The Pellucid Perspective - July 2013 - (Page 20)

THE LAST WORD Golf fights back, finally G olf as both a sport and the linchpin for an industry is suffering from a major disconnect. While PGA Tour viewership is at an all-time high (at least when Tiger is in the hunt), and The Golf Channel proudly proclaims its status as the country’s fastest growing cable network, the number of people who actually play the sport, buy the equipment and apparel, etc. is declining. In a 3-front war to recruit new or lapsed players, retain current players, and entice current players to play more, golf is losing, and other diversions (video games, soccer and Little League, couch surfing, trying to pay the bills — you pick) are winning. Switching from a military metaphor to tennis, golf needs to at least hold serve until inevitable market forces reduce the glut of courses in this country to a level where their owners and operators can make a reasonable profit while still providing plenty of playgrounds to accommodate the golfing population. Finally heeding — or at least acknowledging — the data-backed warnings of people like Pellucid Corp. founder Jim Koppenhaver, National Sporting Goods Manufacturer surveys and others, golf ’s major associations and stakeholders are attempting to fight back with every weapon that they, or creative thinkers like Adams Golf founder Barney Adams, can think of. The Adams-inspired Tee It Forward campaign, Get Golf Ready, the various tenets of Golf 2.0, the PGA’s Junior Golf Leagues, The First Tee, even less structured concepts like relaxation of dress codes and mobile device regulations ... all are designed in one way or another to either ease the way for new players to take up the game or for those who already play to enjoy it more, and thus be less likely to forsake it for other uses of their time, money and energies. On the new player development front, Get Golf Ready appears to be on the right path, and is still gaining momentum, according to PGA of America Director of Player Development Ron Stepanek. He said that to date, more than 2,300 facilities have initiated Get Golf Ready intro- 20 The Pellucid PersPecTive ductory programs, and over 600 facilities had been approved for participation by early July this year to add to that total by the year-end tabulation, a figure he said is growing by approximately 10 per week. One plus to that group-based program of golf introduction is it not only includes actual time on the golf course, but also incorporates a social aspect of being one of a like-minded group who may become future playing partners. Tee It Forward, bolstered by no less a TV spokesperson than Jack Nicklaus, the Blond Bomber of old, has been univer- In a 3-front war to recruit new or lapsed players, retain current players, and entice current players to play more, golf is losing, and other diversions (video games, soccer and Little League, couch surfing, trying to pay the bills — you pick) are winning. sally acclaimed as a sensible way to speed pace of play and make the game more enjoyable for those who don’t hit the ball as far as they used to, or never did hit it as far as they imagined. Unfortunately, the dual obstacles of logistics and ego seem likely to prevent Tee It Forward from becoming a major player in the game enjoyment campaign. Many if not most courses don’t have existing tee sets that will produce the desired distances, and most males are reluctant to move up to existing “red” or women’s tees. The PGA of America recently promoted a Tee It Forward weekend over June 22-23, but while operators praised the concept, it didn’t seem to have a major impact. Jason Fortney, head pro at Western Skies Golf Club in Gilbert, Ariz., said they had “10 or 12” players who moved up due to the PGA’s promotional signage and golf shop staff encouragement. “Some of them said they actually played worse, because it brought some of the hazards into play off the tee,” Fortney laughed, but he added, “I love the idea, though. We have to be doing something to make the game more fun for everyone.” At TPC Tampa Bay in Lutz, Fla., which hosts an annual Champions Tour event, Assistant Pro Rich Gawlik felt that the promotion was well received, but he pointed out that the TPC course and others like it have problems getting golfers to move up because so many want to “play the tees the pros play,” despite a handicap breakdown on the course’s scorecards that matches tees with player handicaps. Nevertheless, apparently if courses and golfers can crack the code to get people to try it, there is some potential for, if not necessarily attracting new players, getting existing customers to play more. Stepanek cited a PGA survey response that reported more than 50 percent of those surveyed said they would play more if Tee It Forward was available. While none of the campaigns suggested to date are likely to be game-changers on their own, it is encouraging to at least see some attempts to explore some new strategies for player recruitment and retention. On the other hand, as Pellucid founder Jim Koppenhaver suggests in this month’s issue of his Outside the Ropes newsletter, perhaps the best way to convert some of the (over-reported) “latent demand” among former or potential new players is a shift in promotional emphasis from the actual playing and mastery of the game to the more universal benefits of outdoor exercise, social interaction and camaraderie. At least some material is being thrown against the wall - hopefully some will stick. —Jim Dunlap July 2013

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Pellucid Perspective - July 2013

The Pellucid Perspective - July 2013
GolfNow buys FORE! Reservations
An inside look at the Fore!-GolfNow deal
FORE! Reservations sells to GolfNow? Preposterous!
PGA of America, Tour (reluctantly) accept anchoring rule
An ominous April for equipment sales
Pace of play campaign picking up speed
June golf weather impact: Flat, but encouraging
Boomers boost Sunshine State market, but clouds looming on the horizon
Cliffs Communities emerge from bankruptcy, Tiger’s course still on hold
Golf fights back, finally

The Pellucid Perspective - July 2013