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Common Sense Approaches to Enhancing Golf: Making it More Fun and Worth the Time

In the golf industry there seems to be a plethora of ideas on how to enhance the game of golf. Most of them may not stand the test of time, however, the industry is persistent in finding alternative playing styles for the game, i.e., foot-golf, fling-golf, Topgolf, golf boards and so on. While these ideas entertain niche audiences, they don’t effectively address the major issues with the game. In fact, they may be misguided activities that may hurt golf. What the game needs is to make golf more fun for persons of all demographics by enhancing people’s interest and ability to play fun golf. Only then will interest in golf really jump.

I go back to my own family’s experience as a member of a fine club that has hosted the U.S. Open, a PGA Championship and numerous other tournaments. Even as a duffer, I enjoyed playing a great golf course from which history was recorded. But while I enjoyed the course, I remember how my children were not encouraged to hit on the range, shooed off the practice green and restricted in playing the course. And to no surprise, golf was and today is not fun to them. As a result, five of them don’t play much golf. Is it any wonder why golf struggles today? A great game was often denied to a generation, who instead found other sports and recreation activities that they still play.

Fortunately, the golf world now realizes this lost opportunity. Children are now being welcomed to the game. PGA has developed programs promoting children playing golf. This is resulting in a strong, new golfing generation that will excel in the game and who will find golf to be a fun, rewarding activity. It will take time for these youngsters to become adults, but the seeds have been planted. Today, however, we still need to do something to attract millennials to the game.

How do we make golf fun for millennials who have a thirst for doing many things in their time-constrained, non-committed world? They don’t see the fun in a five-hour round of golf. Again, look at my own family, which includes one millennial daughter who enjoys golf, but who seldom plays 18 holes. She goes to her club and practices golf, but very seldom actually plays golf. She is very athletic from her collegiate days, can outdrive most men, and is very competitive about always winning. But somehow playing social or competitive golf is not a priority. The big question is, why? In interviewing her on the subject of golf, her answer is simply, “I have too much to do to spend that amount of time on a golf course.” So, the issue is not about money, the difficulty of the game, the elitism or anything else. For her, it is about time.

The other issue affecting my daughter’s play is having friends who golf. While golf is not a team sport, its real enjoyment comes from playing with friends. When hard-core golfers are playing, they are always with friends. Without golf friends, people don’t seem to play much golf. The magic of golf will be realized when it puts friendship and social interaction back into the game for more people. One way is to get the golf pro more involved like their tennis pro counterparts who are very proactive in getting players to come enjoy their sport.

Ways to Enhance Golf

The recent McMahon Group Pulse Survey on golf usage at private clubs shows that over the last three years, golf is stable for most segments and is attracting more usage for women and children. The highest participation increases for golf activities and events at clubs over this time period were for:

·         Use of practice facilities (71%)

·         9-hole play (56%)

·         Pull cart use (49%)

The biggest challenges of golf programs identified by managers were pace of play and member participation. In order to address these two challenges, the top priorities to enhance golf at private clubs must address the time issue and ways to make golf more fun and socially rewarding.

Some ways to improve and enhance the time value and fun, rewarding aspects of private club golf are:

Improving playing skills of all members so they enjoy golf more – This can mean better teaching, lessons and body conditioning. Sixty-two percent of respondents have a fitness center; but only 27 percent of respondents have space dedicated for golf fitness equipment and conditioning programs.

Providing a version of Topgolf at private clubs – Forty-nine percent of all respondents in the Pulse Survey said a Topgolf-like venue would work at their clubs with 57 percent of country clubs saying it would work. An entertainment activity at a driving range with dining/drinking/social aspects is well worth considering for golf/country clubs if the biggest impediment—finding space to add it—can be overcome.

Installing golf simulators as another fun, less time consuming and socially interactive way to enjoy golf in spirit if not in reality – Nineteen percent of the Pulse Survey respondents have golf simulators today, and among those clubs who indicated they do not have simulators, about one-third see a demand from membership to add them.

Having men’s grills – According to the Pulse Survey, 52 percent of country/golf clubs have a dedicated space for men to socialize before or after a round of golf, like a men’s grill or lounge in the locker room—and 89 percent of responding clubs say it is important to have such a space in their clubs.

Based on survey findings, some common sense approaches to enhancing golf at clubs includes humanizing the game to encourage better golfing ability, enjoyable times with friends, creating healthy living with exercise and enjoying the natural landscape of the world we live in. Let’s get golf back on a winning track.

Enhancements for Revitalizing Member Golf

  1. More members practice golf than play it, so enhance practice facilities by having a long driving range with target greens, a short range to work on irons with target greens, and good pitching, sand and putting practice areas.
  2. Add a version of Topgolf to a driving range for nighttime, illuminated, entertainment golf.
  3. Incorporate a dedicated golf training and conditioning area with TPI (Titleist Performance Institute) Certified trainers in your fitness facility. If no fitness facility exists today, it’s best to consider adding one.
  4. Support expanding golf programs for duffers, women, children, couples, etc., to build social interaction among members and more interest in the game.

Club Trends Spring 2017