The Pellucid Perspective - October 2015 - (Page 7)

Golf Participation PGA TOUR "Changing of the Guard": Can the young guns revive participation and demand? By Jim Koppenhaver A 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 7

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