The 2012 PGA Merchandise Show opened this week at Orange County Convention Center and with it came a clear message that the golf industry needs to buck up its ideas and start thinking of some creative ways to attract people to the game.
A total of 26.1 million people played the game in the United States in 2010 and that’s one million fewer golfers than in 2009. Speaking about the new Golf 2.0 initiative, Fore Golf’s vice president of marketing, Fred Augenstein said “the goal is increase the number of golfers to 40 million by the year 2020.”
Golf legend Jack Nicklaus (pictured above) was also on hand to reinforce the message that golf needs to be made more relevant, more welcoming and more flexible to be able to attract a new generation of player in the future. Revealingly he talked about his own three children, one of whom is a scratch golfer, who no longer player the game because they have other things to do.
“I wanted to be part of growing the game around the world. This isn’t just a Jack Nicklaus initiative, this is a golf industry initiative” said Nicklaus of Golf.2.0, “We’ve got to bring them into the game having fun… we don’t want to bring them into the game and lose them right away.”
So, naturally, there is great concern among PGA members about the future of the game and that is why they have designed three strategies to tackle the issue; the first is to retain and strengthen the core, the second is to engage “lapsed” golfers and finally, to drive new players.
The first initiative involves two steps; getting to better know the customer and nurturing them. This involves delivering different experiences and nurturing current players to become the most loyal customers. The second initiative involves recognizing the influence that 73% of women have control on household spending and that the women’s game is becoming more influential, largely through the efforts of younger players like Lexi Thompson (pictured above) and Paula Creamer, both of whom were at the show. Also, part of the “engaging “lapsed” golfers strategy is targeting the 90 million Americans who aspire to play again while also appealing to the entire family. The aging Boomer population also presents another challenge as some of their skills fade away yet they still love the game and want to be involved. Technology will also play a part as not all golfers of the future begin in junior clinics, rather on their X-Box gaming machines.
Finally, the “driving new players” initiative will see efforts to reach families in the 84% of American households who don’t play golf. Alliances will be built with major youth organizations such as the Boys and Girls Clubs of America and concentrated efforts will be made to make the game appeal to minority groups. “I’m ready to play” will be part of the theme over the next five to ten years of the long term strategic plan.
It promises to be an interesting time for the golf industry and here in Central Florida we’ll be monitoring the progress of how the area’s golf facilities perform. For many years, we have encouraged various golf clubs to find new innovative programs that can appeal to visitors and now the weight of the industry appears to be falling on their shoulders. Hopefully, we’ll now see a renewed willingness to work together with tourism partners to create a really great golfing experience and one that keeps the Orlando area as “Golf Central” for a long time to come.
Here’s some video …