Dear Golf… There’s More

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Dear Golf,

Last month I wrote a blog post directed solely at you, your image problems, and the obvious fact that you’ve somehow been unable to pull new golfers into the sport for at least 2 generations. This baffles a lot of us watching the sport, especially after the ratings success of this year’s Masters.

CBS reported viewship up 48% over last year, earning the best numbers since 2011. ESPN also reported increases from last year:  “The Thursday telecast was ESPN’s highest-rated and most-viewed first round coverage in five years, earning a 2.2 rating and averaging 3.218 million viewers.”

Couple that with the star of the show, the incredibly likable Jordan Speith, who performed with such rock solid dominance pundits repeatedly asked if he was “The Next Tiger.” Lord knows Golf needs another Tiger who could perhaps stem the bleeding of regular, everyday golfers. Those who know the data understand that not even Tiger was enough to actually grow the sport when it comes to everyday golfers; it has been bleeding players for ages.

This year’s Masters only reinforced how insane your dilemma is:

The PGA tour is wildly popular, its stars are household names and make millions. None of that really matters to the golf course owners and those who make a living off of regular players, because the 50 and unders just aren’t coming out to play.


The Real Numbers

Anyone who has been paying attention to the honest facts about the state of the golf industry knows the figures that Jim Kopenhaver of Pellucid Corp. willingly shares. I grabbed this quote from a article, but you can find them by simply Googling state of golf industry:

According to NGF statistics cited by Koppenhaver, a total of 3.7 million people took up golf in 2013, however, 4.1 million golfers left the game, for a net loss of 400,000 players. A net gain of almost 260,000 women golfers was offset and more by a net loss of nearly 650,000 men. The biggest losses were in the 18-34 age group, where nearly 200,000 people found something else to do with their spare time and their disposable income.

In the article there is a lot of discussion of the need for fewer courses; Golf overbuilt and needs a correction. That may very well be true, but Golf also needs to stop the bleeding, and I see nothing being done that has a chance of succeeding.


The Obvious Problem

I spoke about this in my last post at length, and I won’t stop until I find the right people in the golf industry willing to listen; Golf’s biggest problem is NOT:

  • the expense
  • the time it takes to play
  • the fact that it isn’t technology centric

Anyone who tells you that Millennials don’t play because the game costs too much or takes too much time has no clue about what draws GenY. Members of both GenX and GenY spend hours upon hours gaming, or viewing other sports that take just as long.

When was the last time you went to an NBA game? It takes at least 2.5 hours for the game to be played in regulation, and a whole lot of time getting to it, and getting back home. And it costs a boatload; Millennials love it. Spending 5+ hours and $200+ does not appear to be an obstacle as the NBA grows in popularity with GenY.

Golf’s biggest problem is that it isn’t communicating with the under 50 set where they are, online and in social media, on blog forums and other online communities. Mull this over for a minute: over 50% of US Millennials are on Instagram. Now, think about the last time you saw a golf course or golf entity using Instagram effectively.


The Answer

You may wonder why I’m focused on what individual golf courses do to market locally. The reality is that it is up to those owners and decision makers to move the needle in regards to recruiting new players; no golf entity is going to do it for them.

Last week I spoke to a well known golf figure who also owns his own course; they are doing amazing things to make golf affordable and accessible, and they’re making some progress, but not fast enough. I am certain that if an owner who is willing to do what needs to be done in regards to accessibility also uses modern means of communicating and gets down on the ground floor with the 50 an under set, they will have success.

And I mean to prove it. What you don’t need are one-off tactics or hip young social media users to “teach you the way,” you need a model that will help you to connect to Millennials and GenXers, and anyone else active online. We’ve created it.We have developed a blue print for golf course owners to market locally to GenX and Millennials via social and digital channels within their own marketplace.

Here’s how we’ll do it: we’ll use listening technology  (and yes, it’s totally legal) to do hyper local research on what is being tweeted and talked about in regards to golf within a certain geography. We’ll determine who is interested in golf, to what degree, and where they are spending time online. If you are wise like the golf course owner I mentioned, and you have purchased or built a solid email database, we can couple that with Facebook research and determine within a certain probability the generation of the user.

We will be able to tell you  the good, bad and ugly about your course’s online reputation, but also that of your primary competitors. Most importantly, once we collect all of this information, we’ll glean the insights and help you USE them to create a smart marketing strategy that touches these younger potential golfers.

Because we’ll only fix golf one player at a time.

At ArCompany we  analyze data gathered from social media, websites, forums and search. This research helps inform and guide the communication efforts of many brands. If you want to learn more about implementing meaningful insights, we’re here to help.

Photo credit: Playing REAL Miniature Golf via photopin (license).

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