Tuesday, February 17, 2015
Golf's Associations Have Growing the Game Wrong!
In my time of golfing since 2009 the various ideas put forward have been many and varied. From, get more women, invent hybrid golf games, to changing the basic golf game. None of these make any sense to me. Golf is a sport, hobby recreation activity for many and that is the strength. The weakness is too many individuals tryingto run clubs and associations to suit themselves and not the future. Golf's Associations Have Growing the Game Wrong! by Andrew Wood Feb 14, 2015 According to the National Golf Foundation, the total number of traditional golf facilities in the U.S. fell from 16,052 in 2005 to 15,516 in January 2014, of which 11,505 were open to the public and 4,011 were private. An additional 150 closed by late 2014. According to CEO, Joe Beditz, CEO of the Foundation, the national population of golfers in the USA has declined by 5 million in the past 10 years, dropping from roughly 30 million to approximately 25.3 million. There has also been a 25 percent decline in the number of people who play golf regularly. England is another country where the number of golfers is decreasing. In 2000 the EGA counted 868,966 golfers, compared with only 761,335 in 2012. “We’ve lost one out of four of our core customers, and all core customers are responsible for 90 percent of the spending and the rounds played in golf,” Beditz said in a January news conference at the PGA’s 2014, Merchandise Show. Of course the good people at the NGF were also the people who told us a decade ago to build a course a week to meet demand! Nonetheless I think we can all agree that right now golf does have a problem with play down significantly in the USA, Canada, UK, Australia, Spain and Portugal. In fact, it’s down in all major golf markets except France! Yea France, C'est Magnifique! There are a few other countries where participation is such as Switzerland, 3,000 new players, the Czech Republic up 4.9% (2,800 new players) to 55,000 players and up in a few of those new countries in Eastern Europe. Lithuania was up nearly 50%, Bulgaria 42% and Serbia 41%, but the later were starting from nothing. What Is the Industry Doing to Tackle This Problem? Most of the stuff I see out there from the various industry groups is like campaign promises from politicians. It sounds good, but in reality are nothing more than a pipe dream, pandering loudly to special interest groups and the media, trying to make everyone look good! Industry groups have little regard for the economics of running a club and even less for the disaster that is a foursome of beginners teeing off in front of you! With all due respect for their efforts, the PGA, USGA, NGCOA and other national and regional associations are far too conservative and politically correct to embrace the out-of-the-box thinking and ACTION that is REALLY needed to tackle the problem! “As an example, Golf 2.0 is a PGA initiative that is heavily dependent upon (and centered around) the PGA Professional. It places the responsibility of marketing and implementing on the already over-burdened PGA member. Many PGA members are incredible golfers, teachers, and operational managers but my experience (I know over 100 personally) is that many do not have strong enthusiasm or training for marketing (especially social media). They are afraid they will do or say something on social media that will have negative repercussions. Course owners are asking them to do more and more for less and less. They, too, are confined by "Codes of Conduct" and risky initiatives could have negative impact on their membership status.” - Excerpt from an excellent article by Kevin Unterreiner, Twin Cities Golf None of these programs like Golf 2.0 even mention the three largest obstacles to growth simply because they are not in their expertise! On top of that, the actual results of the associations existing programs are marginal at best. Let me give you an unwelcome dose of harsh reality regarding the general message from these various, well-meaning groups; You know the drill..... “Get More Women Involved in the Game” Okay, sounds good, Women generally make up about 25% of the players worldwide except in the UK where they represent only 14%, so you would think logically it would be a good market for growth right? Maybe.... Why maybe? Because the game is not and perhaps never will be set up for women. Forget all the male bias for a moment. Firstly courses are set up way too long for 95% of women (even with different tees). Yes, I know there are lots of great women players at the tip of the talent iceberg, who can hit it further than me, but there is not one women at my previous club, that can hit it further than my 5 iron. And perhaps only one or two at most at my previous four clubs! This is a fact, not male basis (see my previous article on why women should play golf ) and it’s a fact that stunts the growth participation among women. For example: A 60 year old guy playing a 500 yard par four hits his drive 220 and hits his 3 wood 180 and has 100 yard wedge left. A 60 year old woman has a 50 yard head-start hits it 150-175 (maybe) and then hits wood, wood, wood and perhaps gets there. Tees should be set up so the average lady has the same club in her hand as her male counterpart for her second shot not her 3rd or 4th! To quote Barney Adams founder of Adams Golf, who recently wrote a very interesting series on the state of the game on Golf RX: “In fact, if you adjust course yardages for a tour professional’s length, you’ll find that average male golfers routinely play the equivalent of 8500-yard courses, and women play courses that are equivalent to a 9000-yard course.” So to start with the fact that the playing field for women is not fair; they have to hit the ball far more times to accomplish the same result as their spouses. This leads to higher scores, longer rounds and greater frustration. More on this later but that’s just strike one! Women also spend a fraction of their male counterparts (I know this is hard to believe guys but its true when it comes to golf) It also costs far more money to reach them and you convert far less of them to long-term customers. These are simple economic facts. If you are a women you don’t have to like it or agree, but it won’t change the facts. I have been in the marketing business 25 years and can tell you women cost more to reach and return far less than males when you are selling the vast majority of sports! If You Own a Business, Return on Investment Actually Matters Long ago, when I was in the karate business, I learned a very important business lesson. If I spent $3,000 of my hard-earned money in the local Penny Saver and ran three different ads, one aimed at women, one aimed at men and the other at children this was my return: The ad aimed at women would get a $100 return on my $1,000 The ad aimed at men would get a $400 return on my $1,000 While the ad aimed at kids would get a $4,000 on my $1,000 Now trust me I wanted women in my school. Women between 14-40 are the number one victims of violence and sexual abuse and are the people who can benefit the most from karate! Women also attract men to the school and they are often more fun to teach! Of course I also wanted adult men also so I could spar with them and bond with them but it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out where I started spending ALL of my advertising dollars. Dollars that came right out of my pocket! As the world’s leading expert in golf marketing (say I modestly) it’s my job to monitor response rates from the thousands of campaigns we have executed. I can assure you that with one exception I can think of from a client who specialized in women they are far harder and far more costly to reach for far less revenue than white middle-aged males. Which by the way, despite all the BS you hear about golf having too many of them, is the very market you should try to re-energize first! Much more on this later! Of course we must do everything we can to attract more women to the game. BUT, if the money is coming out of your wallet, you want quick growth and making a profit actually matters to you, it’s not the first market, the second or even the third market segment you are going to target, no matter how appealing an opportunity it looks on the surface! “We need more Blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans playing golf” they say.... You might as well say we need more Arabs, a group badly underserved by the golfing world! They have tons of money but as a percentage of the population very few of them play golf so that’s not a very good market either, it’s just not part of their culture! Morocco for example has 42 golf courses and just 7,000 native players. Loredo, Texas has 300 registered golfers in a town of 250,000 people. It’s not racist, it is just a fact. Arabs are not likely to be a core market worth going after any time soon. Not because we don’t want more of these groups but because the cost-return ratio is simply not there! Preach to the choir, don’t try to convert the Muslims if you want to survive financially! “We Need to Attract More Kids to the Game” Yes we do! But, if you are running a golf course, trying to stay afloat betting on the come line for a 20 year pay off can’t possibly at the top of your agenda. (Although there is a good case for kids attracting their parents see my previous article in getting kids involved.) Remember I am not writing this manual as a politician or the PGA, NGCOA, NGF, USGA, a major manufacture or 1st tee member but as someone trying to help the golf course owner, manger or golf pro make it through the decade and grow their business while growing the game. These groups are NOT going to give you the answers you need! Not that you wouldn’t welcome every single kid you can get, but like women and minorities the cost-return ratio is just not there any time soon! That may change in the future but it’s not there now. Yes, we must plan for the future and attract children, and I’ll share lots of way to accomplish this, but we must also survive in the present! How About 15-inch Holes, Foot Golf, Frisbee Golf or Adventure Golf? Recently Taylor Made Golf funded an organization called HackGolf, which is trying to get more people to play golf by, among other things, introducing the 15-inch golf hole. So what happens when you change the size of the hole from 4.25 inches so something about the size of a large pizza? At the venues that tried it, the average length of an 18-hole round was reduced by nearly an hour, and golfers saw a 10-stroke improvement on their scores. Sounds promising? Not really. I met Mark King (Former CEO, of Taylor Made) once. Smart guy, but with all due respect 15-inch holes is great for a laugh but it’s not golf as we know it. Nor is it the magnet that brings anyone to the game! And why stop at 15-inch holes? Maybe we should try 20-inch holes or 30 inch holes? I played Foot Golf recently. It was fun, a laugh but it’s basically playing soccer on a golf course, nothing more or less. It generates income, brings in new faces and at the same time alienates traditional golfers, not just on the course but in the bar afterwards! One of my clients has had to break up three fights already in the first month! In short it’s a double-edged sword. There is no doubt you can make money with new golf “alternatives”, but at what cost to your core business? I have a couple of client’s who put in adventure golf courses, one in his parking lot and he is killing it in the summer. He’s doing so well he’d rather close down his course and stick to adventure golf. While that’s well and good it’s still not golf. Let’s be serious, all of these things can increase income but they’re not real golf as we know it! I think the game is a great enough game to survive and thrive in a very similar form to what it is now, not as a totally different game. There are still around 50 million people teeing it up across the globe! So What Are My Solutions...? Well Play Golf America, Get Golf Ready For Golf, Golf 2.0 and the like are all well intentioned and may have a small positive impact in the long term, but the first order of business is not to get new people playing; that’s too hard and too expensive. The first key is to get existing people playing more and lapsed people playing again. To quote Barney Adams again, “Golf has 7.6 million golfers who play more than 8 times per year and another 11.3 million golfers who play once annually. They play, but not enough to be considered avid golfers. So we have a pool of 19 million who have shown enough interest to try the game, own clubs and fondly look at courses as they drive by. Our goal is convert 10 percent of these golfers to the avid category, and between us we’d settle for 5 percent and let momentum do the rest.” Start with the low hanging fruit, the lapsed, white, middle-aged male, then expand out for the future.... You get them by nothing more complicated than better marketing! In my manual, How to Really Grow the Game I detail 33 more key points and solutions to growing the game http://lmgmc.com/grow-the-game-of-golf/ Thankyou for your time and attention, Geoff