How golf can embrace
technology to grow the game
BY EDDY LUI - CEO & FOUNDER OF 18BIRDIES
When companies like Nike and Adidas are dramatically reducing investments into their golf divisions, the industry needs to take notice. ;ese
sporting industry titans have long been able to sustain their growth
because they have been able to consistently gain traction with younger generations. So it’s no secret that
groups like Millennials are the key to growing any
business as they make up about 25 percent of the U.S.
population. ;e most common attributes that they
share are their dependence on smartphones, desire to
gamify their experiences and the need to share socially.
Millennials grew up in the era of the smartphone,
with 83 percent of them currently owning a smartphone. Furthermore, a Gallup survey found that 73
percent of smartphone users between ages of 18-29
check their smartphones at least a few times an hour. With smartphones
being able to handle a variety of tasks from ordering a taxi on-demand or
paying a bill, it’s no wonder usage rates are so high. Knowing these trends,
the golf industry can use them to its advantage to improve the overall
With 32 percent of time spent on iOS and Android devices being dedicated to gaming, gami;cation is an element that can be used to attract
Millennials back to golf. During our focus group testing when developing
our 18Birdies mobile app, we saw a majority of people gravitating towards
placing side-game bets to increase the excitement factor. One of the ;rst
features we included was the ability to automatically calculate side-game
bets such as Skins, Nassau and Vegas. According to our data, Millennials
account for 50.7 percent of the players using our side-game feature.
TopGolf is another great example of combining gami;cation and golf
with its unique driving range experience. With every shot hit counting
towards a score, the gami;cation factor brings an exciting element to the
traditional driving range experience.
With such heavy dependence on smartphones, clubhouses need to ;nd
better ways to integrate them into the overall golf experience to attract
Millennials. ;e ideal experience for Millennials is the ability to use a
smartphone to improve their daily experiences and streamline processes.
By using technology, smartphone users should have the ability to not only
book a tee-time via an app, but also be able to order food, equipment and
anything else they might need on the golf course. ;e technology exists
to make this happen, but the golf industry has been slow to adopt these
One current example of an industry that was slow to adopt technology
is the retail industry, which has taken major hits due to this. ;e success-
ful retail stores are now embracing technology and o;ering more choices
for consumers. Many retailers are now o;ering a ship to store option that
allows consumers to purchase products online from their house and then
go to the store to pick it up. Everything is ready by the time the consumer
gets to the store, and the payment process is already complete. According
to a recent study, during the most recent holiday season, almost one-third
of shoppers opted to purchase their products online and pick them up in
;e golf industry is beginning to address these issues by pushing out
mobile apps and o;ering online services such as tee-time bookings, but
there is still a lack of understanding of technology in the market. Most
tee-time booking services are hurting the golf industry by driving down
prices and creating a ‘race to the bottom.’ Courses are no longer building
brand loyalty with golfers and are just trying to o;er the cheapest round
Outsourcing tee-time services and having social media accounts does
not mean that your course is tech savvy or that it is embracing technology.
Embracing technology is about streamlining processes and understanding the immediate demands of consumers. Imagine a mobile app that is
integrated completely with a clubhouse to where you could conduct multiple transactions, not just tee-time bookings. Golfers could order anything they needed for the round (balls, tees, etc.) all in advance and have it
waiting there for them to pick up when they arrive at the course. ;is does
not have to be limited to just pre-round transactions. Golfers could use
the same app to order food, beverages and equipment while on the course.
;is allows the clubhouse sta; to spend more time engaging with golfers
and less time taking orders. Embracing technology will be an important
step for the future health of golf.
Another attribute that we know is important to younger generations
is the ability to share and track their daily lives through social media.
According to a Pew Research Center survey, 90 percent of young adults
(ages 18 to 29) have at least one social media account. Companies and
businesses have taken notice and have incorporated social into their services to make them more appealing to younger audiences, either through
having the ability to login into an account using your Facebook credentials or being able to share something you bought from them to your
Look around and you will see a vast majority of industries adopting new
technologies to keep up with customers’ changing mindsets. Whether it be
restaurants integrating with Door Dash to expand their reach, businesses
adopting more payment options such as PayPal, and enterprises alike utilizing services such as UberRush for on-demand delivery requests. If the
golf industry wants to improve growth, it will have to focus on using technology to change the game and the customer experience.