The National Allied Golf Associations have released a Canadian Golf Consumer Behaviour Study to the golf industry with the objective of understanding the current state of the game, as well as factors that influence the behaviour of consumers as they relate to golf.
The study was conducted by Navicom and was based on a national survey of over 1,300 respondents. The study focused on the population of Canadians who are capable of playing golf and eliminated portions of the overall population not able to play due to age, health, finances or location.
The effective population, defined after reviewing Statistics Canada census data, was approximately 21.2-million people, while the effective population of golfers considered for the study was approximatley 5.7-million Canadians.
The effective populations of golfers were broken into categories such as Avid (25 plus rounds per year), Frequent (9-24 rounds), Occasional (3-8 rounds) and Infrequent (2 or less).
The following is an executive summary that was provided by NAGA and Navicom:
Among the population of approximately 5.7 million golfers, the number of people entering the game is equal to the number of people leaving the game (18% or approximately 1.026 million people).
Among the population of golfers, the number of golfers playing fewer rounds (38%) is greater than the number of golfers playing more rounds (14%).
There are fewer golfers today with either a child or a related junior playing the game then golfers who entered the game at that same age demographic.
*17% of today’s golfers took up the game as a child (6 – 11 years) while only 7% of today’s golfers have a child (6 – 11 years) that plays
*23% of today’s golfers took up the game as a junior (12 – 17 years) while only 9% of today’s golfers have a junior (12 – 17 years) that plays
There is a fundamental lack of engagement among consumers in the Canadian golf industry (engagement is defined as playing, following, supporting and endorsing the game).
Those that are engaged represent 25% of the golfer population (approximately 1.4 million people) while 75% of the golf population (approximately 4.3 million) are of the mind that they can ‘take or leave the game’.
The majority of rounds are being played by less than 26% of golfers (approximately 1.5 million people).
There is a limited interest in the sport outside of those who already participate in the game.
*Roughly 73% of Canadians (15.4 million people) do not play golf (based on the effective population of 21.2 million people)
*Of those, 12% – the same number that have a child or spouse that plays the game – are very interested in the game (approximately 3 million people)
*3% believe that they are likely to take up the game in the next 3-5 years (approximately 600,000-700,000 people).
The game has a focused appeal across the effective population (well educated / higher income / male dominated / attracts executives, professionals, sales & service, trades and retired / little ethnic diversity – although changing with Canada’s ethnic demographic). This finding represents both a positive in terms of the strength of that base of players, but also a threat in terms of its current narrow focus across the effective population.
Time and money constrain the playing of the game – they do not drive the game (prior to the study, the industry would say time and money are the drivers).
Engagement with the game is emotional and self-expressive – it is not functional (it’s about how the game makes golfers feel).
The game today is both vulnerable and on the cusp of greatness.
*Vulnerable because too large a portion of playing population not engaged with the game.
*On the cusp of greatness because you have a very large population of players who play the game even though they’re not engaged.
The opportunity to move some portion of those currently unengaged golfers to engaged status could be a significant breakthrough in the golf industry.
Men and women see much differing value in the game. Although women will tell you top of mind that they have an interest in playing the game, statistically they associate with “the game is not worth the cost”. Conversely, men statistically associate with “the game is worth the cost.”
There is a recognized, identifiable progression by golfers coming in and going out of the game. Golfers come in young and enthused…as they get older in the game, they begin to lose some enthusiasm…as they continue to age, they tend to get more disillusioned and they begin to leave the game. The largest influx into the game are 18-25 year olds; the largest outpouring of the game are 46-59 year olds; and we see in 26-35 year olds the flattening of enthusiasm within the game.
We now know statistically what distinguishes people who play a lot of golf from people who play some, people who play a little and people who don’t play. The degree to which they agree they are having fun, being social, enjoying themselves, meeting/besting challenges, they are proud, they are inspired, they see leadership that is moving the game forward.
SUSTAINING THE GAME:
The opportunity to sustain and grow the game is twofold – increasing engagement among the approximately 4.2 million golfers who are Infrequent (approximately 2.2 million) or Occasional (approximately 2-million) plus some percentage of the 73% of Canadians who do not play the game today.
The Infrequent and Occasional golfers who represent the growth opportunity for golf in Canada account for 74% of the effective population – approximately 4.2 million individuals.
Avid and Core players statistically associate with spending more. These segments already play more and spend more than other segments and statistically associate with spending more in future (they are already playing and spending as much as they can and those that can spend more & play more in the future will do so).
Sustaining the game will require an integrated cooperative approach across the Canadian golf industry:
Messaging and actions focused on “It’s a game for life”
Innovation is required to help players overcome the time & money challenges. Innovative ways to shorten courses (takes less time to play), simplify courses for beginners (innovation around the game in introductory stages i.e. beginner times to play, fewer holes to play, etc.), lower costs.
Opportunity for entry level equipment, apparel and accessories
Easier playing courses or “graded” courses to help people navigate through the game on appropriate courses for their level of play
Make environmental issues a pride play (messaging around agronomy best practices as well as research and innovation to reduce environmental impact of course conditioning)
Integrated learning (group learning, internet lessons, virtual coaching, etc.)
Find ways to make lessons simple, easy and cost effective
Help new players to feel welcome
Help golfers to overcome some of the challenges (i.e. securing convenient tee times, find play partners, improve the game, etc.)
In order to drive engagement and subsequent increases in rounds played and dollars spent on lessons, equipment, apparel, accessories and in the clubhouse, it is essential to have more golfers statistically associate with the benefits of the game of golf.
The Canadian golf industry must work together to find innovative ways to show golfers that the game and everything attached to the game is fun, enjoyable, social, challenging but winnable, inspiring, prideful and lead edge.
The game needs more engaged/loyal consumers – arguably more than it needs new participants
From a consumer behaviour perspective, success means getting golfers more engaged by playing more, following more, supporting more and spending more. The degree to which that measure goes up has all sorts of impact. The more engaged golfers are, the more they will spend.