Summer 2014 www.GolfIncMagazine.com 11
Jon Last is founder and president of
Sports and Leisure Research Group, of
White Plains, N. Y., and has a long history
of researching and marketing golf, both
inside and outside of the industry.
For golf, at least in the short term, the
worst seems to be over, he said. Consumer confidence is growing and that means
more people will be pursing leisure activities, such as golf.
But it’s the long
term that is worrisome.
“We do need to
be thinking proactively how to make
the game more attractive,” Last said.
“Many courses are
just too difficult and that creates frustra-
tion. The average golfer doesn’t break 100.”
Last is not against “entry ramp” con-
cepts to grow the game, such as nine-hole
courses and ones that offer bigger cups.
But he does think the ultimate goal of
such programs is not only to get new play-
ers to the golf course, but to “convert them
“It’s important to have young people
embrace the traditions of the game,” he
said. He’s concerned some of these con-
cepts have the potential to “destroy some-
“Why water-down a game that’s served
us well for years?” he asked.
The key for courses is to make the game
less intimidating and more welcoming,
particularly to families, he said. Golfers
are more likely to use the course if they
know their families can be entertained as
well. Golfers today are much more family
oriented and less willing to spend hours
away from their wives and children.
And the courses need to be progressive
in setting aside times for instruction for
women and kids to bring them into the
game, he added. They can’t treat them as
Last also believes that the up-and-coming generation, the millennials, will be
attracted to golf. That generation supposedly is less focused on consumerism and
corporate ladder climbing and more on
emotional well-being and personal satisfaction. They crave a sense of community
as well, he noted.
“And that’s golf,” Last said. “Golf is all
Golf needs women players and women
who want to join clubs, either for the golfing experience or other family oriented
activities, says Pamela Swensen, the CEO
of the Executive Women’s Golf Association.
To do so, golf needs to be more welcoming to women and their needs, and golf’s
leadership needs to be more diverse, she
“I am seeing change; I’m just not certain
if it’s happening fast enough,” she said.
Her organization, based in Palm Beach
Gardens, Fla., stages golfing events and
holds golf networking and social functions
Golf has been hit by a struggling economy and demographic
BY MIKE STETZ
shifts. But rather than throw in the towel, creative minds are
trying to figure out the future.
reat minds are trying to
figure out golf. Not how
to excel at playing the
game, mind you. Great
minds have given up on
that long ago. Instead, really smart
people are looking at the game’s viability and future as changes — including demographic and cultural
ones — challenge it.
Current trends are not exactly
heartening. The number of players continues to drop. Courses are
still closing. And golf’s most compelling (and polarizing) superstar
— Tiger Woods — has an aching
However, there is good news.
The economy is slowly ticking upward, and that means people have
more spending money. Courses
are savvier when it comes to
marketing and customer service,
thanks to new technologies. And
more courses offer a growing variety of amenities to attract families.
Golf Inc. reached out to some
of the industry’s most creative
thinkers to get their thoughts on
golf as it faces a crossroads — its
traditional base is shrinking and a
new generation is up-and-coming.
How will it all play out? And what
can courses do to make themselves enticing, progressive and,
most important, financially sound
as these changes have the potential
to greatly impact their business