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The BTN Interview: Richard Wax, Chairman, St Andrews Golf Festival

The BTN Interview: Richard Wax, Chairman, St Andrews Golf Festival

Scotland, dubbed the ‘Home of Golf’, is gearing up to stage its first ever Golf Festival, drawing international visitors to celebrate over 600 years of golf in Scotland and around the world.

The vibrant five day festival, set to take place between March 28th and April 1st, will include a host of networking events, guest speakers, competitions and street games.

BTN caught up with Richard Wax, Chairman of the festival, to find what this festival will bring to St Andrews and why he feels the need to put the fun back into golf.

BTN: St Andrews has a rich golfing history, but has never before staged a golfing festival. Why did you decide to launch the Festival at this time?
RW: We have noticed a progressive change in the conduct of golfers in the many countries which I visit and where I play golf. The game seems to be losing the fun of the social side of getting together in beautiful places. Players are taking the game too seriously and if this trend continues the next generations will find other more entertaining and less stressful ways to spend their limited leisure time.

The famous Old Course in St Andrews

BTN: What will the festival bring to St Andrews?
RW: St Andrews as a tourist destination is truly world class. It has some of the finest hotels in the world and a setting that is truly breathtaking. For the sixty million golfers around the world it is truly unique.

What we will be doing is shining a light on the ancient town for a week of the year at the start of the golfing season with a mixture of world class exhibitions, speakers and a plethora of fun things to do from hickory golf to playing a tee shot on the first hole of the Old Course on a golf simulator near the 1st tee.

There will be golf films at venues all across town and opportunities for people to try their hand at golf for the first time. It is basically a party and everyone is invited from expert golf historians to anyone who might be considering having a go at playing golf for the very first time.

With over 30 years of studying what makes a great golf destination, I am fully aware of how great St Andrews is. With the Festival, we hope to share that message all around the world.

We are very grateful to have the support of Scotland’s First Minister behind us and are confident that the Festival party will continue to flourish and grow year after year.

To what extent will it boost tourism to St Andrews?
The aim is to increase tourism numbers and revenue spend in St Andrews by starting the tourist season earlier than before. In year one, we are hoping to improve year on year figures for hotels, guest houses and b&b’s by 30%.

BTN: What are your expectations for the event?
RW: Roger (McStravick, Chief Executive of the festival) and I have been entirely focused on this event which will be the first of many. The guest speakers and events will be filmed and be made accessible globally via the Internet. We have a database of some 1,800 golf writers around the world many of whom we know personally.

BTN: Who will the festival attract?
RW: We have excellent and long-standing friendships with organisations such as the Scottish Golf Union which will be communicating details of the Festival to its 600,000 members. The hotels and B&Bs of the area are sending details of the programme to their clients. It will be covered on Scottish TV and international channels…so we have no concerns about the leverage which the festival will generate globally.

What kinds of innovative events and games will be taking place during the festival?
The core team which is coming up with new ideas such as the playing of Street Golf in the lanes of St Andrews which evokes references to a game called “Sillybodkins” which is mentioned as having been played in the 1830’s by one of the most influential persons in the history of the game, Old Tom Morris. In those days the game was played with a cork held together with nails! We will select 18 “holes” through the beautiful old town each close to a location with golfing connotations from the past. Competitions and fun games will be held both during the Festival and afterwards.

The University of St Andrews with its 8,000 students will love getting dressed up in old golfing attire to enjoy a stress-free “round” of golf.

The Town of St Andrews with its 8,000 population will see more business coming through the shops and restaurants due to visitors discovering the beauties of the town through “Street Golf.”

The Golf element has been hitherto very much confined to the golf courses whereas with street golf the challenge will be enlarged into another environment altogether.

Photos and film footage of golfers in 1850’s attire playing golf with a backdrop of the ruined Cathedral, the splendid beach where Chariots of Fire was filmed and the secluded courtyards of the University will be beamed around the world projecting a new and fun image of the ‘Auld Toun’, as St Andrews is known universally.