What are the indices of the state of the game?
If you ask a course owner, he/she might say the number of rounds is the prime target. However, couldn’t you fill every starting time at $1.99 including a cart?
When asking retailers and/or equipment manufacturers, they would want a large turnover of clubs, bags, shoes, balls etc. and not at discount prices, but at full retail.
Club managers would envision full dining rooms and plenty of high priced meals lubricated, with fine vintage wines.
Of course there is the inevitable call in support of junior programs from every interested party. Other than the equation presented on behalf of junior golf to sustain the future, the question is what is the state of the game right now?
In my opinion, things are very good.
The excessive number of courses built in expectation of the retiring baby boomers was not needed and in a true mark of capitalism, those numbers are returning to required level of inventory.
As the market decides who stays and who does not, the choice for golfers is still at a very high levels. However, it is changing and, as one or two sites gets re-purposed for development or other uses, the 10,000 or 15,000 rounds are absorbed by neighboring courses.
Suddenly, a once-floundering facility struggling to produce their own 15,000 rounds can begin to see break-even cash flows with 18,000 to 20,000 rounds.
When the financial needs of an owner could only be met by either capturing patrons from a competitor or finding new players, there is an easing of the congestion caused by overbuilding.
On the retail/manufacturing side, once again some of the contenders have left the building after some companies flooded the market with a constant barrage of game improvement innovations for years.
Sadly, these measures will result in short-term gain for them and severe pain for their competitors, but it will help the surviving manufacturers once the dust settles.
Through no fault of their own, retailers still face an inundation of inventory that will affect the sale of new releases. Another tragedy occurs when top-of-the-line products are liquidated in that those mid-range products that generated reasonable profits won’t sell and will be replaced by clear-outs that carry a reduction in profit.
Some of this is a backlog that built up over a decade of an injured economy that sputters to recover.
Clothing has done reasonably well as have shoe sales and ball sales. Hats have remained strong sellers. Generally, the state of the health of the game is not affected by equipment sales, but like many businesses, the people who earn their livings and the families who count on them must be considered.
From a food and beverage perspective, changed attitudes toward drinking and driving, health concerns, loss of expense accounts, changes to tax laws and an aging society have contributed to an ongoing evolution, but people must still eat and drink fluids.
The questions are what do they eat, what do they drink and who are they?
The answers are families eating healthier. The days of Dad working dawn to dusk are changing. The days of Mom working dawn to dusk and then coming home to look after the home and family exclusively are also changing.
Dad spent time at the Club because he was Dad. He could drink, play golf, play cards, come home and fall asleep while watching golf on TV. Today, many fathers want to help raise the family. They want to spend time with their wives and children and they love doing it at the golf club, meaning menus have had to change.
Opportunity for kids to play golf has never been greater. The attitude of board members who frequently positioned a junior clinic at 7 p.m. on Sunday night because they wanted the prime time tee times is dying. Young parents are contributing to the politics of the club by serving on the board and they bring with them a new outlook that favours a more family-oriented attitude.
In general, I think the state of the game currently is quite good but what about the future?
More often than not, the powers-that-be conjure up thoughts among themselves that strongly assume the development of junior golfers will solve every problem. As long as we do our best to encourage youthful players, golf will survive.
That is only part of the equation.
What about young people entering the industry as a profession? If we develop a new generation of new golfers, who is going to teach them, fit them for equipment, cook for them, serve meals, maintain the courses, organize travel, manage the clubs, manufacture equipment etc?
We can’t just replace the market without replacing the infrastructure.
Last week, I attended the Professional Golf Management Program at Niagara College as a guest speaker. I was a founding member and head of the original Sports Management Program at Humber College and taught at Durham College in their PGM Program as well, so, I think I am well-informed enough to say the future of golf is in good hands.
I met Lorelle, Mike, Nick, Matt, Zach, Tom, Ben, Michelle, Ran and Connor. Sadly, I can’t list them all, but I can confirm every single man and woman I met was enthusiastic, energetic, thirsty for information and passionate.
Their classes are taught under the supervision of Steve Carroll and Bob Culig, two of the finest, most knowledgeable golf industry people available.
The business of golf is one of the greatest ways to make a living and enjoy a rich full life. A person can earn a decent income, meet thousands of people, travel all over the world and still be involved in a great many activities outside golf.
Golf is a conduit to personal satisfaction, life challenges and wonderful friendships. When I’m asked about the state of the game or read about it, most of the discussion centres around rounds played or dollars earned. It’s time we considered not only the monetary aspect, but the personal impact of our efforts.
Who will the future golfers be as people? Where will they come from? How will their lives be influenced through golf? Secondly, who will become the industry people needed to sustain this growth? Where will they come from and how will they learn to provide the ways, means and services required to help prolong the efforts needed to help this growth continue?
From what I see, I think the state of the game scores a nine out of ten. Programs to spread the message of golf’s virtues are working. The infrastructure producing the support network is in good hands. The efforts of thousands of intelligent, hard-working groups and individuals are gradually showing signs of success.
This doesn’t mean it’s time to relax. It means thanks to everyone, the state of the game is one with a great future.