As a drop in participation became unavoidable, it became clear to the PGA Board of Directors that it was time to look to non-traditional means when discussing growth. A diverse task force including multicultural, female, and millennial members joined together to develop a strategy for growing the game. Golf has a massive network of over 27,000 male and female PGA Professionals. What if the experience of receiving lessons from pros can help new players feel comfortable and valued on the course?
Opportunity for Growth
The challenge faced by the task force was to find a way to reach untapped potential. What does it take to reach potential women and junior golfers to introduce them to the game? One consideration involves reinventing the instructional program. Affordability and enjoyment are two factors that affect whether people will choose golf over an alternative activity. It can even be beneficial to view skill development separately to keep beginners motivated.
- Make it accessible to all. Successful programs created entry-level instructional classes that appeal to new demographics and are as affordable as possible. Many people perceive golf as an expensive sport, but it doesn’t have to be. It only runs an average of $27 per round of golf at many of the 16,000 +/- facilities in the U.S. Golf is no longer relegated to the elite at high-end private clubs.
- Make it worthwhile. Remove the learning barrier by creating a social environment that welcomes new women and youth into the fold. Time is often a factor for women and juniors, so facilities have begun creating play packages to accommodate. Maybe you have time to hit the green after dinner with ‘Six after Six.’ Some facilities even let you pay by the hole.
- Separate skill development from the game. Beginners need motivation to progress through their early stages of growth. One option is to turn skill development into a game by keeping track of skill progression and setting realistic goals.
The reality of the situation is that golf needs a more fluid definition. An 18-hole round is not practical for all and prevents many people from taking up the game. To foster growth, it is time to get creative in our development of alternatives to attract more women and junior players.
Talk about long term potential. Women are powerful consumers who are often in charge of creating family activity plans. Engaging women effectively means a percentage of household members will inevitably take up the game of golf. A program called Get Golf Ready offers a way into the world of golf. Basic game elements are taught in a social setting.
Once women are comfortable in their golf experience, they are more likely to convert to golfers who ultimately play traditional golf. Golf is that sport that does not require a specific body type, so once a woman is confident in her ability to hit the golf ball with consistency, she is more likely to return to the game to watch her skills grow. Many businesswomen are also taking advantage of the golf course to solidify business relationships.
PGA Junior League Golf is open to children ages 13 and under regardless of prior golf experience. Three years ago, there were about 9,000 participants. Now, there are over 36,000 participants. It turns out that adding the fun, social element of a team, complete with team jerseys works to draw attention to youth golf and recruit new participants.
Team Captains are PGA and LPGA Pros who willingly coach kids on the game of golf. The whole family is encouraged to fill in volunteer and coaching positions. PGA Junior League Golf introduces the entire family to a lifelong sport.
Thanks in part to the growth of women and juniors in the game, golf has seen a resurgence in the U.S. More youth players bode well for golf’s future since it is a sport that grows with them. The PGA Junior League has introduced many families to the game. Incentives to bring new players to the game by making the game fit into our busy schedules is a wise move by golf facilities. Breaking golf into bite-sized pieces that can be enjoyed in smaller increments of time have opened the game to more women and juniors.