Golf and Innovations
Which innovations are needed in the golf market and how might golf develop? At a large European golf conference in 2012 the two keywords were
ecologic sustainability (read more) and innovations.
The focus here is golf and innovations in Europe and the US. Golf in countries like Chine is also expanding, although they have their share of challenges. The reason for the intensified discussion about innovations is that the number of golfers in many countries have declined by some 25% over the last ten years.
From whom can we learn?
Golf Clubs and especially producers of clubs have for a long period had a fairly close relationship. One may compare their relation to the mutually beneficial co- operation between Microsoft and giant chip producer Intel. Today they still co-operate, but certainly not like in the old days.
I see a similar future in the golf market. The producers of clubs and their marketing are no longer of the same importance for the strategies of Golf Clubs. I would even suggest that golf Clubs have to in a sense liberate themselves from the perspectives of the producers. A consequence of this is that the shops at golf Clubs will become less important. The Pro, preferably employed by the Club, can then increase his focus on activities that benefit the Club as a whole.
My prognosis for Golf Clubs in Sweden
Although Clubs have different situations golf at present is a sport - a way of socializing - with an aging following and where some 60% of the Golf Clubs in 2014
had fewer members than the year before. My estimate is that the membership figures long term will continue to decline until it reaches a new plateau of around
400.000 members (today some 475.000). As a consequence of this and that many downgrade their membership level will lead to the closure of 40-50 Golf Clubs over
the next few years.
The Swedish Golf Association sends positive messages about a coming growth of golf and that working with golf is much more positive these days - late 2014. Sometimes positive strengthens positive circles but, on the other hand, a recognition of some harsh facts would make the fairly inevitable transformation more orderly and smarter.
My view is that it is fun and interesting trying to develop the golf market independent of a scenario where the number of Club members in a
few years are some 20% lower than today. The challenge is to find a new equilibrium and refine it.
Need for golf club innovations?
The manufacturers will undoubtedly answer YES to this question, and they have over the last years even shortened their products lifecycles. As their most prominent marketing mantra is Hit the ball farther they focus on the most expensive clubs like drivers. I think that selling clubs will become less important for golf shops at Golf Clubs in the future.
Today's yearly output of high-quality clubs delivers what the economists call marginal added value. The mantra of more distance has reached its final distance and golf needs to focus on other aspects of the whole golf experience. Lower prices of clubs would be a great alternative to supporting a possible growth of the market.
Johan Schlasberg, who has developed Dropgolf, is an innovation- and strategy consultant and innovator with quite an
interest in research.
Golf is one of the world's largest industries, and it is interesting to try to understand the transformation going on in the market and reflect on what we may see in the future.
In June 2014, TaylorMade's former CEO
Mark King was interviewed at HBO - now blocked at YouTube - about
the need for innovations in the golf business. His view was that anything that sells golf clubs is OK.
Golf needs innovations more based on soft values. Some examples: golf needs to be more gender equal. New forms of golf that takes less time are needed. How to keep high handicappers in the game and to interest younger generations to start - and continue - to play golf?
In a traditionally male perspective, more technology is needed to stimulate the interest in golf. I do not believe that this is the only or even the smartest way forward. There are exceptions.
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