Did you see the Washington Post story last month titled “Why America fell out of love with golf”?
People in the golf industry have come to know these mainstream media stories as annual beat downs for an industry that has seen better days. There’s not much new in these stories that we haven’t heard or read before, just quotes from different people on how poorly the golf industry has been performing the last 10 years. Oh, and why people aren’t playing. Say it with me now, because you know it by heart: “The game is too expensive, takes too long to play and is too difficult.”
I’m tired of reading stories like these, even though I know that some of the stuff in them is true. I mean, who can argue that Adidas had a bad year selling golf equipment, as the Washington Post story points out?
But the problem is that some of the stuff in the story (and others like it) isn’t true, like the assumption that golf is too expensive, which tells me the industry isn’t doing its job of promoting the game as being affordable.
I’ll tell you what’s expensive – taking the family to the movies. It costs $70 by the time I buy tickets, popcorn and soda for the four of us. I can play two 18-hole rounds and have a beverage afterward at my local golf course for that amount of money.
You know what else is expensive? An aluminum baseball bat for my 13-year-old son. It costs so much that it should come with a guarantee that he’ll slam 20 homers.
Don’t get me wrong, spending money on my family is money well spent. My point is that it costs a lot of money to do other things, which is clearly eating into the discretionary income that people spend on golf.
Sure, golf can cost a lot of money – if you elect to go that route. But so do automobiles if you elect to buy a Mercedes over a Mazda. People have to understand that they don’t need to buy a set of TaylorMade Burner Irons to play the game. There are cheaper clubs out there.
I love country clubs, but I’m not a country club golfer. I could get a membership, but I’d rather save that money for my kids’ college. Still, that doesn’t mean I can’t afford to play golf. There are some excellent public courses I can play in my town that are very affordable.
Golf is a difficult game, no argument here. But it was difficult 15 years ago when there were many more golfers, no? So why are we using this as an excuse now that fewer people are playing?
The takes-too-long-to-play issue is a problem, for sure. That’s why courses should begin promoting nine-hole packages. I have to tell you, I see very little of that.
A big thing in the Washington Post story that bothered me is this quoted statistic: “The number of Americans who said they played golf at least once last year has fallen to one of its lowest point in years, Sports & Fitness Industry Association data show.”
This flat out tells me the industry’s growing-the-game initiatives aren’t working. Or that clubs and courses aren’t adopting measures to grow the game.
We talk endlessly about growing the game, to the point that it’s becoming painful. But clearly what we’re doing is not working on a macro scale.
It’s time for the industry to go back to the big drawing board to save itself.
COVER PHOTO BY SCULPIES/ESSENTIALS/ISTOCK