The Pellucid Perspective - October 2015 - (Page 7)
PGA TOUR "Changing of the Guard":
Can the young guns revive participation and demand?
By Jim Koppenhaver
s the PGA TOUR season draws to a close, at least for a
couple weeks as the offseason seems to get shorter every
year, there's considerable press being devoted to the rotation of leaders from my generation (Woods, Mickelson, etc.) to
the Millennials. Looking at the faces and ages of this year's winners, it's clear that Spieth, Day, Fowler and McIlroy are the new
face of professional golf on TV and in the news. While I'm not
an involved viewer when it comes to televised golf, I've watched
a few more rounds this year than normal and had the pleasure of
watching these guys play and compete. I like what I see, which
is not just a changing of the faces but also a different demeanor
and approach to the game than the generation passing the torch.
Don't get me wrong, one cannot have watched Woods,
Mickelson and their peer group and criticized their performance, discipline and attention to mechanics. Phil, more than
Tiger, was always more of a roller-coaster ride, which made for
interesting viewing, but much of that was having to bail himself
out of a bad situation vs. being in Position A and deciding to
attempt a riskier play. Let's admit it though, watching them
grind out a victory with nary a smile and often 5 words or less
for their playing partners during a round over 18 holes (realizing a lot happens off the TV camera) elicited more admiration
than bubbly enthusiasm. From my perspective, the new faces
just seem to be having a lot more fun out there and playing with
more abandon, even when they're in the lead.
Some will say that it's primarily the difference between youth
and experience and the stakes are too high when you're in contention for a major or a tournament to afford the luxury of "fun."
I would propose that the master of discipline and cold calculation in not taking unnecessary risk at the expense of excitement
was Jack Nicklaus. Now before all of you go to your keyboards
to write that "hate email" about me bashing Jack Nicklaus, hear
me out. Mr. Nicklaus has the career and record to back up
the fact that, for him, this approach was amazingly successful. When Nicklaus was winning, the TOUR was also growing quite nicely so his approach worked for him and it worked
for the larger membership organization, so no one collecting
TOUR pensions is going to complain about the way he played
and led that aspect of the golf industry. On the other hand,
you don't hear anyone talk about "the Nicklaus effect" on golf
as a sport or industry. Given that many of you readers probably have forgotten more about the juxtaposition of Nicklaus
vs. Palmer than I, I won't go down that path. But, even in his
"golden years," I think you'd be hard-pressed to convince anyone
that Palmer's footprint on the industry of golf from the "everyman's" perspective isn't exponentially larger than Mr. Nicklaus'.
Those of you who follow Pellucid know that I shy away from
dabbling in what I call the "entertainment" side of the golf
business. While it's fun to watch the workings of the PGA
TOUR and networks, the hyperventilation about the importance of golf in the 2016 Olympics etc., I stay focused on the
more germane question to those of us who make our living in
the operational side of the industry, such as "Will and how will
changes in the golf entertainment landscape materially alter the
industry?" While I don't think we're going to get any "Tiger
effect" out of the mere fact that the Millennials have arrived
and are taking the lead, I must say that I'm encouraged by my
perceived shift from "serious, solitary and safe" golf at the top
levels of the professional game to the more "serendipitous, social
and swashbuckling" approach by the next generation. While I
can't claim to see the world through the eyes of Millennials (but
I do have two as sons which gives me some perspective), I've got
to believe this new face of golf is much more aligned to the ME
mentality on life, sport and particularly being more interactive
and connected, even in competitive endeavors.
So what does this have to do with the industry future from
an operations standpoint? I think it gives us better "air cover"
in changing the perception of golf over time, not only among
Millennials but also among lapsed golfers and non-participants,
and that "fun" is not a four-letter word in our sport. If it goes
the way of my perceptions, it gives the average golfer permission to relax and have fun on the course instead of worrying
about whether they have the proper-collared shirt, the right
conservative color combination and not necessarily needing a
golf-logoed hat (vs. any hat you have in your closet). It might
convince them to lighten up and have a little fun with their
playing partners (good shots and poor) and to try some different things on the course without feeling like there were lifeor-death consequences. (Note to self, I tried hitting driver-offthe-deck a few weeks back, didn't quite turn out like the guys
on TV but hey, it was fun to try and made me appreciate how
tough that shot really is). If we can get that type of "topspin"
out of the entertainment side of the industry, then the task of
communicating it and delivering on the "fun" component of
golf will fall to the individual facility owner/operators. Relaxed
rules, increased education on ready-golf, teaching the handicap
system and ways that it can create fun, low-stakes competition,
etc. will then become the front-line tools for gradually shifting
the perception of golf as a sport to be more in sync with the next
generation's worldview as well as becoming (I'll wager) more
appealing to non-golfers of all generations.
Those of you who know me and have followed my thoughts
on "What will it take to get golf growing again?" already see the
closing point coming. We need to facilitate, advocate and nurThe Pellucid Perspective
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Pellucid Perspective - October 2015
Bureaucracy torpedoes 2 course construction projects
Affordable golf: What’s the problem?
PGA TOUR “Changing of the Guard:” Can the young guns revive participation and demand?
Diners and golfers alike bring new service expectations to the table today
September golf weather impact: A “push” for the month vs. ’14
Miami golf OK, but no day at the beach
The Pellucid Perspective - October 2015