To teach the old or the young dog

This week the National Golf Centre was again quite a buzzing place. The annual Development conference took place and the conference centre was full of County officials and coaches. Growing the game was once again at the heart of the discussions which I guess in one respect is a bit ironic. It has been quite a while since this game was actually growing, at least in terms of membership. There are several signs that the actual number of rounds played is not falling but the issue from golf’s point of view is that the norm is more and more moving towards ‘why be a member of a golf club’. Given the Sport England and Government agenda the talk about numbers is very much focused on the 16+ age group where the aim is to increase participation in sports. For many golf clubs this is a tough ask.

One of the presentations at this conference came from a company called Fresh Minds that have done some work on market segmentation relating to golf. The results are quite mind blowing and incredibly useful I would say as they are able to show, more or less exactly, what needs to happen for golf to be at all interesting for the various segments of the market. The slightly depressing fact though is that there seems to be quite a number of segments where the only advice for golf would be to ‘forget about it’. This most often is down to the perception of golf that does not at all fit with these groups.

As I hear this I wonder about how much it is worth to try to convince these people and ‘win them over’. The alternative is obviously to say that ‘that horse has bolted, let us start again’. The starting again would have to begin with youngsters so that by the time they get to 16+ they already have a relation to golf. Which alternative is the most viable one might be the $64,000 question that we are searching for the answer to, but it is clear that both models require many golf clubs to completely re-think their commercial model

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