State of the Industry: 'We're doing OK,' Golf Inc. Conference speakers say

Despite growing challenges posed by the poor economy, environmental issues and changing lifestyles, a group of top industry leaders expressed optimism about the future of the business of golf during a keynote session at the recent Golf Inc. Conference at the World Golf Village in St. Augustine, Fla.
The session examining the state of the golf industry attracted the chief executive officers of four organizations – Joe Steranka of the PGA of America, Steve Mona of the World Golf Foundation, Mark Woodward of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America and Jim Singerling of the Club Managers Association of America --  and kicked off the three-day event. Henry DeLozier of Global Golf Advisors and a former president of the Golf Course Owners Association of America moderated the panel.  
Though the speakers acknowledged that many segments of the industry have struggled to stay afloat, golf operators in general have managed to hold their own. 
“We’re doing OK,” Steranka said. Rounds nationally were down just 1.8 percent in 2008 and are up slightly for the first two months of 2009, he said. “Relatively speaking, we’re doing fantastic in the world today,” he said. “I believe golf is more immune to the downturn in discretionary spending.”
Singerling said it’s a positive sign that in his 40 years in the golf business, he has never seen the various segments of the golf industry working together as closely as they are today. Still, since only about 10 percent of the population plays golf, “We have to do a better job in talking to the other 90 percent of the people,” he said.
Mona said that the short-term will remain challenging for operators.
“But the fundamentals of golf are solid,” he said. “Let’s see what happens to the industry in the summer.” 
Woodward sounded a cautionary note, pointing out that he believes the second quarter of 2009 will be critical for the industry.
“I don’t think we have felt the impact [of the recession] completely,” he said.
Mona said that operators need to do a better job of communicating the benefits of golf to the general population.
“We need to be smart and focused,” he said. “We need to push the fitness angle for golf. And we need to think about the underserved markets: women, African-Americans, Hispanics and Asian-Americans.”
He said the response to Get Golf Ready, the new grow-the-game program launched last fall by Golf 20/20, has been even greater than anticipated. More than 1,150 facilities had applied for certification as of the end of March, with more than 850 being certified, he said.
“But the ultimate measure of success will be what happens at the facility level,” Mona said.
The speakers also pointed out that golf, which has been an international game for decades, has become a worldwide industry as well.
“The days of isolationism are over,” Mona said. “We need to get over our jingoism and realize that we live in an international world.”
Woodward said that operators need to let non-golfers know that courses are an asset to the community, especially when it comes to environmental issues such as chemical and water use.
“We probably are the most responsible users of water of any industry in America,” he said.  


We're hearing from the 90%+ of people not playing the game...the reasons...takes to long!...costs to much! difficult! Attracting today's prospective golfer with the same old traditional methods is like GM trying to sell big Humvees, when the world has switched to the smaller more efficient & economical Hybrid. What we need is a smarter introductory approach for the game to grow. Come on industry leaders...wake-up and smell the changing world! We need a new business model for the sustainable future.

Industry leaders are doing what is expected, by being outwardly optomistic during these trying times. However, for the game to grow we have to do a better job of conditioning the average person into thinking that golf is an enjoyable experience by minimizing the time, cost and difficulty issues of the established game.

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