12 Golf Inc. Summer 2014
to attract women to the game.
More courses understand
the importance of the role
women play in the future
of the game, she said. Some
have made key adjustments,
Golf also needs to adapt to women’s
changing lifestyles. Many are working
mothers who are hard-pressed for time.
Nine-hole and even four-hole options
need to be available, she said. Courses
need to promote such features to women
so they know when they’re available and
can plan their time around them.
“That way they can get home and do a
load of laundry and read their child a bedtime story,” she said.
The new generation is one that’s been
exposed to golf in numbers greater than
ever, via youth programs in particular, she
said. And golf is a game that can attract
them as young adults as well. It’s social,
outdoors and active.
Most important, though, golf has to be
a fulfilling experience.
“Life has so many demands,” Swensen
said. “You want to be able to lose yourself
in that moment.”
Jim Koppenhaver won’t play clairvoyant
when it comes to golf’s future. He says
that’s a fool’s errand. Instead, he’s an interpreter of numbers. And the numbers
don’t look good. Golf participation rates
continue to go down. Once at nearly 30
million strong, the number of golfers has
fallen below the 23
That drop is golf’s
Corp., is based in
Buffalo Grove, Ill.
He is also author
of Outside the Ropes, a digital newsletter,
and publisher of The Pellucid Perspective,
a monthly digital magazine.
And golf is not doing enough to address
it, Koppenhaver argues. Only marginal
changes have been floated. Golf needs
“transformational ideas,” he said.
Relaxing the rules should be front and
center, he said. Most golfers play the game
as a recreational activity and are not worried about handicaps or following the
rulebook as gospel, he said.
Let them play. Let them use equipment
that allows them to play better. Golf operators should focus on promoting any innovation that allows golfers to hit enough
good shots so they enjoy the game more.
Koppenhaver said course operators
should be thrilled if golfers do the following: Pay them; have fun; don’t take forever
to finish a round; and don’t destroy the
golf course in the process.
Who cares if they’re not playing like
Phil Mickelson? Koppenhaver has no
problem with some of the more eclectic
ideas, such as making cups bigger so it’s a
lot easier to drain a putt.
“People aren’t playing because it’s too
hard and it takes too much time,” he said.
The other challenge is attracting younger people to the game, he said. Previous
generations got their starts in the game
when they were younger because it was
rite of passage, particularly if they were in
the corporate world. But the corporate environment has changed and has become
more focused on productivity, he said.
People are working longer and harder
than ever. Even people in his age group
— he’s 55 — are finding free time increasingly rare thanks to devices that can keep
them tied to work at all hours.
He admits he doesn’t have the answer,
but there does need to be a push to bring
younger people to golf, even if the game
has to be adjusted to woo them. They
won’t simply begin appearing magically at
courses, he said.
Kris Hart is very aware of the challenge
he faces — getting young people to golf
Hart, 28, is the co-founder of Boston-based Nexgengolf, which promotes golf
to college students and recent graduates
through a number of programs, including
tournaments. There was a need because
no one was keying on this demographic,
on all segments of golfers in this demographic, from competitive
golfers to novices, he
But challenges are
plentiful, he noted, and
some are not as obvious as one might think.
Take transportation. Many of the millennial generation are attracted to urban environments and don’t have cars. So how
do they get to golf courses when many are
not in urban cores?
Millennials also like social activities, so
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