As golf organisations worldwide bang the ‘Grow the Game’ drum, it is you, the youth of the world, they have in their sights.
The trouble is, they don’t know what it is that you want. It seems from reading that, unlike young people of the past 500-odd years, the game and its inherent challenges just won’t cut it any more.
But I suspect there is actually something else going on here. I think what those championing the ‘Grow the Game’ cause are actually trying to sell is ‘Grow the Business’.
Golf the game and golf the industry are two separate entities. Inextricably linked, yes, but separate all the same.
Generally speaking, golfers have little to no interest in the business of golf (though most think they would like to work in the industry in some capacity).
But those who make clubs and balls and buggies and umbrellas and tees and other accessories do.
As do those who run golf clubs, driving ranges and golf travel companies. And those (like me) who work for golf magazines and websites and other media that relies on the advertising from all of the above, and more, to survive.
The business of golf is unquestionably under pressure. Following lots of boom years in the 80s and 90s, all facets of the game (except professional tournament golf, which is its own industry) are either flat or shrinking.
But the game itself hasn’t changed and nor, I suspect, have young people’s attitudes towards it.
My instinct is that in terms of finding the next generation of golfers, nothing is really different.
If you introduced 100 people to the game 100 years ago, there would have been a percentage who would have become immediate and passionate converts, a percentage who would become occasional players and a percentage who would dislike the game.
It seems highly unlikely those numbers have changed in the past century. What has changed is this: the focus has shifted to trying to sell the game to people rather than letting the game sell itself.
There is a desperation to much of the ‘Grow the Game’ message which often seems to focus on anything but the actual game (big hole golf, anyone?).
Rarely, if ever, do you see a well-produced ad campaign aimed at encouraging non-golfers to try the game because it’s fun. (Fun might be the game’s most underused word, sadly).
Golf needs to stop trying to convince people - young, old and in between - of its value and instead encourage them to try the game.
Do that and the business will take care of itself.
JUSTIN THOMAS - LIGHTWEIGHT POWERHOUSE:
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