By Grant Garrison, PGA
According to the World Golf Foundation in its 2015 industry report, the game continues to spread around the globe. However, the golf course supply remains highly concentrated among the top golfing nations. The US accounts for 45% of the world's facilities with Europe a distant 22% followed by Asia with 14% and Oceania with 6%.
Here, we will take a close look at what is happening in the United States. According to the National Golf Foundation is its 2017 golf report, rounds of golf played are slightly lower than in past years with more golf courses closing than opening, while some believe it's the death of golf, economist understand that it is simply a correction in the market due to too many courses being built for the population of golfers. This trend is likely to continue for the next few more years and level out.
The good news is that there is massive interest in the game due to ‘off course' play, which is up by 11% in 2018. The popularity of Top Golf type facilities along with indoor golf simulators is giving the game a massive boost. In fact, according to the NGF, the number of customers who play ‘off course' golf is likely to overtake the number of ‘on course' golfers in a very short time. The popularity is sweeping the planet with newbies joining the rage like Drive Shack and Club Corps new Big Shot ranges.
According to the 2017 National Golf Report, the number of beginner golfers in the US grew to 2.5 million, a 14% increase over 2015 and that number is an all-time high. The number of committed golfers grew for the first time in five years proving the avid golfer is not going anywhere. Lastly, interest in playing the traditional game has doubled in the past five years.
The question we must all be asking ourselves is how can we best leverage all this excitement for the game and provide a pathway to become a real golfer?
This is our obstacle; there is no one person in the golf industry designated to grow the game. In the past, it was the Club Golf Professional who promoted the game but as the business of golf grew, the club pro became an operations manager in charge of the many aspects of running the club business and tending to member's needs. Some Golf Professionals become golf instructors but it's hard to be taken seriously if you are teaching beginners. The golf industry has a big hole with nobody designated to fill it.
Some in the golf industry believe the answer to growing the game is to make easier courses or to abolish the dress code. Others believe we must change it completely and make bigger holes, jog between shots, or change the golf ball to a soccer ball. Here is the truth, people respect the traditional game and want the real thing. They enjoy choosing new golf clothes that identify them as a real golfer and they like the idea that some courses are extra challenging. We must stop playing down to the novice golfer because somehow the game got too hard over the past 100 years. Golfers want the real thing and they don't mind being challenged. The game of golf is rich in tradition and was never broken in the first place. It is and will ever be the greatest game ever played and that should always be the allure.