This game is way too good for only a select few to enjoy!
In the traditionally exclusive world of golf, Ray Nyabola is a game-changer. As the founder of Black British Golfers (BBG), he’s breaking down barriers and nurturing a community where diversity is not just welcomed, but celebrated.
Created from a desire to showcase the untold stories of Black golfers in the UK, BBG began as a social media initiative and quickly evolved into a powerful movement championing inclusivity.
Through community schemes and annual events, BBG has demonstrated a growing appetite for a more inclusive golfing experience.
The vision of Ray – known to many as ‘Coach Ray’ – is clear: golf should be a sport that offers a sense of belonging and opportunity for all, irrespective of background.
His story is not just about changing the face of golf but also about leveraging the sport as a tool for personal and community development.
We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Coach Ray and find out directly from him how he and BBG are driving the future of a new, more progressive sport.
Ray, it’s a pleasure to have you with us. Could you start by telling us a bit about your background and what led to the creation of Black British Golfers?
❝ Next year it’ll be four years since Black British Golfers began, which is scary! The idea came from a realisation that the conversation around race and diversity in golf was largely American-centric. While there’s nothing wrong with that, it struck me that we had our own stories to tell here in the UK. As a black golfer myself, I knew there were many like me, and our experiences and perspectives needed a platform.
The pandemic provided an unexpected opportunity to reflect and act. With time on my hands, I decided to launch the initiative, focusing on social media to share these untold stories. It was about creating a community and starting a dialogue from a distinctly Black British viewpoint. ❞
How has the response been to your efforts?
❝ The response has been incredibly positive and, frankly, a bit overwhelming. We’ve been consistent in our storytelling, sharing stories daily for the first two years. The idea was simple: if more black people see themselves represented in golf, more will be encouraged to participate. We’ve seen a snowball effect, gaining momentum and building a community that’s engaged and active. ❞
Black British Golfers— Black British Golfers (@Black_Brit_golf) October 23, 2021
Airs on @SkySportsGolf
Sun 24th Oct 1630hrs #blackbritishgolfers #iamablackbritishgolfer #blackgolf #blackgolfers #blackbritish #BlackHistoryMonth #golf #golfing #ukgolf #britishgolf #golfisfun #golfislife #golfer #blackgolfers #growingthegame pic.twitter.com/LNCgHzjxJ7
In what ways do you feel the UK’s black golf scene differs from that of the US?
❝ Access is a key difference. In the UK, the majority of golf courses are accessible to the public, which isn’t always the case in the US with its private country club model. This accessibility shapes our approach to inclusivity and diversity in the sport. It’s about ensuring that the nuances of access in the UK are understood and not lost in the broader narrative.
We all enjoy this game. But also let’s make sure that when we are discussing ways to improve and enhance the experience of communities, we don’t overlay things that are not culturally relevant to us here. ❞
What was the driving force behind starting Black British Golfers?
❝ Following the murder of George Floyd, most of the Western world found themselves holding a mirror up against society and reflecting on the big issues in our lives. So I really sat down and I started listening to the stories coming out and realised at that point that if I don’t do something now, then when will I?
If you started listening to the conversations that were happening around golf, we were not able to have that conversation here in the UK. So you found a lot of the narrative was coming from US broadcasters and I thought ‘I’m a black British person, I play golf here in the UK, and a lot of the things that are coming across are not necessarily true over here.’
I’m convinced that initiatives around inclusivity and diversity in golf need to be more localised, rather than global.
One of the things that started to happen within the golf community was people were saying “I never knew there was this many black people playing golf!”, and that immediately confirmed that Black British Golfers was going to make a difference. ❞
Have your experiences in golf changed since founding the organisation?
❝ I’ve been fortunate, but I’ve also encountered moments that highlight the need for change. For example, I had finished playing a round at a very prestigious golf course and stepped out of the clubhouse. One of the members walked up to me in a friendly way – not in a confrontational way – and asked me if my shift was over. She couldn’t see me as anything other than staff.
So those kinds of things are off-putting. And for someone like me who has been in the game for a while – I can sidestep them and not let them phase me too much, but for someone who’s coming into the game or is just being introduced to the game, that can be the thing that stops them getting involved in the game. ❞
Is the golf industry ready for change and diversity?
❝ Golf is changing and it wants to change.
The biggest challenge is more about who is allowed in the room to make decisions for the sport and who are they speaking to to get more diverse perspectives and opinions.
When you go into spaces where these discussions are happening, the people in those rooms are not necessarily reflective of broader society.
For instance, having black women involved in the conversations around how golf clothing is manufactured or designed will give a completely new perspective on how manufacturers can create clothes that are better suited for a much broader base of potential customers. ❞
Tell us about some of the community initiatives you have organised…
❝ We’ve seen over the last two years that there is an appetite for golf, but only if community initiatives are delivered the right way.
Rather than having community initiatives that are delivered from the top-down, we’ve been able to get an interest in the game from the bottom-up – from within the community itself, whether that’s here in Edinburgh, Bristol or Liverpool. And next year we’ll be running events in London where again we’ll be looking for that interest and impetus and direct buy-in from the community.
There is another way of delivering golf that can get young people and underrepresented communities really excited about the game. ❞
And why should people be excited about golf?
❝ There is absolutely nothing like it. There’s no better sport than golf. I even get chills saying that. Honestly, the minute I started saying that, I started feeling that… that feeling we all know.
And there is no better sport than golf in the sense that it allows for whoever is looking to play the game to experience something that is unique in the landscape of sport.
I always say this, it’s the closest thing to a perfect game because you’re on a quest to achieve something. There are no guarantees on the other end, but along the way the journey and the ups and downs really have an effect on you as a person. It influences who you end up becoming.
And whether it’s the social side of it, whether it’s the mental health side of it, or the health and fitness benefits of it, there’s a lot of different things that golf can bring you that not many sports can do all together. ❞
It’s a good metaphor for life, you could say.
❝ I think that’s why people love it so much. You know, we golfers are all united. The minute you walk in and into a room and you say you play golf, it creates a bond or a unity with other golfers. We might all suck, but that’s not the point! The point is we’re all in this together and we want more people to come along for their journey.
And that’s the message that I try to put out there: this game is way too good for only a select few to enjoy. ❞