I agree with reader Michael Mather, who offered this comment at the bottom of a recent blog about the state of the golf industry in Canada.
The challenges facing the golf industry today have been building for years and certainly, a concerted effort on the part of the entire industry to spruce up the industry in the eyes of the paying public is necessary, sooner rather than later.
The biggest issue facing the golf industry today is the urgency to cure what ails the game and the problem is – as I’ve mentioned in previous blogs – that we don’t even know how extensive declining participation is from a national perspective due to the lack of recent numbers.
All we can do really is assess the situation from our own vantage points and decide what’s necessary in order to make our respective operations prosper right now.
While another national golf summit does seem necessary, such things take time and money to organize and then, there are no guarantees. As Mather points out in his comments, the last one was held a long time ago (six years actually) and look where we are right now.
Sure, there’s something to be said for pulling together as a group for the overall benefit of the industry, but we’ve reached a point where many individual operators are facing a toxic brew of declining participation, mortgage payments, rising operating costs and oppressive taxation.
Each of those issues need to be dealt with on an aspect-by-aspect basis by each individual operator and for many, it seems like a daily beat-down, which led us to ask about industry apathy in the current GNN Poll now up on the home page.
Apathy can come in various forms. It can be conscious or subconscious, but the daily grind of the golf industry in its current state can wear one out with all of the challenges that need attention.
It could be that an operator is nearing the end of his/her career and willing to just ride it out. It could be that an arrogant attitude has set in that states this is the way we’ve operated in the past and that’s the way we’ll continue into the future.
How rosy that future is depends on what we do now and waiting around for another national golf summit isn’t the answer. What we do for ourselves at golf’s grassroots will go a long way towards long-term viability of a particular operation, if it isn’t too late already.
That attitude may seem somewhat self-centred compared to the industry-wide effort mentioned above, but never apologize for what you do with your own business because you and the people work for you are the ones who pay the price for success or failure.
Before you say it, I’m not encouraging discounting, which can bring down individuals and the entire industry, at least on a regional basis, but building participation and all the spinoff that comes from that is the one aspect of the operation that means money coming in instead of going out.
Each individual will have a different answer, but how much time do you spend on building participation or have you taken a build-it-and-they-will-come attitude?
Where participation becomes an individual effort is that golf course operators and their staff members for that matter know how their respective communities tick. Junior golf is always a popular topic in golf and what kids are doing is important to communities, so how do you tap into that market?
In many communities, minor sports are huge, but how often do golf courses participate through sponsorship or other involvement with the local minor hockey, soccer or baseball association?
A buddy of mine was recently trying to organize a golf tournament for his local minor hockey association and says the golf courses he approached were simply content to send him information on costs etc., rather than trying to sell him right there or offering him an incentive to book there.
It may be time to get out from behind the cash register and venture out into communities that many of us reside or it might be a good idea to have one of your younger staff members serve as a student liaison to go out and talk to young people on behalf of the golf course.
I realize that there’s still that a negative attitude towards junior golfers among many within the industry, but consider that it’s been accepted that golf has already lost the 25-44 age group and what better way to bait the hook than drawing them in by attracting them through their kids, who are already playing other sports?
Athletes from all sports seem to gravitate towards golf as illustrated by the number of professional hockey and football players who take part in the game. In the case of minor athletics, these are kids who aren’t totally fixated on video games, computers and all the other gizmos we complain about these days.
Could a Saturday evening special work in which dad plays full pop for a nine-hole game, while junior plays for free be pulled off when the fairways are empty anyway? Maybe, you could throw in munchies or offer special food prices to family members who don’t want to play, but are happy to have dinner.
In professional sports, it’s been referred to as putting bums in the bleachers, but in golf’s case, we can call it putting feet on the fairways, which the game so desperately needs. How you do that will depend on the community in which you operate instead of being guided by a blanket national effort.
Family golf is just one aspect of participation, which is, of course, just one aspect of running a golf operation, but so critical if we are ever to balance the books. Do we just want to sit behind a cash register or do we want to make it ring?
From people I’ve talked to, it’s not ringing nearly as much as it should be in recent years and certainly this season with the brutal weather we’ve experienced. The time to act is now, but all of the answers will not come from a national summit.
The answers are much closer in the communities that are right outside your entrance.