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Stroking Out

Golf Needs A Hook

July 11, 2017

You Can Only Slice It So Thin

Golf Needs to Change to Attract A New Generation

"Business gets done on the golf course," is becoming "an old chestnut". The ruling associations' and tour officials' comments to the contrary, the game has lost 20% of it's players since 2006, when there were nearly 30 million golfers. As of 2015, that number was barely more than 24 million.(Source: Statista) From conversations with golf pros, 2017 is not better.

It's really not that hard to understand. Golf has a rich history, and tradition has always been important. And rules. Bill Storer, president of Business Golf Strategies and known as "the Ben Hogan of business golf", even developed his own "rules of business golf". Rule # 3 (of 8) is "Don't discuss business before the 5th hole or after the 15th hole."

That used to be great advice, and it's still good. So far.

Smartphones changed the way business gets done.

Before smartphones, it was easier to "disconnect" long enough to play 18 holes of golf. Even if you had a cellphone (and not everybody did), using one on the course was frowned upon. It still is. But fewer busy professionals are willing to be "out of touch" for that long in 2017. And fewer young people are showing interest, even after participating in PGA Junior League Golf (age 13 and under).

And "people ... experiencing golf outside of traditional golf courses..." might excite the PGA Tour Commissioner, but golf courses are closing. And the 26% drop in equipment sales that made Adidas sell TaylorMade and falling TV viewership of major tournaments aren't good signs, either.

Mark King, CEO of Adidas USA, commented that tennis, bowling, and skiing had "to do things differently," and thinks "that's where the game of golf is today."

Some people run their business from their smartphone.

And they're not gonna stop for 4 to 6 hours. There are contracts to be negotiated. Deals to be done. Money to be made. NOW.

They can go cycling with peers that do business the way they do.

It's not that honoring tradition isn't important. It's that tradition isn't negotiable. And in the last ten years, they learned that if it isn't negotiable, you can't buy anything with it.

These people will double, then quadruple WiFi growth in 4 years.

It's not a question of "if", or "whether". It's a question of "when".

The only way that any business - including golf - won't be offering WiFi is if they have no one that wants it. And that won't last much longer.

Golf course management can either tee up WiFi for a new generation, or become park rangers.

Go long or go home.

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