Many reasons have been provided for this decline including the costs of playing golf, the decline in the economy, or even slow play and long rounds; but one can argue that one of the more significant reasons is the decline in the interest of junior players or millenials who find that golf is just not Fun and Engaging.
And the challenge, according to the National Golf Federation is to make golf more attractive to this segment of the population
The Sorry State of Golf in the United States
According to the National Golf Federation:
- USA has lost ~5 million players over the last decade
- Rounds of golf played dropped 4.9% from 2012 to 2013
- Golf participation among 18-34 year olds (the age range when most people take up the game for the first time ) has declined 30% during the past twenty years
- More golf courses closed than opened in the U.S. in 2013 for the eighth straight year
The Mayor of Crazy Town (AKA Greg Nathan of NGF) believes that immediate changes to the on-course golf experience are both necessary and inevitable if golf is to survive, “Golf is simply not relevant for the perpetually engaged, never-out-of-touch millennials.”
He goes on to say, “The game’s resistance to technology, connectivity and entertainment is the most meaningful barrier to participation by generation Y, Z and whatever letter comes after that. Golf needs to be a perceived as a fun and vibrant environment in sync with modern life… not a fun-free zone where the largest generation in American history feels unwelcome.”
Canadian Apathy Above the 49th Parallel
The National Allied Golf Association Canadian Golf Consumer Behavior Study reported that golf has become a zero-growth sport in that country. Among Canada’s 5.7 million golfers, the number of people entering the game is equal to the number of people leaving it (18% or approximately 1.026 million people).
It also found that there is a fundamental lack of engagement (playing, following, supporting and endorsing golf) among today’s golfers. 75% of Canadian golfers are of the mind that they can ‘take or leave the game’.
NAGA executives concluded that in order to drive engagement,”the Canadian golf industry must find innovative ways to show golfers that the game and everything attached to the game is: fun, enjoyable, social, challenging but winnable, inspiring, prideful and leading edge.”
The Exodus of Golfers in Europe
Although the number of golfers in Europe increased by 2,800 players in 2013 due to positive gain in some of emerging markets such as Lithuania, Bulgaria and Serbia, junior golf dropped by 11,500 (-2.7%) and membership levels in Europe’s largest golf market (the UK & Ireland) have been on a downward spiral since 2007.
According to KPMG’s Golf participation in Europe 2013 report, technology can play a vital role in growing golf by making the sport more entertaining, especially with younger generations. For example, the development of golf applications for smartphones to track performance is one way to help adapt the game to meet the recreational and social needs of today’s youth.
KPMG advises that in order to popularise the game among the future generation, it is crucial to find creative ways to make the game more fun and more accessible.
FUN – The Missing Link
We all recognize that golf has some real challenges – it’s expensive, takes too to play, can be elitist and it’s hard.
But all that was true 8 years ago when the game was still growing in popularity. So why is golf struggling now?
If you go back and read what the analysts are saying from the US, Canada and Europe, it would appear that the fundamentals of golf just aren’t “fun” anymore.
There are many initiatives out there trying to grow participation — the most recent being Hack Golf. But instead of trying to lift the eyelids of our youth from their smartphones to fairways with bigger holes, different rules and equipment, shouldn’t we be looking at ways to use technology to engage with our hyper-connected, socially-active future linksters – the WeChat generation that sleep with their phones?
NFG’s Nathan offers up a number of “crazy” ideas to golf courses that some may consider outrageous and we’ve added a few of our own to the list. WDYT? Which of these ideas have merit in your eyes?
Your friends at Striker