The debates that go on in golf, such as the topic of this week’s GNN Poll, are often moot, but driven by strong beliefs on either side of the argument that turn them into issues.
This week’s question, which you can vote on here or on the GNN home page, asks whether golf is fine the way it is or does it need to grow through initiatives designed to increase participation?
It’s not a new debate, but one that heated up again after Hack Golf was introduced last month at the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando with the stated mission of growing the game.
It’s completely understandable that those who have played the game all their lives and gone on to work within the golf industry would feel the need to protect it in its purest form.
Some point out that golf courses grow beyond the saturation point in many areas back in the 1990s and that carried on into the last decade, so a market correction is inevitable and the strong shall survive.
They’re absolutely correct that the supply of golf courses has far exceeded the demand, but it’s unlikely that somebody who enjoys the industry will go quietly into the night and watch a business and the jobs at that operation disappear.
Unless an operator has gotten a sweet deal from a developer, that person and staff members are likely to fight for survival and look for different ways to get people out on their fairways and greens.
So often, the response to an equipment manufacturer making a grow-the-game suggestion is the suggestion that the person’s motivation is to sell more clubs.
What’s wrong with that? Everybody wants to increase business.
Course operators want to increase revenues through pro shop sales, greens fees, memberships or food and beverage. Pros want more people coming to take lessons. If somebody has a business stake in growing the game, it shouldn’t cast a shadow on that person’s motivation.
Survival vs. love for a game that its protectors don’t want to see changed are two sides of an argument that becomes a real issue because of the passion on either side. As of this writing, the number of people falling on either side of this debate was close to even on the GNN Poll.
Yet, golf is an industry in which we stress the importance of fitting to consumers when buying golf equipment. The same holds true for the golf industry itself in this debate.
Each operation is going with what fits it best. As I wrote in this blog a few weeks ago, golf is the wild west and there is no one law that applies to everybody.
Many will decide to stay the course and go with tradition in the way they run their operations and golf may very well hit a peak of popularity as it has in the past and as games such as tennis and lacrosse have bounced back to popularity after going through challenges of their own.
Others will try to spur that growth by encouraging women, juniors and minorities to take part or by making it more affordable to seniors on fixed incomes, pointing out that the game in its purest form doesn’t need to change, but new methods may be needed to get the to the golf course in the first place.
They will do what’s right for their own operations, no matter what side of the argument they’re on, so whatever grow-the-game initiative that comes down the pike will be nothing more than suggestions that some may take seriously, while some won’t.
That’s the way it works in free enterprise and in the wild west that is the golf industry.