The fact is,
Club and golf course owners and operators heard good news recently, when the National Golf Foundation reported that the number of rounds played in the first half of 2006 was up three percent, compared to last year.
While that doesn’t represent a tidal wave of growth, it beats the steady declines of the past few years. And, as our chart on page 7 of this issue shows, play is up this year throughout most of the country, with only small declines reported in the Northeast (where there’s been some bad, wet weather), the Southwest, and the Northwest (I would have bet that the play at Bandon Dunes alone would have carried that region!).
However, while rounds are up, the NGF also reports that the number of “core golfers” in the market—those who account for the lion’s share of rounds played each year—has been flat at best. And this is not good news for either the current, or future, state of the game.
The fact is, we are still faced with more supply (courses) than demand (players). While the free market will ultimately fix this imbalance, there are some proactive steps you can take to get more players into the game.
There is a myriad of reasons for the decline in the number of people playing golf. Lack of time and/or money, and a wealth of family-oriented recreational alternatives, top the list.
The fact remains, however, that golf is a difficult game to learn, let alone master. Some people lose interest simply because they can’t play the game well enough to enjoy it.
We applaud the PGA of America for its proactive approach to growing the game, through the launch of the Play Golf America initiative in 2003. A core element of the program is helping new and current players improve their game through lessons from PGA professionals. In fact, over 147,000 free lessons were provided during May’s Free Lesson Month.
Play Golf America, however, is much more than golf instruction. The program includes all sorts of creative ways to grow the game in light of the needs of today’s golf market (to learn more, visit www.playgolfamerica.com).
Smart clubs complement the national efforts of the Play Golf America program with their own, local initiatives. As we’ve noted in our own articles about instruction (including “Into the Swing of Things,” August 2006), club pros must now take a highly proactive approach to helping members and guests play better golf. Lesson packages for all levels of play should be offered throughout the year. Pros and assistants should visit their driving ranges on a regular basis—making it clear this is a free service—to spend a minute or two critiquing swings and offering helpful tips for how players can improve their games. These goodwill gestures can either be free follow-ups to previous lessons, or gratis introductions to show the value of full lesson packages. In all cases, members and guests will be immensely appreciative.
The fact is, a better golfer is a better club member or guest. He or she will play more golf, buy more apparel and equipment, spend more on F&B and other amenities, and encourage friends to join the fun—if not the club itself.
If it’s good for the game, it’s got to be good for your business.