Since the turn of this century, the actual game and the business have been impacted more by the economy or lack thereof.
Truthfully, the game and the business are stabilizing.
We are returning to previous levels of pre-1970 participation. The number of courses available as a ratio of players to courses is slowly returning to historic numbers.
Being successful in the golf business is more than filling your tee sheet. If your only desire is to fill every starting time, sell them for $1.98, but by selling every time at a discount establishes the real price.
Before long all you are is another mattress sale where there is no full retail price.
When ever you need a mattress, shop around. The product you want will be offered on sale by someone. The problem is how does the seller get back on track after falling into the discount trap?
Perhaps, the answer is to calculate what the average price at which you are selling each individual starting time. Then, make this your full retail price for that particular starting time – no deals, no discounts, just a low retail price.
Once you have stopped the runaway train of discounting you can slowly begin to improve your product and service, which adds value to each starting time. At some point, you can begin to gradually increase the retail prices.
It will take time – it is a process, but the mess created by discounting and third party sales was also a process. It took time to get into the problem and it will take time to get out.
There is no silver bullet that will suddenly transform the game into producing monstrous market gains. Those days are over, leaving behind the option of steady growth of the game by people who simply want to enjoy a game of golf as our base for a new beginning.
I think what is required is an effort to attract approximately 18 to 20 per cent of the population in participation. The number of courses required will be determined by the market and the ability of a course to draw at least 25,000-plus rounds (40,000-plus over 12 months).
This is down from the high of 25 per cent of the population, but that was accompanied by rounds played in the 20,000 range. These numbers were created by too many courses and too many incidental golfers.
What we need is sustainable, consistent numbers in concert with attainable, steady growth. Steady growth is not 10 per cent per year. It’s about two per cent per year or equal to the growth in GDP.
We need fewer courses and consistent numbers of rounds played by committed golfers first and then increases derived from players who get the bug and decide to stay.
The crash of 2008 is fading and a new reality is taking shape.
Industry observers are identifying the face of the market and we can begin creating programs/products to appeal to today’s golfers.
Panic is not a strategy.
We need to realize that the world has been changing over the past seven years and the new horizon is still taking shape. Things, life, the economy and other stuff are in the embryonic phase.
As golfers keep playing and showing their love for the game, it will grow in realistic terms. As we get past the days where loyalty is equivalent to the lowest price as it is in the retail mattress business, we get closer to a return on investment that can be counted on and an atmosphere that surrounds the game with fun.
The golf business is full of opportunity and the threshhold for success is waiting for us to cross over it.