There has been an explosion in the popularity of women’s golf at the top level, with thousands of college age athletes choosing golf as their professional career. If you just look at the bodies out there on the USLPGA and the women’s European tour; it is a different world to just a couple of decades ago. As in the equivalent men’s tours around the world, the bodies are younger and much fitter, gyms and personal trainers are now an essential part of competing in golf at the highest level.
Women are hitting the golf ball further because they are stronger and they have athletic swings. Whereas in the old days of watching women’s golf it was bigger female body shapes, especially around the bottom and hips which gave those ladies their distance on the course. There is much more physical sports science now being taught about the golf swing, and the girls out on tour now know how to time their impact through the ball to achieve maximum results. Lots of golf teachers recommend that amateurs, both men and women, will learn more from watching the best women compete because they have such correct swings and the speeds are closer to that of the amateur.
Women golfers: putting the ball on the green. Women golfers have always been great putters of the golf ball, often making long putts under competitive pressure. Think of Karrie Webb, Annika Sorenstam, and now Stacy Lewis. Putting is a game within a game in golf; and in the end it all comes down to whether you can get the ball in the hole.
Women golfers are great role models for young female sportspeople. They are very fit, they look great and they handle themselves gracefully out on the course. Women’s health in general can only be improved by more women being inspired to take up golf and getting all that exercise and stress relief the game provides. And, they are starting to make some serious money out there these days competing for some sixty million dollars on the USLPGA tour. The new young stars like Lydia Ko from New Zealand, Inbee Park from Korea, and Lexi Thompson from the US are earning millions of dollars in prize money. Throw in Michelle Wie and Stacy Lewis and you have some seriously good golfers and good looking girls; which always helps television ratings and audience numbers.
Golf clubs around the UK, USA and Australia are struggling in many instances and there have been permanent closures of well established courses. Some golf clubs have chosen to amalgamate, pooling their resources and members to stave off extinction. Why is this happening? What is wrong with the game? Times change and nothing stands still; we live in a new world of computers and mobile phones. Work no longer fits nicely between nine to five, five days a week; technology reaches outside those fixtures and into weekends and after hours. Dads are doing more with their families; rather than relying so much on mum. Modern men and women are saying that they simply do not have the time to play a game which takes up half the entire day.
Marketing golf: is there something missing? Well, golf has previously maintained an image steeped in tradition. Collared shirts and other dress regulations were strictly enforced on participants. Did the sixties actually happen in the world of golf? Well, Jack Nicklaus and others did wear those garish tartan slacks. Arnold Palmer, Greg Norman and Tiger Woods were global sporting stars beloved of their fans; and ‘he men’ to boot. But even watching golf on television takes an enormous amount of time, with tournaments lasting four days on average. Every golf tournament is like watching test cricket and cricket has responded to the same problem by inventing new forms of the game. One day cricket and now Twenty Twenty.
Will golf move down the same route by introducing new forms of the game lasting less time? What new marketing ideas will emerge to increase interest and participation in the game? There have been rumblings about a twelve hole game, with a much larger hole to make putting easier. Speed golf has been around for ages but has never really caught on. We do play nine hole competitions at club level and these have proved to be sustainable if not widely popular. Golf’s appeal to retirees is based on their having the time to devote to a game of eighteen hole golf. Golf demands things from its adherents, like time to play and practice; it is not an easy game to master. Golf demands concentration for around three to four hours, the time it may take to complete a round. But it also gives back in spades; the satisfaction of a well struck shot soaring into the distance. The fulfilling experience of completing an under par round in relation to your handicap; a net score rather than a gross score for most amateur players.
Social media is already playing a role in the marketing of golf; especially in the world of social golf. Social golfers are golfers who are not members of a golf club based upon a particular course but rather a club that plays a variety of courses. These days they have official handicaps and a lot of the growth has been in this area of the game. Golf as a game is still loved by a large audience; it is only the infrastructure around it that needs to change to accommodate today’s market.
You know some people call the golf course a gold course because they generate so much money from networking whilst playing the game. Doesn’t that sound brilliant, doing something that you love and have fun playing, whilst simultaneously generating profits for your business or your job? Typically real estate agents and other sales people have benefitted from being members of a golf club; usually a wealthy and well regarded golf club.
You see, the thing about a round of competitive golf, and even a social round of golf, they take at least three to four hours. This means that you have a captive audience for your pitch or idea, away from interruptions like phone calls and office managers. Combine this with the essential fact that most regular golfers love their golf, and you have a pretty nice atmosphere to, possibly, plant a seed or, even, close a deal. There is camaraderie out on the golf course, there is gentle competitive ribbing between players and there is a rich shared experience; whatever happens.
The networking opportunities out on the golf course are very real, too, especially if you like to play regularly with different four ball groups. It can be a great way to introduce or grow your business, simply by spreading the message as you go round the course. Of course, you don’t want to be a bore; everyone is out there to play golf. Mention the news or opportunity and move on; don’t harp on about it. You may like to sponsor a competition and/or one of the golf holes on your course. There are plenty of branding opportunities at golf clubs; in programs and on cladding around the course.
Marcus Dervin of SharePoint Development Company is an excellent networker and Marcus often finds that AFL games are a great way to network with business owners who follow the Sydney Swans. Sport brings out the best in most people and whether watching the game together in the stands or out on the course swinging a club, it is a great place to do business. One of the most common refrains on a golf course, especially if the weather is an issue, is that, “this sure beats being in the office”. Fresh air, usually sunshine, the exertion of walking and the exhilaration of pulling off a great shot, all combine to make golf a great experience. And a great place to do business.