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Why We Should Be Bullish About Golf

Jun 23, 2017   //   by Mathilda   //   golf industry, Latest News  //  No Comments

Contrary to popular narrative, golf is actually in pretty good shape with much cause for optimism as we hurtle towards the second half of the year. Erik Matuszewski reports.

Golf has a big problem. It’s the pervasive – and lazy – narrative that the sport is dying. It’s not just misguided, it’s wrong.

But it’s a story often regurgitated because golf is an easy target, with detractors saying it’s too slow, too expensive and too exclusionary. The nay-sayers insist the sport must be in its death throes because participation is down, more golf courses are closing than opening, Golfsmith filed for bankruptcy and Nike stopped making clubs.

Those things clearly aren’t positives, but the issue is that they never seem to come with proper context.

The reality is that the good in the game right now far outweighs the negatives, which is why we should be bullish on golf. There are, in fact, plenty of reasons for optimism.

Golf generates almost US$70 billion in economic impact in the United States annually, impacts close to two million American jobs and pours about US$4 billion into charitable coffers.

No, there aren’t as many rounds being played as during the sport’s zenith – when Tiger Woods was at his prime, the economy was strong and new courses were popping up like mushrooms. But what we’re seeing is not a precipitous drop in rounds-played, but a return to the level before golf’s popularity spike. And youth participation is up. Yes, far more courses are closing than opening, yet that’s because the market is going through a natural correction caused by over-saturation during the boom years.

And golf today is more international than at any time in its history. The sport got a major visibility boost from its return to the Olympics in 2016 following a 112-year absence, even with stars like Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson taking a pass (this time around).

“It was game-changing for the sport,” said LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan. “We’ll see the impact of that for years to come.”

Speaking of the LPGA, its girls’ golf programme introduced 62,000 young girls to the game in 2016 – a staggering increase from 4,500 just six years ago. Programmes for women, in general, are making golf more welcoming and less intimidating, seeking to boost female participation. A recent study found that 29% of women who are non-golfers indicated an interest in taking up the game.

Millennial engagement will continue to be vital, though there are encouraging signs. The PGA Tour last year said that the percentage of millennials who play golf (28%) mirrors that of the group’s percentage of the total population, although they only play about half as frequently as previous generations. The PGA Tour has actively embraced digital to try to engage with millennials, including active social media content and the creation of a cool Internet-only network called SkratchTV.

Golf unquestionably has concerns it needs to address. It also has a passionate core following that’s committed to addressing those deficiencies. The thousands who gathered in Orlando in January for the PGA Merchandise Show are proof of that, as are the millions more who await word of the latest and greatest to come out of the annual gathering.


click to read full story Asian Golf Industry Federation

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