Fairway of Dreams
For the last decade or so, there has been a big push by Golf's Governing Bodies... sounds stuffy and arrogant doesn't it? Regardless, there has been a push to "Grow the Game" and bring more people, specifically women, minorities and juniors into the game. Most of these programs, in my opinion have been too complicated, expensive and rely to much on course operators and managers to do all the legwork while trying to keep their operations afloat. In case you haven't noticed, golf has owned the market on Caucasian Males 50 years and up... think Judge Smails in Caddyshack. So how do we do grow the game? Here's my take. Programs like The First Tee are terrific. They introduce the game to young people from all walks of life and teach them Core Values that translate not only in golf, but in life. Kudos to the The First Tee. http://www.thefirsttee.org/Club/Scripts/Home/home.asp
Problem: There is no where for most of these kids to continue playing golf when they leave the First Tee Program as many are from economically challenged households with a lack of golf facilites nearby. It's easier and less costly to play soccer, find a basketball court etc.
Solution: Copy the Little League Model, argubly the most succesful youth organization in the world. Have The USGA, PGA of America, PGA Tour and others dig into their VERY deep pockets and Build 3 hole mini courses and practice ranges for kids use only. Use volunteers to operate the facility. http://www.pga.com/home/ You don't need million dollar clubhouses or maintenance budgets that rival that of Augusta National to provide kids a place to learn the game and stay busy. It would be in these organizations best interest to seed the programs . Additional funding could come from the counties these areas are located in and/or from private sponsorship. Again it would be in the best interest of companies like Acushnet, Taylor-Made/ Adidas and others to spend money by providing equipment and support and in the process develop life long customers. http://www.acushnetcompany.com/ If you had to charge the kids a nominal fee to play, so be it. They have to pay to play in recreation leagues in other sports. I think even the most economically challenged famililes could come up with $5 daily fee to have their child practice and play in a safe outdoor enviroment from dawn to dusk on non-school days. If not, we let them play anyway. Let's not let negativity, naysayers and a few dollars put up roadblocks, let's do it and figure it out as we go along. Little League wasn't always the worldwide juggernaut it is today. You have to start somewhere!
Problem: Studies have shown that women want to play golf, but for a variety of reasons don't or are reluctant to do so.
Solution: I'm generally not in favor of exclusionary clubs, but I also realize that men are generally idiots. My wife and daughter can confirm my idiocy and man card. We are not always in tune with what women want or what their expecations are..... So why not women only clubs? Owned, manged by women for women. There are women only gyms, spas, and even women only golf associations like The Executive Womens Golf Assocation. EWGA. http://www.ewga.com/ Why not golf courses? At worst, course operators should host Ladies Days, Beginner Ladies Days, Daughters Days, Family Days etc. I think the key is to have female staff and instructors on hand. Not every man is comfortable having a female doctor, nothing to do with ability and not politically correct but it's a reality that some men don't enjoy members of the opposite sex seeing them exposed. So why should women golfers, especially beginners not have the option and access to a female instructor? Is there anything more exposed then a beginner golfer taking a lesson ? Why wouldn't the LPGA, USGA step in to provide seed money for course start-ups and why wouldn't Acushnet, Taylor-Made/Adidas see that as an opportunity for new business?
Conclusion: There are a lot of brilliant people in golf and I am not one of them. These folks have access to studies, reports and other brilliant people and still have not managed to move the needle in growing participation in the game. Time to drop back and punt. Speaking of punting, check the growth of FootGolf. Soccer people figured out a way to have fun on a golf course and invent a whole new sport in like 2 years. Time for golf people to have someone outside the hallowed halls of The USGA, PGA of America and The PGA Tour take a look and see what they can do to change the complexion of the game.
The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and not of Caledonia Golf & Fish Club, True Blue Golf Club and Caledonia Golf Vacations. http://www.fishclub.com/
Full disclosure. The opinions expressed in this blog are based on very little research and fact checking. The blog is an odd mix of satirical and editorial writings borne of suspect expertise in the golf industry.
Bob Seganti, PGA