How Golf Can Better Market Itself to New Players
Typically, our readers are keen golfers - it would be a bit strange if we were drawing an audience primarily from dance enthusiasts! The grasp of golf has taken over you and, like many of us, we simply cannot get enough of this incredible sport.
A lot of people find golf a little later in life and generally, participation in the sport principally comes from an older demographic. While there is nothing damaging from this, for the long-term health of the game, golf would certainly benefit from an increased younger audience.
Having noted that, further involvement and exposure from an array of age brackets is something that golf has desperately been seeking. While the recent boom is undeniable and excellent news for the community, it’s pivotal that it is further built upon and developed.
The problem is, how on earth do you market golf to those who have little to no interest? I spoke previously about my lack of involvement when I was younger - and that’s putting it lightly. It sparked nothing inside of me and it wasn’t until my early 20s when I realised this wasn’t just a sport but the absolute best of them all. Funny how it works like that, isn’t it?
While we have established that an older demographic are more likely to play, watch or even spend within the sport, it is vital that golf continues to grow. Tiger Woods helped the game expand and he also inspired the next generation of talent.
However, from a participation perspective, not everyone has access to premium golf. Moreover, there are plenty of players who opt to solely play and viewing isn’t for them. Considering this, how does golf expose itself to newcomers?
From the help of the Golfshake Community and the incredible responses to our recent survey, we look at some comments regarding how the game of golf can further improve participation and, as a consequence, secure the sport’s long-term future.
If we want more people playing golf, then the sport must become more inclusive. Undoubtedly, governing bodies have placed a high importance on this subject and in contemporary times, we see our local courses brimming with women, children and an array of men. We would only have to go back 30/40 years where this scenario would have been less obvious - that’s substantial progress.
However, there is still ample room to further bolster inclusion and I’m not necessarily talking about genders, either.
While some golf memberships are flexible and offer reduced costs for younger players, some have remained traditional and solely offer five or seven-day access to the course. One respondent believes that it is old-fashioned and that new ways to entice newcomers to the sport must be thought of.
“All the local clubs that I play as a visitor haven't done anything different to try and embrace new members. They have stuck to the old 7 or 5-day membership packs and none have considered any flexible membership which would allow for the golfer who can only commit to maybe 1 or 2 rounds a month.”
Although clubs are priced up differently, if you are looking to secure membership, and you typically play once a week then it would be beneficial, from a financial perspective, for you to acquire golf membership. The problem occurs when you can’t get out weekly, which many golfers find a challenge.
By reducing fees or even offering 2-round memberships per month, the sport will be welcoming in new faces and they won’t be excessively priced out of playing. It would help improve participation and further expose all the joys of golf. This brings us directly to our second point.
If you play football, then you’ll need shin pads and boots. If tennis is your thing, then a racquet and trainers will be required. Cricket equipment starts to drive up the expense but golf is a whole different level. Clubs, tees, balls, pitch forks, towels, head covers, spikes and brushes - the list could easily go on.
If we’re spending so much around the activity, should the cost to play the sport really be as high? The short answer is no, it should not. This also directly impacts with inclusivity. We shouldn’t be speaking about it as if it’s solely about gender, it’s also based around financial standings. Those who earn less will seldom see golf as a necessity and let’s be honest, it isn’t.
If we are paying so much for the equipment - which will continue to rise - it’s unfair to expect excessive costs for green fees or memberships. If golf wants to be a sport for all, it needs to address its eye-watering fees.
One comment read: “Some clubs have increased prices and trying to join a club has become a lot harder and more expensive.” This directly correlates to what we have been speaking about - pricing people out. It is clear that this respondent wants to join a golf club and therefore, has a strong interest in the sport. Through raising prices, he has effectively been priced out of joining.
This results in the individual exclusively paying green fees. However, not all clubs are taking visitors due to the unprecedented demand for tee times. It wouldn’t be long before they completely give up on the game purely because there aren’t any affordable facilities or allocated tee times available. It becomes a Catch-22.
There is a flipside too. Yes, golf clubs do need to look after their members - considering they’re giving money to the establishment on a reoccurring basis. However, should the attitude or respect be the same towards visitors? Yes. One respondent noted: “Depending on the club, golf clubs are more focused on profit. Clubs have reduced guests and looked after members more.”
This could have been their first involvement with the sport of golf. If I were to travel to a golf club and receive poor treatment or generally feel like I was not welcomed, I would refuse to return. Sadly, this has happened on two occasions, which highlights the accuracy in this response.
There is one final topic to discuss and as controversial as it may be for traditionalists of the sport, it does need to be addressed in modern times.
I may have only been playing golf for the last two years but I do understand the etiquette and attire that is associated with a visit to my golf club. Fortunately, the club that I am a member of have a relaxed approach to the dress code and they are a seriously inclusive club - it is one of the main reasons why I decided to join.
I enjoy dressing the "correct" way when I play golf. Tailored shorts, spikes, collard shirt that is tucked in, etc. However, not everyone does and I fail to see a single problem with that. What’s more important, looking smart on the golf course or actually playing golf? It’s always going to be the latter.
It would be impossible to grow the sport from a dress sense, there’s fashion for that. I’m not arguing golfers should be able to wear anything - or even go shirtless - but the rules around dress code should be relaxed. I find it perplexing that professionals can wear hoodies yet many amateurs can’t at their clubs.
One comment from the survey stated: “If ever there was a time to grow the game, it's now. Clubs need to be more flexible in many ways, tee times, dress code, pay as you play, 9 hole offers, 12 hole offers etc. Plus attract women & children.”
I’m not sure that forcing children to wear polos that are tucked in is the most efficient way of attracting them. It’s time to open the sport to all and that means compromising on the traditional values.
Golf has made valuable inroads in its attempt to bolster the popularity of the sport. However, the traditional values act as a deterrent for some newcomers and something that should not be mandatory.
It is difficult to determine what exactly is needed to expose golf to newcomers but the three topics that we have discussed certainly hold the potential to change the game for the positive.
Golf needs more faces - young adults, women, children - and the sport will also need to accommodate all types of budget. Couple those in with the archaic dress code requirements that some clubs employ and it is easy to see why the sport can become so stagnated and closed off.
What do you think? leave your comments below (Comments)