Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Does Golf Really Try to Encourage Participation?

We hear all of the statistics that indicate golf participation is down - no matter what the NGF says. To couple it, though, we do not hear much talk about what the industry is doing to try to remedy the problem. Sure, we hear about the things that keep people away from the game:

  • Takes too long to play
  • Costs too much to play
  • Access to courses and improvement is too tough
But, we do not see many stories coming out about golf courses that are addressing these problems and turning them around into better participation. Bob Carney over at Golf Digest's Editor's Blog seems to have realized the lack of solutions - just complaints - and he comes to a startling conclusion. Golf isn't trying hard enough.
The fact, is golf isn't hungry. It talks hungry. It issues press releases as if it's hungry. If it were really hungry, there would be free clinics for kids every month at every public course. If it were really hungry, there would be after-school junior hours where kids could get access to local courses. If it were really hungry there would be nine-hole leagues for every conceivable human subdivision, from singles to sorority sisters, heck, maybe even six-hole leagues.
Could not agree more, and participation pieces I have done would suggest the same thing. Why are we not appealing to juniors more? Why are we not trying to get women into leagues? There are several things that can be done. The PGA's Play Golf America initiative will tell you that they have given thousands of lessons and clinics and that we are retaining those players at a good clip. But what about 3 years down the line? What about courses that do not have the luck of benefiting from the PGA clinics?

Golf just does not seem to be working at the grassroots level to get improvement on the mend. Is it because courses are looking to the sky - the USGA (for the good of the game) and the PGA of America (Play Golf, AMERICA) - for answers? Or, do they not really care?

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