Phil Anderton is chief development officer at The R&A

IT’S been a superb summer of golf, with the world’s best players challenged by Scotland’s famous courses. And, of course, The Open, returning to St Andrews, the home of golf, to celebrate its 150th playing.

It’s clear that golf is a beloved sport both here in Scotland and more widely around the world, but we must continue to grow golf’s popularity so that it is still thriving 50 years from now. This means actively challenging the unhelpful misconceptions surrounding golf and making it more appealing, accessible and inclusive to existing and new audiences.

Golf offers numerous benefits. The R&A has supported scientific research which identified that playing golf can help with mental well-being, strength and conditioning and cardiovascular health and can help prevent and treat major chronic diseases, including diabetes, depression and dementia.

It can offer much-needed "me" time or provide an opportunity to meet friends old and new. And it’s an activity that can be enjoyed as a family, one of the few sports where different generations can compete together thanks to the handicap system.

People have enjoyed the traditional format of golf for centuries, but it doesn’t need to be the same for everyone. There will always be golfers who want to be part of a club and play 18 holes, but when people are busy with work and families, time constraints don’t always allow for this.

That doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t play golf; it means that the industry needs to provide facilities catering for a variety of needs. This means more options for shorter forms of the sport, such as nine-hole courses and simulators, as well as programmes that beginners feel comfortable being a part of, without pressure, large financial commitment, or expectation.

Our research shows that more people will pick up golf if we raise awareness of the alternative options that exist beyond the traditional club membership and reduce barriers to entry.

This is why we have developed Golf. Golf, a new initiative aimed at attracting a new generation of players to the sport. We are working with Scottish Golf to pilot Golf. Golf and provide venues with a free, easy-to-use digital platform, to attract potential new golfers living in close proximity and offer beginner programmes that can be enjoyed in a welcoming, relaxed and fun environment.

We have started onboarding venues and those signed up are immediately reporting a positive response in terms of feedback and booking numbers. We see this pilot as a vital stepping-stone towards launching Golf. Golf next spring, which will increase opportunities for non-golfers of all ages and backgrounds to discover our sport. All venues can register their interest with us.

Our ambassadors, including popstar Niall Horan and footballer Gareth Bale, will play a prominent role in creating appealing promotional campaigns, influencing perceptions, and highlighting the benefits of golf through their own love of the sport in a way that resonates with these audiences.

Together, we can create a new legacy for the sport to thrive in the future. It’s a new era for golf, and I’m excited to see how it develops.