State of the Game
It turns out Golf is bigger than I would have thought. Golf 2.0 determined that 1% of America works in Golf Industry. After determining this the golf industry has spent a lot of time recently educating politicians to try and help them understand that many people depend on the industry.
Joe Guerra, Joe Munsch and Mike Davis of the USGA all felt the recent drop in participation was a direct result of the recession. Mike Davis from the USGA said, “The economy alone dictates all the ups and downs in the growth of the game.” He went on to say, “There is nothing wrong with the game, the problem is with the stae of the economy.” I should mention the two speakers who are multiple course operators both cited poor weather as a contributing factor in the last few years.
I found it interesting that Joe Munsch cited the example of Houston where they still had growth throughout the last five years. He shared the fact that their economy benefited through the strength of the oil industry and the stability of the medical industry. It does support the theory of golf being tied to the economy. Although that also supports the point that golf is a discretionary expense to many households.
Joe Guerra shared the fact that 20% of people play 80% of the rounds. The rest are considered casual players who dabble in the game. Joe Munsch told us that golf rounds have remained stable because regular players are playing more making up for the “casuals” who are playing less. The core has not gone. But that does suggest the people we need to grow the game have looked to other pursuits.
Over the last 20 years there has been a 6.5% growth in players. There has been a 30% growth in the number of facilities. This over-supply has that many courses are not being played to capacity and the resulting loss of players is cutting out the profit margin for the facility. It suggests that only a few courses will be built in the near term since there is no demand.
Mike Davis does not see alternative facilities as answer. Instead he feels a focus on sustainability (conditioning, technology, costs, etc.) will be what helps the game absorb all the extra facilities and begin to grow at a more sustainable rate. Essentially golf is fine, but architects and builders are in a world of hurt.
I think we all need to concentrate on ways of making the game grow. For example, all the costs including the cost of technology is passed onto the consumer, perhaps its time for golf to put the consumer first. In my mind the increasing demand for larger parcels of land is killing the game through economics. If we want to save the game and all the jobs associated then its time for golf courses to stop expanding to fit the equipment and its time to get the equipment to fit the courses.