Looking to the Future
Golf has a lot of good to offer in terms of lifelong health and wellbeing, productive greenspace, economic value, and as a facilitator for social engagement. It follows that the more people the sport attracts, the greater the potential to be a driving force for good.
Unfortunately, after years of growth, golf in many countries is experiencing a ‘participation recession’. Numbers have been in decline since 2008 and although exacerbated by the financial crisis, other factors are at play as well. With the current number of registered players in Europe sitting at 4.3 million and a forecasted reduction to 3.5 million by 2020, the industry is actively considering steps to help reverse this trend. Similar trends are being experienced in the US and Canadian markets.
Two very useful studies have been conducted for the European golf industry by Syngenta as part of their “Unlocking Golf’s True Potential”, an expression of all their efforts to help the industry stay strong through participation research, support for golf association promotion of the industry’s sustainability initiative, and innovative solutions on the ground.
Participation research was conducted to help better understand people’s views on golf, and shed light on steps that can be taken to appeal to a larger, more inclusive audience, particularly younger generations and women. Unlike most previous studies, both non-golfers and lapsed golfers were included into the samples, along with current golfers. This was essential to ensure the findings value in raising the overall number of people golfing. The studies centred on the UK market but results can be useful when considering other established golf markets.
The findings of both of these studies were presented at round-table forums with a diverse group of leaders from across golf in the UK, which led to productive conversation on how the results might be translated into productive actions.
Another interesting study was conducted in 2014 by the European Golf Course Owners Association (EGCOA). Their Vision 2020 project included quantitative and qualitative research collected through EGCOA member workshops and industry wide questionnaires. Like the Syngenta research, the Vision 2020 project brought forward some useful findings, pointing specifically to flexibility, fun, family and friends as very important benefits for a golf facility to portray when trying to attract or retain golfers today.
nd change that could span everything from membership structure to atmosphere – a balance to strike with some of the traditions of the game. While this most certainly poses challenges, the opportunities for greater participation, as evidenced in these studies, would be welcome or even critical for many golf facilities in developed markets. Golfers are, after all, “customers” and shifts in society are changing customer needs, and meeting (or exceeding!) customer needs is the tried and tested approach to attraction and retention.
Fortunately, golf has a very strong platform to appeal to the evolving attitudes and expectations. While the offering may need some adaptations, at its core golf has a great deal to offer. A sport and pastime that can be played throughout a lifetime; inspiring social interaction and time spent in nature; accessible for play between people of different abilities, ages and genders; and facilities that can provide a wide range o
f value and service to the surrounding area including nature enhancement, economic value, community integration and more.
Long live golf… and all the good the game can offer!
To download the full Syngenta research reports click the links below:
Read more about the EGCOA research and their Vision 2020 project.