How golf can thrive in the future

Average: 3.5 (2 votes)
We need to engage in a much-needed discussion on the future of the golf industry.
Golf faces a critical point. Play has been sluggish the past 10 years, even though the Baby Boomer generation is upon us. The reason is that people who are now in their 20s, 30s and early 40s are not playing golf. Our old ways of doing business will not get them on the course anytime soon.
Without change, the golf industry will shrink dramatically over the next 20 years. We can either accept this decline and fight over the remaining scraps or plan for change.
I believe that golf can thrive in the future. Too often, we assume that the newer generations are solely focused on a fast, digital lifestyle that has little room for the slow game of golf.
But many of our younger Americans value integrity, nature and relationships — things that golf delivers better than any other sport or activity. A new vision for the future of golf can position our industry for unprecedented growth.
We invite you to share your thoughts on this blog here and we will integrate them in our upcoming Fall Golf Inc. Conference, to be held Sept. 14-16 in La Quinta, Calif. 
Jack Crittenden

Golf Inc.  


Jack: Your comments are right on point. The golf industry does indeed need to engage in this type of discussion, and your voice is one of only a few calling for that on a regular basis. You are to be commended for making the effort. Unfortunately, even those who offer posts in this forum do so anonymously, for some strange reason. That, alone, says something about the nature and substance of communication in the golf industry. For the most part, I see the industry fighting over the remaining scraps of a shrinking market, to use your description of the situation. Unless and until there is a widespread change in commitment to operational excellence, at all levels of the market, the fallout will likely continue. We’ve all experienced, or at least heard stories about the lack of customer focus in many facilities. No amount of marketing strategy, viral technology, or branding will offset a poor first-hand experience, and when that happens, a customer is lost. To publish marketing promises that create expectations which, ultimately, go unmet is like layering sweet frosting on a stale and tasteless cake. One bite and you’re sorry you didn’t resist the temptation. And, you will not be going back for more any time soon. When you consider that everyone who walks into a golf facility has already been challenged by the game’s cost of entry, learning curve to proficiency, and time commitment to actually participate, shouldn’t operators make the customer experience THE first priority, above all others? As you state in your comments above, “Our old ways of doing business will not get them on the course anytime soon.” The golf industry does face a critical point in its history. For golf to thrive in the future operators will need to recognize this as an operations management problem, not a marketing problem.

Golf needs to become affordable again starting at the course level. Price increases have made golf extremely difficult to take your kid(s)/family to the course. I believe courses should start offering a buy one Adult bring one child free. Perhaps during certain days & certain times. Most of my local courses are empty and this would certainly help. If the kids enjoy it, they will most likely want to return with their friends. They are the future of golf!

The problem that golf is facing now and in the foreseeable future is that it is competing for people’s ever decreasing recreation time against a much bigger landscape. And people are more aware of their options than ever through the internet. I can speak specifically about the Gen Xers, for whom recreation time and family time are increasingly one and the same. Dual income households are the norm and not the exception, especially in households with income levels the largest target market for golf. Having both parents working makes it that much more challenging for one of them to sneak off to the golf course every weekend for 5-6 hours. In order to increase the appeal to Gen X families, I suggest the following: 1. The game needs to be faster, perhaps by spreading out tee times and offering more range of skill levels from different tees. Or maybe we can find a way to track your handicap without playing a full 18 at a time. 2. The game needs to be more family-oriented. An earlier comment about bringing a child along for free is a good start, as is a trend toward adding par-3 (kids) tees to a course. Beyond that, I think we need to be creative about new ways to get the whole family on the course at the same time. Without developing young players now, it will be difficult to sustain the game in the future. 3. The game needs to be more affordable. In many places, there’s a deep discount for juniors (i.e. under 18) to play, but what does one do when they’re just out of college and can’t afford a $70 round of golf? I found playing a decent course most challenging to afford while I was in my 20’s, which is a shame because it was when I had the most time. The struggle here is that many of the old courses cost so much to maintain that it’s difficult to stay cash flow positive while doing so. I could go on and on about golf, country clubs and how to appeal to the next generation of members. If you want to read more about my thoughts on the subject, I invite you to read my article at -Mark

Being a "baby boomer" which is getting old I can tell you it was integrity, nature, and relationships that made me choose golf for a lifetime. Nothing has changed, the Gen Xers are not different. These are the values that make golf attractive. I think we are in for a major shake down. There are just too many golf courses now. Mainly thanks to the NGA and others who made ridiculous prediction on the "Future of the Game". Also, the mentality of perfect conditions "the Augusta Syndrone" is also to blame. Here is the solution. GO BACK TO 1960 CONDITIONS. Play the course as it lies. When I went to Ireland and Scotland the conditions where pretty rough and we had a great time. That's why they used to play match play. "Rub of the green" and all that good stuff. It was unpredictable and dare I say "UNFAIR". Course's in Florida are now moving in that direction out of neccesity as I see it. Putting there money in the greens, a little on the tees, mowing rough and bunker maintenance is lacking and O my God there are actually weeds. You go to Ireland and you love the weeds! Here is a suggestion for you. Take a 18 hole course, make one 9 for practice and family/senior golf. 9 holes for active golfers. Bite the bullet, cut the maintenance cost, and relax. Your not going to get rich anymore. I have made a small fortune in the golf business I think I know, the only problem is that I started with a Large fortune. Also, hire golf pro's that play golf and can talk it, play it and pass on the great game. We have to many shop clerks out there now. Best of Luck to all you operators.

Very good subject Jack.. and one that needs to be looked at seriously. Golf needs to get away from the 18-hole paradigm. 18-holes will always be the standard, but other options can be available that would be acceptable towards acheiving a handicap. 9-holes was finally accepted some years ago....Maybe courses should be designed with a 6-hole, 6-hole, 6-hole routing and if they so choose, players could actually go 'round for "six" and play a bit of golf, get some exercise and enjoy the camaraderie in less than 1.5 hours.... I know that Jack Nicklaus has talked about this and is astutely aware of the challenges that golf is going to face in the future. TIME is the number one deterrent to getting more people involved in the game. We have to increase the options!

The comments I've read are good and reflect thinking that will certainly help individual facilities. But, I think the industry has missed a great opportunity to separate itself from other activities by failing to sell the qualities that differentiate golf from virtually every other game. The fundamental qualities of golf are: play the game as the rules are written - not what you can get away with as is done in virtually all other sports; be responsible for what you do on the course - from calling penalties on oneself, to leaving the course in better condition than you found it, to accepting the results of your efforts no matter the outcome. Golf is different in fundamental ways, yet most of the talk I hear is about "updating" the game. To me, it would be as if the Louvre decided to "update" the Mona Lisa if tourist traffic dropped off. Would I like to see some things altered so the game doesn't become irrelevant to the vast majority of our audience? Yes, absolutely. Jack Nicklaus was right to say the ball should be manufactured to ensure players don't overwhelm our great courses (or, even our local $25 courses). In the end, however, the most enjoyable days on the course are those spent with good friends who respect the game's values, traditions, etiquette and rules - the things that set golf apart from all other sports. Yet, I would hazard a guess there are 5 million young people leaving our high schools each year who would be amazed to learn of a game in which the bedrock principles include personal integrity, respect for your fellow participants, accepting the results even if the rub of the green goes against them, and holding oneself to a higher standard.

Their has never been a better time to be a consumer in the golf course indutry. Over development of golf courses has forced operators to lower prices while improving conditions to just keep their small piece of the pie. Golf has always been hard, it has always been time consuming and it has always suffered the stigma of being a sport for the elite. This will never change what has changed is the consumer now has more options than ever before and gets to vote on the job you do by choosing where he or she wishes to pend their money. I live in Atlanta and the sheer number of excellent golf facilities within a 45 minute drive is staggering. People play where there welcomed and treated properly. However waiting for an increase in players to match the growth of facilities is a futile effort. The strong will eat the weak and once shaken out and the proportion of facilities shrinks the balance can again return and the properties left standing will become profitable. Morale of the story never believe in the anyone who tell you golf needs more courses because the growth demands it.

I've been in the golf business for all my life, I'm 53 now. Played Tours, owned golf companies and been on all side of the game. Golf is finished as we know it... The game needs to change or it won't be here in 20 years. Golf, TV has made it too slow. Hit the darn thing, move to the next shot and carry on. Reduce the number of clubs, have 6, 9 and 12 hole golf tournaments and play speed golf once in a while. Bring up that heart rate, make it a real sport... I love golf, always had, its given me an education - at the Univ of Miami in Fla ( when they had a mens golf team ) , built a company called Jazz Golf and spent all my money building a 3 hole golf course, par 3 par 4 and a par 5... The market rejected the concept and I lost my can. As mankind begins to expand their reach into other planets, how can golf keep its appeal ? We need youth, not digital games. Sure - the " purists " will always be there. But they have to change too. We screwed the game up...made clubs too easy to hit, made the game " air " oriented with the wedges...Whens the last time you saw a really nice bump and run ? Whens the last time you hit a real nice knock down shot ? Ever hit a easy fade ? We blew it, and we need to make a new game for the younger generation to enjoy. If we don't, the game will simply die. Its too slow, and frankly its not as fun as it was when you had to learn to hit shots.

As the standard golf game has been withering away, more efficient and economical forms of golf are starting to fill in the void. The older style golf approach has been rejected by the new order, in favor of quick, affordable & less frustrating golf. Condensing the golf game into a viable Hybrid format not only makes economic sense, but fullfills the requirements of the sustainable future.

I have enjoyed reading the posts on this blog. I attended Golf Inc.'s conference in Tampa earlier this year and was glad to hear people wanting to grow the business. I just started a non profit called The Hispanic Golf Network. My aim is to bring the golf industry to the Hispanic community thereby attracting new golfers. I had hoped to be a speaker in Phoenix along with my Hispanic team, but my subject matter was not selected. Some of the bloggers hit the nail on the head with respect to keeping and attracting new players. Too many people take this game too seriously. People will come if they are treated properly, the first time they come out and the last time they played. People do not want to be rushed by the foursome behind them nor the marshall. If people understand the rules and observe common courtesy, people will enjoy playing "their game". In the meantime I am on the look out for people that want to help me tap into this market.

Intergalactic Golf would like to share Our Main Objectives: (1) Maximize the opportunity and value for all partners and sponsors (2) Create millions of jobs globally (3) Provide equal access to golf, arts, entertainment, and green energies for youth of all socioeconomic levels (4) Make golf the most popular sport in the world (5) Further implement, promote, and popularize green energies/green tech and its infrastructure (6) Jump start the global economy around a golfcentric economy leveraging green energies, entertainment, travel and tourism, urban core real estate, merchandising/manufacturing (7) Promote a global transition towards a sustainable, flourishing world directed by the Intergalactic Vision (8) Rebuild our global economy around a new one world currency (9) Positively direct the future of the world (10) Empower, Inspire, and Direct the Future of Golf and The Future of The World

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