What does 'Get Golf Ready' need to succeed?

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There’s no shortage of ideas about how to address golf’s participation problem. With both rounds and the actual number of people playing the game flat, the industry is increasingly anxious to figure out how to bring more warm bodies to the golf course.
The latest program seeking to address that issue is Golf 20/20’s Get Golf Ready in 5 Days. The initiative is aimed at bringing adults – who have the capacity to spend money now – into the game. While programs such as The First Tee are vital and necessary in order to train a new generation of future golfers, most operators right now are just fixated on getting through the present economic squeeze. And anything that creates “instant” players should be welcome. 
New Golf 20/20 Director Cathy Harbin has tackled the issue head-on. She comes to her job with a successful track record of promoting grow-the-game initiatives in a variety of venues, most recently at the World Golf Village in St. Augustine, Fla.
Harbin has set a specific goal: Have 700 courses signed up for the program by the end of the year. If each one of those runs 50 students through the program, that’s an extra 35,000 people who’ll be introduced to the game. Encouragingly, Get Golf Ready is off to a fast start, with more than 330 courses signed up in the first week.
But its eventual success, after all is said and done, will depend on grass-roots support. Will it get the backing it needs from individual operators? Will your facility be one of the expected 700 to sign up for Get Golf Ready? What else can be done to bring new players to the game or to get existing golfers to play more often?



Being able to perform and learn the game as it should be played is critical to participation. So many people have to be taught improper methods to hit the ball due to their body's inability to function. I think if more emphasis is placed on getting "physically" prepared to play, the more people would enjoy and stay with the game.

In addition to learning the game from a PGA pro, "free range ball days" would grow the game. Several years ago, I read an article citing significant increased play for every stroke a handicap index falls. We all know hitting one bucket of balls every so often will not lower handicap indexes. Whereas, hitting three or four buckets regularly will make a difference. But, who is willing to pay $30 per day to hit balls, especially in today's economic climate? Lowering range revenues would be offset with more rounds, and more importantly, bringing more golfers who continue to play, into the game.

I think it will take a miracle to get more people to play more golf, and the miracle would have to start with a complete change of heart from the golf industry. It amazes me how many GMs here in Arizona believe their clients are serious about the game and want to have a "pure golf experience" rather than a fun day out with their buddies. For the vast majority or golfers, we play for fun and camaraderie, not to set a course record. Yet the golf industry is so stuffy and loaded with "pork" it becomes cost prohibitive, time prohibitive and frustrating to try to play a lot of golf. Industry - wake up and make the game more fun, encourage 9 holes vs. 18, offer FREE clinics and range days, go out to corporations and local companies and local charities and service organizations and INVITE them to come spend a day at your facility learnign the game and having fun. AT NO CHARGE! They will come back and spend money with you, and they will bring a LOT of friends with them. Invest a little time and energy (NOT 10 minute lessons once a year, or some foolish notion that someone can learn to play golf in 5 days) and the public will come flocking to you. Continue on the way you're going, and you'll soon be waiting in the bread lines and unemployment lines with your brothers.

I think that in France, we have for a very long time a problem of frequenting of our golf courses. Solutions exist and are developed by successful and innovative administrators... Take example on the "Nouveaux Golfs de France" which on their Web site: www.ngf.fr , can bring you some very good ideas

Keith James hit the nail on the head in his post above. Golf courses have to remember that they are in the entertainment business FIRST and begin with this question in mind: "What are we doing to make our golf experience entertaining?" Most Golf Operations also need an extreme marketing makeover... In short they need to become excellent at marketing to source leads for new golfer programs, excellent at selling programs to these new golfers, excellent at executing these programs and satisfying new golfers, and ultimately excellent in follow up with new golfers to convert them into regular paying clients! KEVIN STROM :: PGA Professional VP of Sales and Marketing :: Legendary Marketing

Managers and owners have historically placed player development initiatives on the shoulders of the golf professional, and their staff, without adequate compensation. If we want these programs to succeed, then we must provide an incentive to those who are responsible for their implementation. We must take the time to communicate how this will benefit them in the short and the long term. Without all parties buying into a program it is doomed to fail.

Come down off that traditionalist soapbox and join the senior golfing majority...try a simple & practical approach...Hybrid Golf...proven to improve golf's growth initiative woe's.

If the economy has dug itself a hole than golf has backed itself into a corner. With the proliferation of the one-upmanship and Tiger-proofing our golf courses, developers (and architects) have sucked all the fun out of the game. The problem with golf is the big three--time, money and difficulty. How many people do you know want to spend $150. for six hours of misery? Developers with limitless budgets have demanded the most unique and spectacular (translation:expensive) golf courses ever built. Celebrity architects have responded by designing over-the-top golf courses that make it almost impossible for most golfers to enjoy the game. These over-designed courses require more time to play than the average American has to give. And certainly the developer wants a return on his investment--thus the high green fees. The golfer is the loser in this game of egotism, but the biggest loser is the game of golf. I feel sorry for the GM trying to fill a tee sheet at an upscale golf course in these economic times. Sadly it was the architect that had the power to help fill that tee sheet from the very beginning. For it is the architect that has total control over time, money and difficulty.

Please, not another rearranging of the deck chairs...give us a break! Now repeat after me, it's very simple...Time, Cost, Difficulty...Time, Cost, Difficulty...the three major issues why more golfer's are leaving the game and why people won't try it. Address these problems and golf will grow. Now, what's so difficult about that?

Look, we know that golf has an insurmountable problem with time, cost and difficulty. This is something the industry has been trying to rectify for years with little if any success. When you have a game that takes lots of time, costs lots of money and is very difficult to play at best, you definately limit yourself as to the quantity of participation. Now, couple this with the foreseeable changing economic situation and today's quicker pace of living and you can see why golf is in "real trouble". Afraid this latest industry effort will join other past grass-root attempts to jump start a game that has quickly become nonconforming with the times. They say a defination of "insanity" is doing the same thing over and over again while getting the same results. I think this adequately describes the current industry thinking.

It's obvious that we have an overbuilt the amount of golf courses, during the last building boom years. There are just not enough golfer's or people interested in taking up the game to go around. After reviewing the frustrating situation of zero growth (and that's being generous) in the golf industry and constantly trying to create an successful growth initiative that works, I think the best scenerio would be to eliminate 3 to 5 thousand courses. This would lead to a healthier industry, leaving fewer golf courses, but more golfer's to go around. The vacated properties could be retrofitted into profitable smaller golf courses, alternative energy sites or other desirable green space projects. I don't believe that any of these so-called initiatives have any endurance or effect on growing the game and are only intended for showing a good face effort. I ask you what has really changed to make people want to take up the game? As far as I'm concerned, nothing.

Here's a thought, maybe golf was never intended to take on such grand proportions. Maybe, in keeping with tradition, it was meant to be experienced by only a limited few. And maybe, this is where it has reached its limits.

Get Golf Ready includes golf instruction and on-course lay. The commitment to an experiential component is key. The program was introduced at Golf 20/20 without a "graduation" program that would cement a participant's intention to stay in the game. A fun, turn-key on-course graduation program is essential to the success of the Get Golf Ready program. The operators need a (choice of) turn-key best practices rather than be told to come up with something to get the participants to return.

Current growth methods show poor attraction and retention numbers. Reconstituting these efforts with weak initiatives has proven to be not acceptable. To be practical and change the traditional approach, may be a better way for the future?

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