Will golf enjoy an Olympic-fueled boom?

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When the International Olympic Committee recently green-lighted golf as a sport for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janiero, it was a cause for celebration in the golf industry. Or at least some segments of the golf industry.

Club manufacturers, equipment suppliers and service providers associated with the development side of the business immediately praised the opportunity. They said the decision will open new markets for golf in countries where the population wouldn’t know a 5-iron from a flyswatter. 

Bill Bales, chief executive officer of aboutGolf, an indoor golf simulator company, was so excited that he hailed Oct. 9, 2009 as “golf’s greatest day in its 500-year history.”

While that may be a bit over the top, Bales does have a point when it said that the decision “means the likes of China, Russia, Germany, Korea, Japan and others are going to invest more dough than is used to make a Man Versus Food pizza to create and expand organized programs to produce golfers.”

Bales, writing on his own blog, enthuses about a potential Olympics-fueled golden era for golf:

“The return of golf to the Olympics represents a shift of monumental proportions within the golf culture. In modern terms, it’s a paradigm shift, an inflection point. In anthropological terms, it’s on par with the industrial revolution.

“But such an event begets disruptive change (like with paradigm shifts, inflection points, and cultural revolutions). The game is going to change. The business is going to expand. Golf culture is going to hyper-evolve.

“Why such big effects on golf, when it wasn’t such a big deal with other Olympic sports?

“The Olympic movement is going to make golf ‘hip,’ which will make the game a bit less formal. Participants will place more emphasis on performance, and less on decorum. Spectators at events will get more rowdy (we’ve already had a taste of it at the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup – ‘Ole, Ole Ole Ole’). The staid game we’ve known all our lives is going to get a little crazy.

“Don’t rule out that professionals on the PGA Tour one day will be members of teams, like NASCAR (Team Nike), wearing uniforms with large numbers on their backs. Countries getting into golf in a big way for the first time will contribute new cultural nuances surrounding the game and some will find their way into the mainstream.

“The modern Olympic movement is going to help transform the game of golf into a sport for every man. It’s going to get a bit rude, crude, and unattractive, and it’s going to be a beautiful thing.

“I can’t wait.”

How about you? Do you think adding golf to the Olympics will lead to a drastic change in the way golf is perceived, not just in the U.S., but internationally? Will it have any impact on your business?

We’d like to hear your views.







In my opinion, the impact of Olympic Golf will be directly related to the televised exposure, the opportunity to view matches, and the ability of developing countries to sustain programs. I think it will have an impact, but I am not nearly as enthused as Mr. Bales.

If it turns out to be just another golf tourney, it won't do that much. However, if they figure a way to make this as important as the Ryder Cup, or even more, it can be huge for golf. That should be the goal. With that being said, even if executed poorly, it can't hurt, but if done well, it can be huge for the game.

I think it would be great if it was for Amateurs. The Olympics were never the same once Pro's were allowed. This will just be another World Tour Event watching Tiger and Phil play Ryo, Yang, Ennie, Rory, Paddy, etc.

Of course the manufacturers are excited, this will expand their markets allowing them to sell more products and increase profits. How much of a long time consuming event does TV/NBC show of the Olympics right now? Only highlights on their main broadcast. Is the 2016 TV Partner going to dedicate 3 straight hours of mainline broadcast coverage to golf? Unlikely. In 7 years is Tiger still going to be the man that make everyone watch? Phil will be preparing for the Sr. Tour. Will Rory, Ryo and AK be the attractions? Since Tiger hit the scene has golf participation grown? Participation continues to be flat in the US. As a course operator I am not expecting Olympic Golf to be this great boom of salvation. But I would like to be wrong.

No question the golf industry will benefit from adding golf to the Olympics. First golf archetects will benefit as new courses will be built all over the world, as these countries add courses and golfers manufacturers will also benefit and sell their products. Golf consultants and golf teachers willing to go to these countries will also benefit. There will not be any direct or early help to golf operators in America but overtime as these countries develop golfers they will come to play American resorts and many of these countries who have sent imigrants here may start watching golf during the Olympics and possibly take up the game. A long shot for domestic operators maybe a renewed interest in golf but I thinkg that is a long shot the underlying issues of golf in America still are obvious. Supply and demand imbalance, the difficulty in learning the game, perceived elitist and expensive thinking and the amount of time to not only play but learn. Although these have some solutions they are not currently be addressed in any widespread manner.

Being an avid golfer myself I of course think it's great that golf is again included. However, it's going to be the same professional golfers playing at the Olympics who already play against each other almost every weekend. In addition we already have a number of international events for the pros, i.e. the Ryder Cup, the Presidents Cup etc. I would have much preferred to see top talent golf amateurs from all over the world competing against each other. In the distant past the Olympic Games were only for amateurs, but nowadays it's just another media events with the same professionals that get paid huge fees for their appearance alone.

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