POLITICS MAKES FOR STRANGE BEDFELLOWS:
GOLF and government go way back. According to the book How Did Sports Begin?, the earliest reference to the game was in 1457, when the Scottish parliament moaned it was keeping people from worthy pursuits such as archery and ordered that golf be "utterly cryit doun, and nocht usit".
Now the golf industry claims no other sport contributes more to the economy and for the first time yesterday had a formal gathering in Canberra with politicians.
As well as showing the Sport Minister, Kate Ellis, how to swing a club, industry figures got in politicians' ears about everything from the public health benefits of golf to the impact of climate change on courses.
Ms Ellis was told golf was a $2.7 billion industry which provided work to 23,000 people, based on 2004 data.
That year, Australians spent $48.5 million just on golf balls.
Australia boasts 1530 courses and about a million people play some 30 million rounds every year, but club membership is declining and the biggest group of golfers is aged between 55 and 64. Many people no longer have enough time to play 18 holes.
The chairman of the Australian Golf Industry Council, Max Garske, said golf had to become "more time attractive" through innovations such as nine-hole competitions and handicaps.
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