Everyone THINKS They Know the Answer to Golf’s Problems

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I’ve written a series of posts directed at the Golf industry and the challenges it faces as older players die off or leave the game, and young ones aren’t showing up at a rate to replace them. Golf is in major trouble and looks to have no answers as to how to stem the tide.

Over the past year, I’ve spent a lot of time speaking to people who have an interest in golf: regular players, golf course owners, and fans of the game. EVERYONE thinks they know what the problems are as to why younger people aren’t golfing. The most common answers I hear are along these lines:

  1. Golf is too expensive
  2. It takes too long
  3. Millennials have a short attention span.
  4. There’s nothing that can be done.

Wrong. Wrong, and WRONG.

The reality is that these are all just guesses. Hypotheses. People pontificating without any factual data to back up their assertions.

What we do know is that Golf is bleeding players. Pellucid research tells anyone who listens what the real stats are (a net gain of almost 260,000 women golfers was offset and more by a net loss of nearly 650,000 men), and it offers reporting and local golf market analysis for golf course owners.

But what isn’t offered anywhere that I can find is actual research on what the people who AREN’T golfing think. What isn’t offered is an analysis of the online conversations going on around golf – globally, nationally, and locally.

We know that the under 50’s aren’t golfing, but we don’t really know why.

The frustration for me is that that information is out there. People are talking everywhere online about golf, its challenges, and what they prefer to do instead. The sad reality is that many of the decision makers responsible for marketing golf don’t know that that information is available; nor do they know how to listen.

An Example

What is clear to me is that when I talk about what is possible from a listening and data perspective, I’m speaking another language. People don’t seem to understand how we can change their success by using the tools we have at hand.

So, I’m taking the beautiful Bradenton Country Club, which is my local course, and making an example of it.

First, let’s look at their site, run by Jonas Club Management. It’s beautiful and fairly easy to navigate, despite a few user experience issues like the tiny font on the menu bars. Overall it’s visually pleasing, not too text-heavy, and it makes me want to golf.

But remember, we’re targeting GenX and Millennials, so we have to keep their needs in mind. The first thing I see is that there are NO social connections, ANYWHERE.

I like to keep up with events from my favorite places via their social channels, so that’s disappointing. The marketer in me wonders: Does Bradenton Country Club even have social profiles? They aren’t visible on its beautiful website.

After a little digging this is what I found:

Not only do they HAVE a Facebook Page, they have a separate, not active page for their shop: They’re dividing their community unnecessarily;

I cannot locate a Twitter handle for the Bradenton Country Club, yet over half of Millennials on social media are on.

On Instagram I found a profile for their shop (but not the course itself); it’s been inactive since 2014.

Now consider this: Pew Research reports that more than HALF of Millennials use Instagram:

Pew

And I’ll quote JW Intelligence to further make my point:

“Instagram is by far the most used social media outlet for my age group,” writes Andrew Watts, a University of Texas at Austin sophomore,
To make my point further, listen to these details from Pew:

The results in this report are based on American adults who use the internet.1 Other key findings:

It appears that Pinterest is also unused by BCC, which is not so unforgivable at face value. However, women, who are flocking to golf, dominate Pinterest.

Lastly, Bradenton Country Club is not found on Snapchat, the 3rd most popular app among Millennials.

Further than just being ON Social

It is sad to me that in 2015 I have to spend a good portion of my post highlighting how important social media is to reaching customers, but the sad reality is that the Bradenton Country Club’s web presence isn’t very different than what I see with most golf courses, even if it is prettier.

I hear so many course owners bemoan the fact that younger people are golfing; they’ll blame the game and blame young people, but they’ll be damned if they update their marketing methods and talk directly to the people they want to start playing the game.

For the past month or so I’ve been participating in #golfchat on Tuesday nights at 8pm EST; here I found a collection of people who reassured me that there ARE people who get it. Sadly, Golf is an industry where most of the decision makers are so far behind in understanding the revolutionary changes in the way we communicate with the consumer.

What I DO know is that the savvy golf course owner who is willing to open their mind CAN really leap light years ahead. It’s going to take more than a course or two to re-route Golf; we need the organizations responsible for growing the game, AND the manufacturers of Golf products to get on board, but it is entirely possible to reverse the tide and grow the game of Golf again.

If anyone in Golf wants to learn more we’re here. We can help. Get in touch.

Photo credit: Angels Breath via photopin (license).

VP of Content & Strategy at ArCompany. She has an extensive background in Sales, and focuses on generational marketing and content. With Hessie Jones she founded ArCompany's Millnnnial, GenX and Boomer Think Tanks and writes and speaks on those topics from an insights/strategy perspective.

8 thoughts on “Everyone THINKS They Know the Answer to Golf’s Problems

  1. Bill Smith says:

    Interesting read Amy, I’m one of those Gen Xer’s who doesn’t golf, a good walk ruined as one famous British Prime Minster used to say. I do however belong to a private ski club that’s an hour’s drive Northwest of Toronto and they do a great job on their social channels which is primarily Facebook and Instagram. Their membership levels have remained constant, older members who quit skiing retire to a “patio membership”and members with young families join or in some cases rejoin if one of the family members used to belong years ago. My only ski club board’s only fear is a mild winter.

    Now in terms of Golf losing the Gen-X, Millennial and perhaps active Boomer demographic, why are they bailing or saying, not interested. As mentioned, country club memberships aren’t cheap and on top of that you have to spend money each month in the club house to entertain. That’s just the membership, then you have the clubs, bag, shoes, clothes etc., that could be easily $3-5000+ if you want something decent, on top of that, time with a golf pro to get your swing just right, that’s going cost money too.

    Now where are they going to? I’ve noticed a lot of active young Boomers, Gen Xer’s and Millennials take up road cycling in the past few years. The number of high end bicycle stores in my part of Greater Toronto tripled over the past decade, you can spend an insane amount of money on a road bike. I easily see 75+ cyclists in groups riding my main street doing a century ride (100KM or 62 miles for the Americans) on a nice Saturday morning. My theory is cycling is the new networking sport.

    • Hi Bill – actually, tennis is growing, and so is soccer.

      I don’t believe that cost is the primary reason Golf isn’t bringing in new younger men (it IS bringing in women). It’s a multitude of factors that center around the message and the communication channels those responsible for marketing golf are using.

  2. Zeb Welborn says:

    Amy,

    Great article and thanks for the #GolfChat plug. I wonder if you’ve had a chance to read The Social Golf Course yet because we have a whole chapter titled, The Blame Game where we discuss this specifically. Golf courses need to take up the responsibility of growing the game and marketing effectively to encourage more golfers and create a more social atmosphere.

    And I get Bill’s point, but I think that all depends on the location. Golf doesn’t need to be nearly as expensive as Bill suggests, but in different parts of the country it is different. No one in my social circles does any kind of biking, but he does bring up a good point which is people participate in social activities because they are fun. If the golf course wants to compete with other social activities they need to start thinking more socially and get their golfers interacting with one another.

    Great job!

    Zeb

  3. Well done Amy, a great article and one element that was not discussed is the perceived difficulty of the game and players not engaging with the learning process which is in itself part of the fun in developing the skills necessary to play and enjoy the game. As a youngster I challenged myself to improve by playing games and being creative. The search for a ‘perfect swing’ based on what the best golfers in the world do is a fruitless task.

    The game will survive as new ways to explore what is possible emerge and our new book ‘Intelligent Golf Clubs, Honest Golf Balls and You’ will open the golfer’s eyes to a different way to develop and calibrate their swing.

    • Hi Tony – sorry it took me 2+ weeks to respond – problem with our blog commenting system.

      YES, the game will survive, but it continues to lose numbers and that frustrates me. One hugely important thing is for people to know that it’s ok to suck – you do not have to be a pro to enjoy golf.

  4. Tom Borgman says:

    Very late to this very good discussion…one that I have almost weekly in my own personal/professional circles. Really, other than the “why golf’s decline?” aspect, sounds a lot like other discussions re: older management/c-suite/ownership’s digital disconnect in all sorts of industries. It’s obvious, as you state, that golf is one of the last, very traditional industries to get pulled into the “new order.” Your “they’ll be damned if they update their marketing methods and talk directly to the people they want to start playing the game” comment says it all.

    Those that are “catching on” are leading the way but most have a long long way to go still. It’d be telling to find a case study or two of a public course (if there’s growth at all it has to come from the public sector first) that have really spent the time, effort and money to play in the digital engagement sandbox and are successfully reversing the trend.

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