I recently read “The Battle for the Soul of the Game…” (excerpt and link to article below) and think it is a great synopsis of golf’s present predicament. It touches on all the salient issues influencing the game, as well as developments which have transported us to where we are today. It also introduces a few of the countless initiatives being “frantically” rolled out to save the game.
The article, which touches on the contrasting challenges, brings the underlying questions into focus:
•Can golf turn this trend around and grow again?
•Is innovation the answer? (i.e. developing a new approach to golf – think “snowboarding” and how it helped save the ski industry)
•Will “tradition” kill golf? (Are we to think the “i-everything – now” generation, suddenly gravitates to penny loafers and 5 hour leisurely walks in sansabelts; sans-cell phone?)
•Will golf courses of the future be affordable/sustainable? Or, does the “Augusta syndrome” version of golf, relentlessly promoted by the the golf industry, represent the future of golf?
•“Ball and club technology advances” continue to confound the golf industry. Will golf reconcile this schizophrenic love-hate relationship with technology?
As Mr. Newport points out, the industry has “all hands on deck”, attempting to re-energize and re-populate golf. The situation has even uniting several golf associations which, until recently, felt no pressing inclination to work in concert. Unfortunately, the shear diversity of initiatives and general lack of a unified message is producing a “white noise” which is short in energy and influence.
The golf industry, in attempting to re-make and re-brand itself, is unlikely to find the universal remedy it so desperately wants (and needs). The golf industry wants golf to be a business, instead of a sport. Golf isn’t about clubs, balls, shoes, courses, clubhouses, profit margins, etc. Golf is about having fun – entertainment! Golf is about sharing time and an experiences with others. Golf is a social game.
And, without question, golf has predominantly grown through practitioners introducing newcomers to the sport. The golf industry needs to forget about all the innovative initiatives, and find a way to mobilize golfers to introduce a friend or family member to the game. Otherwise, golf will continue to languish.
When the golf industry realizes this, and returns its focus on the golfer and the game, perhaps golf golf will find its soul again.
I hope you will read:
The Battle for the Soul of the Game Golf May Face Two Options: Change the Game Radically and Grow, or Remain a Niche Sport.
By JOHN PAUL NEWPORT
This is a link to the: original WSJ article
From about 1990 to the mid-2000s, the golf industry boomed, overbuilt and overpromised. Now it’s paying the price. By a couple of different reckonings, the game is losing one million golfers a year, net.
The promise of the boom was that golf, always a cultural litmus but in numbers never much more than a niche, could break out and become a sport for the masses.
The ramped-up industry still hopes it can. If that’s to happen, however, the game at its core may have to change, or at least accommodate some tradition-defying alternatives. The deep question golf is asking itself these days is wherein lies its soul: with the ancient game itself, played as it has been for hundreds of years, or with the modern industry that has grown up around it? Two million U.S. jobs are now tied to golf, according to an industry lobbying consortium called We Are Golf, and those businesses are desperate to reverse their losses and expand.
Golf’s leadership is responding to the situation with more urgency than ever. At golf’s big annual merchandise show in Orlando, Fla., last month, I sat through several state-of-the-industry hand-wringing sessions. Nobody in golf is complacent. The PGA of America is pushing a new, all-points initiative called Golf 2.0, whose goal is to make the game “more relevant” to lapsed golfers and others, especially women and minorities, it has identified as underserved. At last weekend’s annual meeting of the U.S. Golf Association in Houston, the incoming president, Glen Nager, sounded downright radical (by USGA standards) in urging golf to make itself more accessible….