This past Monday there was an article in the Dallas Morning news, conveniently written the day after the golf tournament, about Northern Trust, the sponsor of the Northern Trust Open PGA Tournament, taking bailout money. Though the report showed none of the bailout funds they took from the government were used for any of the golf events it leads people to think otherwise.
I am sure that this incident will not be the last since in this economy it is going to be hard to not find any business who sponsors a PGA event who is not being hit by the economy with either layoffs or misappropriation of their funds. I’ll leave my opinion of AT&T now being on Tiger’s bag to another time when my fingers are well healed to write that lengthy blog.
This kind of news and observations being brought out for the world to readjust points to one issue that is Hurting Golf. Yes, there are several issues GOLF needs to address and solve in order to survive. Some of the issues have solutions and some really do not have a clear-cut answer because it is caused by something outside of golf.
So you ask…
What are the issues Hurting Golf?
No Golfers = No Golf
Right now there are several issues.
- Pace of Play
- Cost to Play
- Difficulty of learning to play
- Reason to Play
These are the top issues affecting golfer’s and non-golfer’s attitude towards golf. As you noticed, all of these issues address Playing Golf. Since playing golf is what you do as a golfer it seems natural what is keeping people from playing golf need to be resolved if the golf industry is to survive because it is the everyday GOLFER who drives the golf economy.
Business Golfers Drive the Cart
Of all of the different categories of golfers, the Business Golfers make the biggest contribution. Out of the estimated 61 million golfers in the world, (28 million of which are in the USA), over 40% are Business Golfers…meaning they play golf regularly as part of or related to their business’ function…taking a client out, attending an industry conference, business meetings..etc.
With this large part of the golf economy at risk of leaving GOLF because of the issues, Golf has, something needs to be done…and done now. This segment of the middle of the golf economy represents the largest voice in Golf. But are they be listened to? Answer: Not Really.
On the most part the attention the golf industry has given to business golfers has been at the HIGH end…the ‘C Suite’ executives who carry the Corporate Checkbook on the corporate jets. These elite Business Golfers were easy targets back in ‘The Day’. However, over the past five years, they all seemed to have charted a flight plan to the Wall the economy hit this past October. Now, these leaders of business are running from golf since they don’t want to be seen as ‘Frilling’ away stockholders money.
Business Golfers have been dealing with the issues of Golf before the recent recession and were leaving golf by the droves because of them. The golf industry was seeing the fallout but felt they would not make any changes and would rather stay focused on the easy money people…the elite financially independent, recession-proof golfers. Now, the severity of the issues pledging golf has left business golfers in the same shape as the people in the last episode of ‘Lost’…hungry, ready to give it up and see no hope in any change coming.
Affects All Golfers
Still, the issues listed above are affecting the appeal of Golf for all categories of golfers. From the guy who plays once a year to the Tour Pro’s, these core issues keep each of them from enjoying the sport or from playing the game as it is intended to be played. Since the Business Golfers are paying the bills of the Golf Industry lets take a Glimpse of what the basics of these issues are from a business golfer’s viewpoint..shall we?
Pace of Play
Nothing kills a round of golf with a client, employee or a vendor faster than a six-hour round of golf. The causes of the slow pace of play are many. They range from natural occurrences like lost balls by all the players in a group to plan out lack of caring of the pace or play by one of more players in a group. Other contributors to causing the slow pace lean towards greed and bad management of a golf course operations. Things like booking too many tee times and pacing the times between tee times too close. These are economy driven reasons on the most part.
Other factors like Cart Path Only golf course compounded with them requiring every player to ride in a cart are also economic and lack of effective management skills. One of the factors related to the slow pace of play is allowing unskilled golfers to play from the back tees.
All of these and many others affect the pace of play and all have solutions. And all are causing business golfers to give up the game due to not being tolerant of the lack of management of the problem or the time to deal with it. Either way, golf is losing a lot of revenue due to them leaving.
Cost to Play
Over the past ten years, the cost of golf has climbed to unreal levels. Everything thing from equipment to green fees have been raised in the name of ‘Supply and Demand”, which should be changed to the “Hey, let’s see How Much these Fools Will Pay to Play” economic factor of golf. When asked (by someone like me) why these costs have to be so high the reasons range from the lame…”these prices cover the manufacturer prices with only an 18% profit margin… to the absurd….”our operations costs are higher since we maintain our golf course a higher standard of quality than others”.
I get the impression some of these golf manufacturers and golf facility management groups play business golfers as fools and are hiring the same marketing groups Facebook uses to highlight things that make the golf equipment and facilities look better or grander than they can be verified as being. If the truth would be told the high costs they allude to wanting the business golfer to pay either go to paying the high salaries of executives that contribute nothing to the bottomline or for long-term investment paybacks, overpriced research and development and loans to cover for inflated prices of renovation of the facility to “Tigerize” it.
Difficulty of Learning to Play
The resurgence in the interest of golf that coincided with the excitement Tiger Woods brought to the game caught Golf unprepared to teach the game effectively. Again, greed in capturing a part of the market could be blamed as a cause, but on the most part the real reason people feel golf is difficult to learn is partly due to the training, or lack of, of people who teach,’s the game are falling short of the demand. So, not only are there not enough good golf trainers of the game, but those who are good at training golfers find the monetary gain lacking to what they could make if they were in another profession. So the good teachers leave the profession and hand the reins of teaching golf to the ‘Players’ of the game. These are men and women who play golf well but have no ability to teach what they are good at demonstrating.
So many people wanting to learn the game for business purposes are left at the driving range by either someone who is very good teaching golf but not motivated beyond the half hour they charge to finish their efforts or left to fend for themselves by learning to play golf from seeing someone hitting a golf ball further than they ever could dream hitting a golf ball in their lifetime. The result is those people leave golf out of disgust of what they see golf as…something that is too difficult to learn and too time-consuming to learn…
It is a fact..golf is not an easy endeavor to accomplish immediately which is what today’s video-driven desk-top athletes demand of anything they try to do. “If golf is not as easy as Wii then I am not interested”…this seems to be the motto of the younger generation. So how does the golf industry react…develop $50k golf simulators…so people can play golf, in a virtual world…is that golf? Still, even in a virtual or simulation of the golf game, the fundamentals of swinging a golf club to hit a golf ball are deemed too difficult. This difficulty is causing the golf industry to miss out on capturing the next generation of golfers. If this keeps up there will be a lot of empty golf simulators, driving ranges and golf courses.
Reason to Play
Having a purpose to play golf has always been an issue in golf. When a person is introduced to Golf the first reaction entering their thoughts is…Why? It is a natural reaction and one that cannot be done away with. However, if more was offered newbies to explain what is down the road from their introduction to golf more golfers would see a reason to put up with the other issues they will face and deal with past their initial introduction to golf.
Of course, how someone is introduced to golf has a huge factor in their acceptance of golf. If someone is introduced to the golf and experiences any of the above issues of golf then that will be their impression of golf for EVER. Again, having a reason for learning or playing golf will result in tolerating the issues of golf better.
However, most people are not given a reason to play golf during their introduction to golf which triggers the question of why they should learn to play, pay for learning to play and tolerating the related issues of golf like the pace of play, high costs, and long learning curve.
Obviously one of the reasons to play golf is for the business development benefits. That is why large companies like Northern Trust and AT&T are sponsoring professional golf events. But, again, the person not familiar with those benefits see another story and that is the one that is Hurting Golf.
Things have to change in Golf. The issues golf has will have to be addressed and the golfers who are effective the most need to be heard so solutions can be offered.
I purposefully have not offered my solutions to these issues, which I have many to offer since I would like to allow you the opportunity to voice your opinions. The Golf industry is watching…here is your chance to be heard.
Let me know how I can help.