The term “thinking outside the box” has quickly become an overused cliché and anybody who uses it seems to be going against its original intent and that is to come up with new, fresh ideas instead of resorting to strategies (or in this case, terms) that have been used over and over again.
Let’s go beyond the original term and suggest that, in order to think outside the box, you have to step outside the box in the first place and see what the people you are selling a product to actually want, instead of just assuming you know.
Either by design or crazy schedules or both, many of us planted at the grassroots level of golf stay confined within our own fiefdoms, often content with the banter and business of people who are already sold on the game.
Core golfers are the foundation of any operation, but drawing new people to the game will be a challenge going forward, if it isn’t already, due to economics and changing demographics.
With the world changing so quickly where there are no fairways and greens, can we get a good read on what’s going on out there if we stay where there are fairways and greens?
It’s tempting to answer yes to that question, but those very fairways and greens are what we’re trying to lure newcomers to, but we’re not going to find them until we step outside our traditional comfort zones.
The latest GNN Poll, now up on the home page, asks the question, “Do golf’s traditions get in the way of efforts to grow the game?” Feel free to cast your vote on that one.
I recall a time not so long ago when any suggestion of golf changing traditions such as rules, dress codes etc., would have been met with stern replies from the majority, but that appears to be softening.
At last look, a solid majority of respondents said yes to the GNN Poll about traditions getting in the way of growing the game. About a year ago, another GNN Poll indicated that the majority of respondents had eased up on their dress codes in recent years.
It was also interesting to note that the PGA Tour has suspended, at least for this season, the rule by which Jim Furyk was DQ-ed from The Barclays last week for being a few minutes late for a pro-am. The PGA Tour reconsidering a rule just has to be a sign of a new era of open minds in golf.
The question now is how far are we willing to bend some of golf’s traditions and how far is far enough for the people we’re attempting to lure to the game?
The answer to the first question is each individual golf operation will decide what image it projects and the answer to the second question is that we won’t know golf’s image or what needs to be changed until we talk to people outside the game in our own communities.
With the winter months closing in, now may be the time to launch a sales mission into the community to see what image the game has in the general population and to get feedback on what would attract newcomers.
With school about to start, it might not be a bad idea to pick the minds of students or even friends of young summer workers to see why golf is seen as stuffy by many that age. Juniors may have been forgotten in the past, but they represent the future and may have an influence in luring their parents to the game.
What about groups in which the majority or all members are women to see what makes the game attractive or intimidating to them? Local service groups are another source of information as are groups focused on different ethnic groups in our ever-changing population.
This kind of networking can be give and take. Not only can golf operators listen to what each group has to say, but they can also get across the reasons for golf’s traditions being what they are and get across to them that the game is not a rich, white man’s sport which, like it or not, is still the image among many out there.
Fresh ideas can bring vibrancy to the game that is appealing to those we are attempting to lure, but to think outside the box, you have to first step outside the box.