There has been a lot of conversation about bringing golf into the 21st century. This is combined with suggestions on how to grow the game. The prevailing attitude seems to be that we have an alarming trend where people are leaving the game, which creates a need to appeal to new, younger players.
Some suggest that we need to completely overhaul a game that has survived and thrived since the 15th century. In my opinion, having giant cups or turning golf courses into foot-golf fields isn’t the answer, but we are facing some changes.
There will probably always be a place for ultra-exclusive country clubs, and the traditions and values that are kept alive with them, as they should be. But that model only represents a very small percentage of the golfing population. For everybody else, times have changed.
The baby boomers are giving way to the millennials who view things out of a completely different lens. In order to get them interested in golf, the game might have to be less time consuming and more “fun.”
I – Make It Fun Before Getting Serious
I think you will see re-birth of the driving range that will be more of an entertainment complex. One of the fastest growing and most profitable businesses in golf today is TopGolf.
As TopGolf’s COO said, “TopGolf can be played at your leisure in a fun, high-energy environment. It is a breeding ground for attracting golfers who wouldn’t otherwise get a golf club in their hand.”
This and other family entertainment type centers will be a way to attract young people to golf in the future.
It’s also going to have an impact on the golf instruction business. Owners of driving ranges are already hiring or contracting golf professionals to be available for on-call tips and lessons. By on-call, I mean a golfer will push a button and a light will come on signaling they want some help. This “help” will not be in the form of a 30-minute lesson, but simply a quick tip.
The beauty of the driving range concept is that there is equipment there for them to use and balls for them to hit. No initial investment is required until they decide whether or not they like to play enough. They also never get stuck in 5 ½ hour rounds.
The days of a series of five one-hour lessons is not going to work for the generation we are trying to appeal to. It may still work for the dedicated player, but not for the beginner. It’s going to take a breed of instructors that can keep it simple and quick, and understand how people actually learn.
II – Be Like Water: Flexible & Innovative
In order to thrive in the 21st century, those of us in the business of golf are going to have to be flexible and innovative. If we can bring the younger generation into the game, they are going to want the cart girl to have their favorite kale chips/gourmet jerky, and will argue with their playing partner over whose music to stream.
It’s going to be interesting to watch how the game and players evolve.
III – Be Supportive. Not Judgmental.
Don’t be hard on the millennials. I know this is a hard thing to ask of most core golfers, especially the Baby Boomers. Human nature being what it is we all have the tendency to judge whatever to present generation is. Older golfers need to keep the fact in mind that golf needs the younger generation in order to stay healthy and keep the game funded. The most important thing for older golfers to do is make every effort to show compassion. To put it it’s proper perspective I can remember when my parents generation thought the world was going down the tubes in the 60’s because of my generation and we didn’t turn out so bad. The world has changed and now it’s their turn.