What Doesn't Kill Us ...
The recovery from the great recession hasn't stopped the bashing that golf seems to take in the mainstream media.
It seems as though golf is put in a bad light either from critics of the president playing golf (regardless of who's in the white house), the cost of playing, the time it takes and of course, the difficulty of the game. Rarely a week goes by when I don't read of another golf course or club closure or bankruptcy, often leading to redevelopment of the property. The game even has its environmental critics and often despite the facts in the golf course marketplace, some tax assessors seek to unfairly overassess golf and club properties, seen as attractive political targets to the non-golfing community. Even the decline of the great Tiger Woods, once touted as the game's savior is blamed for the decline in golfers and rounds played. THIS HBO PIECE on golf by Bryant Gumbel and featuring Jack Nicklaus and others summarizes the games challenges, but also highlights what some are doing about it, with some "outside the box" ideas.
The German philospher Friedrich Nietzsche said "That which does not kill us makes us stronger". Unlike some, I do not believe golf is "dead", so if Nietzsche was right, the game will emerge stronger than ever.
The Scotch are credited with being the founders of the game in the late 1700s. So when an old Scotsman said the following, he understood the allure of the game." if you hit one great shot, there are a thousand more just like it". For me, among the many allures of golf are:
- The quality time I enjoy playing with my sons and sharing the game I love with them
- The marvelous feel and sound of a well struck shot
- The exercise of walking, being outdoors and competing with friends
- The many interesting people I've met and great relationships I've developed through golf
- The constant search for improvement and challenge of the game
- The satisfaction of a "good" round (If it were easy, anyone could do it)
- The high level of sportsmanship and etiquette exhibited by most golfers
- The commitment of most golfers to preserving the condition of the golf course for the next player
There are more but golf is also a vital part of our nation's economy. According to industry organization wearegolf.org, golf:
- contributes $68.8 Billion and 2 million jobs to the American economy;
- raises $3.9 Billion for philanthropic causes;
- provide wildlife habitats, a filter for water runoff and a cooling effect on developed areas;
- burns 2,000 calories when walking 18 holes (1,300 in a cart), and;
- is accessible to most Americans, with 76% of rounds played at public courses at a median cost of $26.
How do we take all this power and harness it to grow the game?
First and foremost, we as an industry need to realize that the problem is not only getting people to start playing golf, it's keeping them in the game. The NGF said that in 2013, 3.7 million new golfers started playing. Problem is, 4.1 million stopped playing. This is typical of recent years. The issue is RETENTION. One has to look no further than the list above to to see just a few of the many attributes of golf, BUT it's absolutely critical that the game become more inclusive and modern, so that those who start stay in the game long enough to get hooked. That takes encouragement from existing golfers. Why is it that so many golfers who've stuck with the game also grew up in golfing families? To read my ideas for growing golf and improving the value of golf course properties, check out this BLOG POST.