The Pellucid Perspective - October 2016 - 7
Golf is aspirational, so forget
the usual suspects
By Stuart Lindsay
oth discussions inside the golf industry and the many
media drive-by shootings detailing the travails of the
golf business begin with trotting out the usual suspects
of "It takes too long, costs too much and is too hard." Rather
than fixate upon those incredibly challenging roadblocks to the
growth of the game, perhaps we should emulate Kevin Spacey's
Oscar-winning role in The Usual Suspects. What did it take for
Kevin Spacey's character to lose his limp? Nothing - he was
only acting to distract his partners in crime from his true identity as an able bodied mastermind.
By spending so much time talking about the usual suspects,
we're creating an impression of a crippled form of recreation instead of talking about a sport that is aspirational on a multitude
of levels. Golf is still a game that causes millions of people to
spend time and money looking for that next great shot, a few
hours to try and play life honestly or just a chance to spend a
few hours outdoors with friends and/or family. To paraphrase
the 13th century Sufi philosopher Rumi, if there are 22 million
golfers, there are 22 million reasons why they play. However, I
can say that one of the reasons I most likely will never hear is "I
want to go out and hit more bad shots today."
Rumi may have been talking about religion, but there are
millions of avid golfers who spend more time on the course
than in church. As a member of that group, I at least have
the satisfaction of trying to play by the golden rule(s). I must
confess, however, that when playing with my regular playing
companions, I have given and received relief from footprints
in bunkers left by less than considerate players, "leaf rule" considerations for a lost ball, allowance for cleaning of goose poop
when off the green and a host of other sins. I only hope the
USGA will forgive those transgressions when I report a lower
score for handicap purposes than I deserved. But they may be
too preoccupied trying to catch the extreme minority of sandbaggers playing big events with prizes that should jeopardize
their amateur standing anyway.
As we celebrate the legacy of Arnold Palmer, it would serve
us well to remember what made him the best ambassador that
golf has ever had. He didn't have a classic swing (which gave
hope to a generation of hackers) and didn't win the most majors.
He didn't think he made the most of his math classes at Wake
Forest, but cherished the people he met and understood the
part it played in his "growing up". What really defined his personality was his genuine love of people and his desire to share
the enjoyment golf brought to his life. Even though he learned
enough math to count the money he made, that was secondary
to his ability to make virtually everyone he met feel important
with a firm handshake, a look in the eye and, if you were lucky,
a pat on the right shoulder.
One question for the golf industry is whether we are welcoming people into the game of golf with firm handshakes and
a friendly look in the eye. Better yet, are we sharing the enjoyment that a round of golf can bring?
The other part of his legacy was the perception of Palmer's
middle class upbringing at a time when golf was predominately
played at private clubs. In reality, Palmer grew up surrounded
by golf but those Pennzoil commercials with his father's old 9N
really cemented that part of his persona. Former caddie Francis
Ouimet had the same impact starting in 1913, but most people don't know or forget that he was probably the second best
American amateur golfer in history and went on to become the
first American Captain at St. Andrews.
We also have to realize that golf has never been for everybody.
When Arnold Palmer rose to prominence in the mid-1950s,
70% of the golf courses in the US were private. The courses
available to the public were primarily municipal (20%) and resort (10%). This created accessibility issues in theory because
of the cost of membership and the availability of tee space at
generally lower cost municipal courses. Those issues have been
resolved today with only 26% of the courses in the US being
private and about 70% of the 18 hole regulation courses priced
at less than $50. (That's at weekend rack rate, folks).
The World Golf Hall of Fame website estimates there were
350,000 golfers in the US when Ouimet won the US Open in
1913. In 1961, when Palmer won 8 tournaments, the NGF and
USGA joyously announced that there were 5 million golfers in
the US. Both of those numbers mean that the US golf participation rate was below 4%.
Also, even at its peak, golf participation only reached 12% of
the US population. Even though participation is now under 8%,
rounds played have not fallen nearly as dramatically (-12%) as
participation (-27%) over the last decade. That means that the
remaining golfers are actually more committed as indicated by
Pellucid's frequency statistics.
In the end, golf is a game with healthy aspirational goals
on multiple levels that are both athletic and socio-economic.
We also need to focus on the millions of golfers who already
are committed and on welcoming those to the game with the
goal of helping them enjoy the game too. Golf has never been
for everyone, but if we quit talking about the usual suspects
and promote the benefits golf has brought to millions, we may
be able to walk away without a limp and a firmer hand to grip
THE PELLUCID PERSPECTIVE
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Pellucid Perspective - October 2016
The Pellucid Perspective - October 2016
Brother, Can You Spare a Time?
Taylormade Sale: Whatever the Outcome, It’s Likely to Be “unique”
Golf Is Aspirational, So Forget the Usual Suspects
Pope of Slope Providing Blessings for Amateur Golfers
Golf Weather Impact: September No Major Surprise; August Utilization Slips
A Few Rays of Sunshine, but Not Enough Buc(k)s
Tiger, Tiger Burning Out?
The Pellucid Perspective - October 2016 - The Pellucid Perspective - October 2016
The Pellucid Perspective - October 2016 - Brother, Can You Spare a Time?
The Pellucid Perspective - October 2016 - 3
The Pellucid Perspective - October 2016 - 4
The Pellucid Perspective - October 2016 - Taylormade Sale: Whatever the Outcome, It’s Likely to Be “unique”
The Pellucid Perspective - October 2016 - 6
The Pellucid Perspective - October 2016 - Golf Is Aspirational, So Forget the Usual Suspects
The Pellucid Perspective - October 2016 - Pope of Slope Providing Blessings for Amateur Golfers
The Pellucid Perspective - October 2016 - 9
The Pellucid Perspective - October 2016 - Golf Weather Impact: September No Major Surprise; August Utilization Slips
The Pellucid Perspective - October 2016 - 11
The Pellucid Perspective - October 2016 - 12
The Pellucid Perspective - October 2016 - A Few Rays of Sunshine, but Not Enough Buc(k)s
The Pellucid Perspective - October 2016 - 14
The Pellucid Perspective - October 2016 - Tiger, Tiger Burning Out?