So What’s Next for Golf?

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Author: Charlie Palmer

Will we see more news like Dick’s Sporting Goods or is golf on its way back?

american golf association logoMichael Jensen
American Golf Association Vice President – Operations

First, I personally believe that the Dick’s situation will have an overall positive effect for the smaller off course retailers as well as pro shops. Dick’s was no friend to them and frankly got exactly what they deserved. They bedded down with snakes (TaylorMade) and got bit. No surprise to anyone but themselves it seems.

Second, as far as will golf come back?

I posted this comment just recently at a Golf and Business Networking Group and I would welcome others input.

I don’t think men are exiting the game because of equipment costs. It only makes sense that if they were already playing the game then they must have had equipment in their hands.

The hard goods and apparel choices we see in the pro shops and CC’s are there because the pro shop manager made the choice to fill his shop with overpriced and over hyped pro line offerings—more concerned with perception than salable goods.

There are plenty of non-branded clubs and bags available whose performance and quality are every bit as good as pro-line and better.  Almost all of offer better warranties.  Keep in mind that 95% of golfers are 20 handicappers or more. These are the consumers that are going to dictate the future of the golf business not the scratch / 5 handicap player.  Changing the rules of the game and the size of the hole is ridiculous. I have yet to hear ANYONE say the reason they don’t golf is because the hole is too small.

It’s not about the rules or the equipment. It is about the business and it’s current model. Asking this behemoth we call the “golf industry” to re-think it’s marketing and approach to the recreational golfer is like turning the Titanic. Hell, it’s already hit the iceberg for crying out loud and the industry just keeps telling the band to play louder.

I do not personally believe help is coming from the top down. There are simply to many self interests involved. Each and every course and club needs to look at itself and ask what and how can they do better to lure new and former participants back. Whether it’s holding “date night golf” “Husband and wife night” “bring the kids for free” or simply supplying the equipment and balls to entice people to try the game. There are many ways to incorporate these ideas and I’m sure much better ones in order to increase awareness and participation.

For better or worse golf has earned itself a reputation as snobbish, expensive, intimidating and exclusive. That’s great if your Pebble Beach. However there are 25,000 courses that are not. Make the game casual, fun, informal and incorporate ideas that change the existing perception.

Listen, people today are smarter and more discerning with their time and discretionary income. But we will still spend almost $25 for two people to see a 90 minute movie. It would seem that $40-$50 for two people to golf together for 4 hours would be a good bang for the buck. Especially if the club added some fun to it (free 6 pack for the round, dining coupon or free hot dogs, 25% off the next pair round, scratch off tickets for every best ball, par, etc). Come on, there are a million ways to open this game up again without waiting for the PGA Yoda’s to come down from the mountain.

The courses need to ask themselves why they got into this business to begin with. If it was because they “love the game” well then that’s the problem. Good business decisions don’t come from “loving” anything. It comes from being passionate about the business part of it. There is a difference.

So the question remains….is our product going to be a dying dinosaur and become extinct with the other high priced golf equipment items or is there still a market and unfound consumers with disposable or expendable income to buy it? Technology has found a way to stay in the game but it’s always the price point that determines how long it stays in the game.