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.