Golf Inc - Summer 2012 - (Page 7)
What the future of golf could look like
Golf has grown into a $24.8 billion industry, but must adapt to a changing society in order to prosper By J.J. KEEGAN
n 1899, when 307 golf courses existed in the United States, Thorstein Veblen, the author of “The Theory of the Leisure Class,” expressed his opinion that golf was a game in which individuals participated to demonstrate their conspicuous consumption of leisure. In essence, individuals were attracted to the sport to demonstrate their superior financial position and to flaunt their lack of need for work as America transitioned from an agrarian to an industrial society. From that meager beginning, golf in the U.S. has grown to a $24.8 billion industry in which 26 million golfers annually play 460 million rounds while frequenting 15,882 facilities.
For the individual not focused on score or championships, golf’s only socially redeeming value is that the golf course is a fabulous nature preserve to enjoy and share the fellowship of family and friends.
Despite that growth, more than 110 years later, golf has not lost its elitist brand. Two-thirds of the rounds played are by those with a household income of at least $85,500, and their median age is 41.9. The national median household income is $51,618, with a median age of 37.1. For every round played in America by someone who is Hispanic or African-American, Caucasians play seven rounds. For every round played by a female, a man plays 5.1 rounds. With Generation Y playing 58 percent less than baby boomers, this is hardly the foundation for an industry hoping for dynamic growth. Why is golf challenged? Our time-crunched society is an antithesis to leisure. With the cultural changes stimulated by the evolution of technology and our quest to be constantly updated in this experience-based economy of endless choices, we have witnessed a lifestyle integration of work and play. We have become a child-centered society in which status is now earned by demonstrating how busy we are. The harsh economic environment combined with adverse weather during the past several years has left golf a struggling industry in which the supply of facilities exceeds demand. Over the past six years, 257 more U.S. courses have closed than
opened. To balance the industry, we forecast 1,659 facilities should close in the United States. Considering these multiple factors, we need to ask, “What does the future hold for the golf industry?” At the national level, a crystal ball isn’t needed. What is needed is an understanding of the motivations of those who influence the game and the business of golf. The United States Golf Association is steadfast in its adherence to maintaining tradition by applying a single set of rules and uniform equipment to level the playing field for national championships. In 2000, at the PGA Merchandise Show, then Executive Director David Fay stated, “It is from the innate difficulty of the game that enjoyment COmmentary emanates and that the rules needed to be consistently applied.” Current Executive Director Mike Davis reiterated that philosophy at the USGA Annual Meeting in February 2012. In contrast, Arnold Palmer stated in his book, “Playing by the Rules,” “I’m sure that I could watch the golfers at one of my clubs for a while on any given day and be able to disqualify half of them for this or that infraction. But why would I want to? Golf should be fun. And those of us who love the game should be encouraging fun and recreation, not building roadblocks for future golfing generations. The USGA would be well served by adopting that attitude.” Golf will remain, for the foreseeable future, the only major sport that doesn’t have a bifurcation of its rules or its equipment, like baseball, football and basketball, to encourage the beginner to learn or the less skilled to play more frequently. Golf is expensive to play and difficult to learn. It can be very time-consuming, as evidenced by the six-hour round during the 2012 Pebble Beach Pro-Am. And frankly, if one isn’t skilled, it isn’t a lot of fun. For the individual not focused on score or championships, golf ’s only socially redeeming value is that the golf course is a fabulous nature preserve to enjoy and share the fellowship of family and friends. Thus, the USGA, and in turn, what I perceive to be its licensed franchisees performing sales and administrative duties, State Golf Associations, will continue to be an impediment to the economic success of the golf industry and irrelevant to 85 percent of the golfers in America who lack a USGA Handicap – the benchmark of a frequent player. While the USGA’s focus will remain on the game of golf,
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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Golf Inc - Summer 2012
Golf Inc - Summer 2012
Table of Contents
Hiring Right: The First Step Toward Great Customer Service
New EPA Regulations Will Increase Turf Equipment Costs
Britain’s Greenkeepers Association Makes Operational Improvements, CEO Says
What the Future of Golf Could Look Like
Textron Financial, Capmark Put Golf Portfolios Up for Sale
With Commercial Real Estate Confidences Up, Is Golf Close Behind?
The Evolution of Donald Trump
Tasmania’s Coming of Age
Largest Management Companies
Renovation of the Year
Bald Head’s Logistical Challenge
The State of Technology in the Golf Industry
Britney Spears as Golf Spokesperson?
Golf Inc - Summer 2012