Keeping Golf Relevant

How will be golf be remembered in 2011? Was it Rory McIlroy’s Masters collapse and then record-breaking performance at the U.S. Open? An undoubtedly magical moment for the game of golf. Or was it how Hurricane Irene disrupted The Barclays, the first event of the PGA Tour FedEx Cup to the point of essentially cancelling. Or perhaps what’s most top-of-mind is Tiger Woods’s continued slump, which continued until just this past weekend with his victory at the Chevron.

Presented with these highlights/lowlights, representing and promoting a company whose sole purpose is to create a fun, exciting golf environment may seem more than a little daunting. But it’s not all doom and gloom in the golf world. 

Even without Tiger, average weekend TV ratings on CBS and NBC rose over 2010 levels. And those who were tuning in were watching longer than last year. Even the Golf Channel saw record viewership for the PGA Tour Fall Series. 

It’s not just TV numbers that impressed in 2011; in fact, top brands engaged fans in some interesting ways this year. Here are some of our favorites:

Red Bull                             &nb sp;              
As part of Red Bull Capital Drive, Rickie Fowler hit a tee shot from an elevated tee box at a man-made hole constructed for him in Washington, D.C., at the Georgetown Waterfront. No big deal, Rickie nailed a hole-in-one more than 106 yards away without a sight line.

Cubs Hall-of-Famer Ernie Banks and PGA Tour Defending Champion Dustin Johnson competed in a hole-in-one tournament from the Wrigley Field stands to raise money for charity and to promote the BMW Championship. And although neither nailed a hole-in-one, BMW still con­tributed $10,000 to the Evans Scholar Program.

EA Sports
With Tiger’s star fading, EA Sports earlier this year put the cover athletes to a vote via Facebook. With over 200,000 votes cast, Fowler was unveiled as the co-cover athlete with Woods for the U.S. version and McIlroy was selected to join Tiger on the cover of Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13 in Europe.

For me, the common tie that binds these promotions together is the mission of taking the game of golf to fans outside their comfort zone. So many golf fans have become so comfortable with the golf course, a country club or the driving range – but this isn’t your grandfather’s sport anymore. Or for the future of golf’s sake, it better not be.

Here’s the golf gut check. According to Scarborough, only 12% of Americans have played golf this past year and more than 40% of those are over the age of 50. Is golf staring at an age/interest crisis? 

The cost of entry to golf can be high, adding in clubs, cart rentals, greens fees, apparel, etc. But these barriers can be overlooked if fans can be groomed via other outlets. As an example, young golfers (ages 18-34), are also 92% more likely to have played online video games last month. So if I can experience golf on my couch via a video game, or have a drink and eat while playing real golf but not on a golf course, and I can participate without ever taking a single lesson, and bring the whole family, then my opportunities to create life-long fans has increased exponentially. 

We represent one of those unconventional entertainment outlets. We are a golf venue unlike any other, more than just a driving range and yet something completely different than a trip to the local country club. We strive to make the sport fun and exciting for all guests on site, whether they know what a handicap is or not. The game of golf needs to adjust to its audience, where attention spans and patience are shrinking as fast as their text messages fly out, which spells trouble for a game that can be five to six hours for a full round.  

I’m challenged, and as a proponent of the sport, we’re all challenged to look for innovative ways golf can keep casual and serious golfers engaged, and yet entice new and younger golfers. So as I write this in December, in Chicago, where temperatures are dropping by the second, my mind is still on golf and I’m thrilled I don’t need to be on vacation to get my fix.

1 comment about "Keeping Golf Relevant".
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  1. Roger Saunders from PROSPER BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT, December 6, 2011 at 12:56 p.m.

    "Is golf staring at an age/interest crisis?"

    Perhaps we should first look at the age stats. Based on the BIGinsight semi-annual Simultaneous Media Usage (SIMM) Survey of 25,195 Adults, 18+, the Consumers in all "Age" brackets still choose to participate in Golf during their free & leisure time.

    While 12.5% of Consumer share their interest in the sport, it is useful to look at Age Brackets. 17.9% of the population is between the ages of 25-34 -- 18.7% of golfers fall into this bracket; 17.9% of the population is between 35-44 -- 19.7% of golfers are in these age ranges; 19.2% of adults are between 45-54 -- 20.7% of golfers are in this Age Bracket.

    Maybe there is a crisis, as Susan postulates. It is likely in the area of interest, not age. Golf is a sport for the ages -- all of them. Find a way to understand the consumers' interests in the game, and how they can work it into family / personal life, along with a entertainment / sports budget, and solutions may lie in that realm. Age isn't one of them.

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