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Growing Golf Participation. Jim Baugh Industry Consultant, 30 SG Industry Vet . Focusing on Player Development. Growing Golf Participation. Trends, Competition, & Retention Programs.

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Growing Golf Participation

Jim Baugh Industry Consultant, 30 SG Industry Vet

Focusing on Player Development


Growing Golf Participation

Trends, Competition, & Retention Programs

Practical Applications for Golf Course Owners



Trends in Golf Participation

  • Rounds, participation = stagnant!
    • 28 million players, 17 million Core Golfers
  • SGMA data shows a 2% decline in total golfers
  • 4 million people try/rejoin each golf year
    • 4 million leave each year!
  • 2006 - More course closures than openings
  • A great sport with potential to grow!
  • Lots of press…Lots of meetings…
    • Rounds and players…FLAT

Trends in Golf Participation

(Facility Research)

Biggest challenges for Facility Operators


Trends in Golf Participation

(Facility Research)

Biggest challenges for Facility Operators


Trends in Golf Participation

(Facility Research)

Biggest challenges for Facility Operators


Growing Golf Participation

  • We can learn by…
    • Looking at American trends
    • Looking at successful sports & activities
    • Looking at successful golf programs
    • Keeping things simple and focused
    • Realizing who is responsible for the growth of the game

Growing Golf Participation

Looking at Trends in America


American Trends

Much more competition for people time

  • A Few Years Ago
  • 20-30 Sports / Activities
  • 30 + TV Stations
  • Phones
  • Computers
  • One H of H Working
  • Active Society
  • Today
  • 40-50 Sports / Activities
  • 100 + TV Stations
  • Cell Phones, PDA’s
  • PC’s, Blackberrys
  • Two H of H Working
  • Less Active Society

America is making BIG changes!!

Are WE changing???


American Trends

  • US Population grew by 50 million in the last 15 years (+17%)
  • Will grow again by 50 million people in the next 20 years
    • Lower growth rate for Whites (+5%)
    • High growth rate for Hispanics (+62%)
    • The ‘next 50 million’ in growth will have lower disposable incomes

Growing Golf Participation

Looking at Successful Sports & Activities

new sgma research
New SGMA Research

Fitness activities rank 12 out of the top 15!

new sgma research frequent participants
New SGMA Research – Frequent Participants

Notice the void of “Traditional Sports”

new sgma research total participants notice the 6 year growth patterns
New SGMA Research - Total ParticipantsNotice the 6 year growth patterns

Americans are notdoing what they are watching!

new sgma research total participants notice the 6 year growth patterns15
New SGMA Research - Total ParticipantsNotice the 6 year growth patterns



Americans are notdoing what they are watching!


Growing Golf Participation

A New Research Project Reveals…

  • What Americans have tried
  • What they want to try
  • What is easy to learn & enjoyable

“Which of the following sports or activities have you ever played or tried?”

Golf has been tried by 30% of Americans


Which of the sports or activities have you ever played regularly?

10% have played golf regularly


How easy it is to “learn and enjoy” each of the following?

For those who have NEVER tried the listed sport or activity

Americans say “Golf is Very Difficult”



Even regular players see golf as “hard to learn and enjoy”


What do these 3 charts say???

  • Traditional sports have huge competition from “fitness activities”
  • Golf is an extremely hard sport to learn and enjoy…one of the hardest!
  • If a person just goes out and tries golf on their own, they will be very challenged!
  • Proper introduction to the game is VITAL!

What do these 2 charts say???

  • When Americans are deciding on which of leisure activity to try… golf is not the first thing they think about
  • We must promote golf…for the beginner
  • When we realize NO other sport is promoting “play” like golf is… the present PR and advertising campaign for “Play Golf America” doesn’t seem to be connecting

Growing Golf Participation

Is there a traditional sport similar to Golfthat is breaking through?

Tennis & Golf…Similarities

tennis golf similarities
Tennis & Golf similarities



Retention is the Problem!

Traditional sport

Skill based

Powerful Governing Bodies

28,000 Local Pros

17,000 Local Facilities

29 million golfers

3-4 million people try golf each year

Trial is not the issue

Traditional sport

Skill based

Powerful Governing Bodies

17,000 Local Pros

10,000 Local Facilities

23 million tennis players

5+ million people try tennis each year

Trial is not the issue


Is the beginner’s experience in tennis similar to those trying golf?

Other facts

  • Only 17% of new tennis players had a good initial experience
  • Only 15% of Americans were aware “new player programs” existed!

Growing Golf Participation

Tennis - the growth in players, revenues, etc.

And…How this Growth Happened!


Tennis is on a Roll!

  • Participation Numbers are very strong!
    • Total players are up over 1 million players in the past two years
    • Frequent players are up over 14%
    • Total Play Occasions are up 23%!
  • Facility and Retailer businesses are strong!
    • 71% of club owners have either very high or high optimism about the future …only 5% are not optimistic
    • 55% of retailers say sales are up… 66% say because of new players joining the game

How is Tennis growing??

  • We learned how to grow through “Trial and Error”
  • We tried…
  • National Advertising promoting “Play Tennis” using Donald Trump, Jeff Gordon, etc.
  • “Mall Tennis” – promotions in malls
  • “Kids Days” at Pro Events (too much of a circus)
  • “Free lessons” (with no follow up programs)
  • We spent over $5 million while learning

Tennis is NOW growing with…

  • Focused local facility based programs
  • Supported Nationally
  • Giving Americans what they want
    • A better initial “experience” when trying tennis
    • A better way “to get fit” in tennis

A Better initial experience for beginners!

We recruited facilities & pros who established…

  • ONLY 2000 facilities
  • 4-6 week classes for new players
  • 6-8 players in each class – group instruction
  • Taught by Pros who like teaching beginners

…is working!

  • Beginner retention rates improved from 18% to 54%!
  • 87% of facilities offered “transition programs”
  • 73% offered follow up “ beginner leagues”

A new way to attract fitness oriented Americans to Tennis

Players of all abilities have fun!

60 minutes of action!


Results are Positive!

74% of all facilities rated Cardio Tennis “very good” or “good” for their facility

Over 1000 Cardio Tennis facilities said Cardio Tennis

increased the club revenues 15%


Three Other LOCAL Tennis initiatives

  • 1. New Schools Programs
    • Only promote tennis in schools …which have RETENTION programs
  • 2. New Parks Programs
    • $’s Invested in new public facilities …where Americans start to play tennis
  • 3. Expanded League Programs
    • Increase frequency, fun, & good experiences

Tennis is starting to promote too many initiatives

Keep programs and promotion focused!


Growing Golf Participation

How YOU can make it happen!

The Steps to “Stepping Up” to growing the game of Golf


The Steps to “Stepping Up”

  • Understand the changing dynamics of American demographics
    • Time crunch
    • Instant gratification
    • Fitness / other activities are easier to learn… and more desirable
    • Multi-cultural

The Steps to “Stepping Up”

Golf Welcome Center

Learn to Play Golf Here!

2. A commitment to Player Development from top down

  • Give new players the “right experience” … “hold their hand”
  • Run Player Development as a separate business? (make $ to breaking even)
  • Think long term
  • Track results - research

The Steps to “Stepping Up”

Don’t try to be all things to all people Stay Focused!

3. Define your target market

  • Adults
  • Kids
  • Women

4. Find the right pro or instructor

  • Great with beginners (or kids)
  • Great with groups
  • Motivational & Fun ….a person with PASSION
  • With the right compensation

The Steps to “Stepping Up”

5. Use or capitalize on “trial programs”

  • Free lessons, etc.

6. Establish a good retention curriculum

  • Multi-session classes
  • Basic skills, chipping, etc
  • Golf etiquette, basic rules, golf cart
  • On Course sessions with the pro
  • 8 to 1 ratio (players to pro) GROUPS
  • Not expensive

7. Have follow up programs & leagues

Trial & Promotion

Retention Curriculum

Follow up Programs

Vital steps are the Multi-session Retention Curriculum & Follow Up Programs

Golf has a lot of this

But, needs to focus on here!

And also here

  • Play Golf America Campaign
  • Free Lessons
  • Take a daughter to the course
  • Family golf month
  • American Express Women’s Golf Wk

Multi-session, right $, Group sessions, etc.

“Wine and Nine”

“Couples Night”

“Nine hole or less”

“Play with the pros” days / events

“Corporate Leagues”

“Teen Time or Kids Leagues”

“Executive Women Golf Leagues”

Multi-session, right $, Group sessions, etc.

Multi-session , right $ , Group sessions, etc.

Multi-session, right $, Group sessions, etc.

Multi-session, right $ , Group sessions, etc.


The Steps to “Stepping Up”

  • Local Marketing
    • Increase awareness of your “Learn to Play” program
    • Use Guerilla Marketing
      • Visit local businesses
      • Articles in newspapers
      • Social groups (couples, etc.)
      • Banners in visible locations
      • Schools

Other things you can do…

  • Do you have the right forward tees?
  • Look at other locations for Player Development (where we have a leaky bucket)
    • Go into the schools (Snag)
    • Work with ranges, public courses, par 3’s, executive courses

It comes down to …

A commitment to the 5 P’s

  • People
  • Passion
  • Programming
  • Promotion
  • Patience
learning centers experts
Learning Centers Experts

A couple of people who understand the formula

Ted Eleftheriou, PGA Member


Blueprint 4 Business

P.O. Box 457

Fruitland Park, Florida 34731-0457

Tel: (407) 928-3976

Rich Richeson, PGA Member

Richeson Player Development, LLC

Owner, Adams Golf Learning Centers

2809 Fountainhead Dr.

Plano, TX 75023




Don’t wait for a fancy national program!

Grow this great game in your facility and your community… with entrepreneurial approaches!

You can make it happen!