonsense. Lazy journalists massaging statistics. Cycling numbers are increasing and golfing numbers are falling , but does this really mean people are giving up one and taking up the other? Don’t think so.
There’s no doubt that the numbers of people cycling in Ireland have shot up over the last few years. Not only is it plainly visible on our roads, but Cycling Ireland’s figures prove it, just check out the graphic below.
At the same time, the CGI (Confederation of Golf in Ireland) reported last year that membership was down 25% between 2009 and 2014.
The rise in cycling is due to many things. A combination perhaps of more awareness of healthy living, the bike to work scheme making it more affordable to buy decent bikes, sportives springing up everywhere, the social aspect. At the same time the fall off in golf membership numbers coincides with the recent recession. Whilst the cost of equipment for both sports is probably around the same, most golf clubs have a hefty annual membership fee – and quite simply this has to be the main reason for the dramatic fall off in golf membership.
Now back to the point. Cycling is the new golf. Here’s something interesting. Looking from the outside you could say that I could be the poster boy for the yes campaign. Once a keen golfer, now a keen cyclist. But why…?
My golfing career started when I was about 14. A neighbours Dad showed me how to swing the club and brought me out for a few rounds. Lucky for me then, I had three friends with a shared interest and the following three years in particular saw the four of us play more rounds than I can remember. We were lucky to live equidistant from two good golf clubs, both with strong juvenile sections. We also had parents who were willing to drive us around. I remember often leaving my house at 8am on a bright summer’s morning for the golf club, packed lunch in hand. We would play 45 or 54 holes – basically until dark or we were too tired to continue, one or the other. Great times.
Of course college and all that goes with it came along then and golf got the cold shoulder until my late twenties. I found myself working in Africa of all places in a remote location. Not much to do except…you guessed it…golf. I fell easily back into it and had a great few years and actually got my handicap down to a very decent number. I arrived back in Ireland in the early noughties and re-joined the club of my youth and played for a few years.
But then along came the kids. First one, then two, three and finally four lovely babies. So I can tell you there wasn’t much time for golf! And that’s simply it, I decided I no longer could or wanted to be gone for 5,6,7 hours on a Saturday or Sunday. Time to find a new pastime…
Coincidentally with the arrival of the kids, I decided to give up the cigarettes. And then I took up cycling to lose a few pounds and embrace a healthier lifestyle.
Since then my main pastime is cycling. Something I love doing – I don’t mind what the bike is – road, mountain, cyclocross (I even had a bmx!) I just like getting out on the bike!
But here’s what I want to tell you…I love the game of golf too…and I haven’t swapped one for the other. Golf was the game of my teenage years, so many happy memories. It just so happens that playing regularly at this time in my life doesn’t work. But that’s not to say it won’t in the future.
For me, cycling is not the new golf, it’s just that right now I can’t do both - so purely on a time constraint basis, cycling gets the nod. But I look forward to the time in my life when I do have the time for both great sports and they can co-exist in harmony in my sporting life.