""Golf in 2020

PGA of America and HSBC bank have independently commissioned studies on the future of golf.

In many parts of the world, Golf is not growing anymore, and many Clubs are struggling and looking for new ways to survive and be attractive.

The future of golf and the need for change

In 2011, the number of active players in Europe declined. In some parts of the world like Asia, Golf is still growing, but the number of new golf course projects is declining, and many projects now focus on cheaper redesign and renovation.

What will the golf market look like in 2020 and how can we through sensible innovation and effort make it improve?

Golf in 2020

Does golf have its own (de)Tour?

Our favorite quote

Question: Looking forward over the next decade or so, what will be the biggest changes affecting the sport?

Answer: I think that you will see a lot of changes in the future to make rounds of golf shorter and courses more accessible to the everyday golfer. For golf to grow there will have to be ways to play that will not take nearly as long to complete a round. Time is of the essence to everyone. We have the responsibility to design and build enjoyable courses for the masses, not just the low handicapper or professional.

Gary Player, winner of 9 major titles and 165 tournaments. (HSBC -report)

PGA of America: Golf 2.0

PGA of America organizes some 27.000 golf professionals and is a major influencing body in golf. In 2011, they commissioned a study called Golf 2.0 to understand better the future of golf.

Golfers who gave up playing golf

One finding was that around 4 million players per year had quit playing golf the last few years. Today the number of golfers is around 15% lower than a decade ago. One central recommendation in the study is to try to regain these "lapsed golfers".

Some people think that the study is a wish list - as suggested in an article at Golfcourseindustry.com - but it includes several good ideas.

The goal is to grow the number of US golfers from today's 27M to 32M in 2016 and 40M in 2020.

Roots of the situation

The study refers to a weak golf economy but fails, as we see it, to refer to the overall weakening of the American economy. One can view those who have stopped playing golf as a potential resource, but it is quite alarming that so many quits. An influx of new players has sort of put a veil on this high churn rate.

Golf 2.0 really has its roots in the sluggish golf economy of recent years, which has seen overall rounds played and golfers diminish, so much so that the game lost 1 million golfers in 2010 from the year before. The National Golf Association has also shown that participation in the game has declined by 10% since 2005.
Source: PGA Magazine Sept 2011

Core Golf 2.0 Message

There are five core Golf 2.0 marketing messages that will be directed to consumers.

  • Golf is a fun family activity
  • Golf is affordable
  • Golf doesn't have to mean 18 holes
  • Women and Golf
  • Golf is healthy

Retain and Strengthen the Golfing Core

Tee it forward is an example of such an initiative. Players are encouraged to move up a set of tees to adapt the length of the course to their playing standard.

Role of the Golf industry

Obviously one has to make a choice of what to include in a report, but we think that the role of golf manufacturers, golf architects, and golf investors to name a few, could have merited further analysis. One could argue that they are part of the problem and only reluctantly part of the solution.

The HSBC Report:  Golf’s 2020 Vision

The large HSBC bank has for many years been a large sponsor of several international golf events. This year they sponsored a study called Golf’s 2020 Vision:  The HSBC Report. Read the whole report here or here.

A global outlook

This is how the report starts: The trends which will shape the future of golf are the same trends that are shaping the future of the planet: the shift towards Asia, the increasing feminization of the public world, urbanisation, the spread of digital technology, and resource and sustainability pressures.

A different attitude

The HSBC report has scant mentioning of any crisis in golf, it focuses on opportunities: The game is continuing to grow in popularity, broadening its international base, building new audiences and recruiting new players, in new markets, but needs to keep modernizing to stay in touch with the times. For some in the game, this will be a challenge. But the only thing worse than change is irrelevance.

Women and Sport

Two other strong trends discussed are the growing number of young women who play golf and the development of golf as a sport as contrasted to men being willing to spend time away from their families.

The lifestyle of golfers is changing—and golf clubs will have to respond by thinking differently about the facilities they offer to their members and players.

Short formats

A chapter headed The Innovating Game discusses the shortage of land and time: One challenge for golf, certainly in Asia, is that new courses, will be farther from the city and harder to reach, adding more travel time to the four-to-five hours it takes to play a full round of golf. And modern consumers, across the world, are more protective of their time. Even those who have more leisure time than they used to—as is true for many of the consumers in the emerging middle class in Asian countries—find themselves spreading it more thinly across more activities and more commitments. Taken together, these suggest that in all markets we will see the emergence of new forms of golf which take less time, and there is already evidence that these forms are emerging. In this, golf is following a similar pattern to other sports, where short forms have emerged

Other subjects

The report also has an interesting section on technology innovations, the golf video market, sustainability, golf investment in tourism and Golf and television.

Our favorite quote - understandably from a Dropgolf point of view - is from the interview with Gary Player, as quoted above.