Picture: Helena Independent Record / Montana Club members
(Maybe because they think a golf clubhouse looks something like this photo…)
At first glance, golf looks fairly trendy:
- Golf was the first individual sport in the world
- 90 million people around the world played golf in 2020. There were 25 million players in the USA, 12 million in Japan, 6 million in Canada, 4 million in South Korea, and 2 million in Australia
- 40.000 golf courses have been built in 210 countries
This all looks impressive but in reality, the global participation rate of golf is declining year after year. Golf players are getting older, 75% of golfers are men over the age of 45, and younger generations are not interested in playing.
COVID was "a good opportunity" for the sport but golf remains largely unpopular and stands far behind other disciplines like football, soccer, basketball, and tennis. If this trend continues, golf will keep declining and slowly disappear even though it’s an amazing activity that’s great for the body and mind.
So, what’s the problem with golf? Why are millennials not interested in this sport? Where does this lack of interest come from? What could golf clubs do to attract more millennials? What solutions could we come up with to solve this problem?
We wanted to know the answers to these questions, so we decided to start interviewing millennial golfers and non-golfers. We will share our research with you in this 3-part blog series.
1st post: we will find out why most millennials are not interested in the sport.
2nd post: we will find out why some millennials do play golf and discuss their relationship with the sport.
3rd post: we will work through solutions to the problems millennial golfers and non-golfers are having.
Why most millennials don’t play golf?
To have a good overview of the problem, we interviewed fifty male and female millennials who don’t golf. We asked them these two questions:
Question #1: Why don’t you play golf?
This question generated a lot of answers, but four specific barriers were clearly coming back over and over again. Take a look at this video to hear what they said.
What do you think? Did you get the four barriers?
Here they are :
- Time is the number one reason why millennials don’t play golf. Millennials value speed and efficiency in their life and spending more than four hours on a golf course, doing basically the same gesture over and over again, is not fun for them. As well, golf takes a long time to learn whereas other sports are much easier and more affordable to play.
- Money often goes with time. Millennials have been hit by the recession, their budget is limited, and cost is a huge barrier between them and the sport. Millennials prefer activities that require less money to play, such as tennis or football.
- Other opportunities. Millennials are constantly online, and they have many more digital distractions than young people from the last generation. They are looking for meaning and purpose in life, they are motivated by the opportunity to meet new people and they don’t want to make a long-term commitment to a sport (or even a specific location for one day).
- Perception/Image. The image of golf among millennials is not the best. False clichés are still very common and powerful, golf is perceived as elitist, exclusionary, stuffy, boring, difficult, bad for the environment, and “a sport for old men.” For millennials, golf is not diverse and not fun enough. Golf is actually much more open to newbies than you might think, 75% of golf courses across the world are open to the public... (yep... 75%...did you know that?)
Among the other recurring answers, three barriers were also often coming back:
- The logistics around golf. Golf courses are often far from home, the gear is heavy and cumbersome, and a car is needed to bring everything to the course. Playing golf is seen as complicated and difficult to organize. A lot of respondents told us about the easiness of playing tennis, just for one hour, simply grab their racquet, and bike towards the tennis court.
- Golf is not seen as a mixed gender sport and millennials tend to prefer mixed activities today. It is quite hard to argue against this point knowing that only 25% of golfers around the world are women.
- Golf is not an option at school, millennials discover the sport later in life and the game ends up being quite difficult to learn.
Question #2: What would convince you to start playing golf?
This question was a bit tricky for our young respondents because, in most cases, they hadn’t really thought about it. After a moment of reflexion, almost every one of them ended up answering the same way:
"I would play golf if I had friends to play with and if I had fun on the course."
Friendship and fun. So simple.
In the end, all our respondents seemed open to giving golf a try. Yes, golf has the problems mentioned above, but while we were talking to the non-golfing millennials, we felt that they could be secondary and manageable if their golf experience was nice and if their friends were also playing.
Apart from those two points, we have also had other repetitive answers about side activities that could be offered by golf clubs. Indeed, many respondents told us that if the "club experience" was nicer, they would definitely give golf a better chance. The most reoccurring examples were:
- Special coaching programs for millennials to learn the game in a nice and easy way
- Short court facilities to make them love golf
- Fitness, spa, and wellness center in the club
- Yoga, pilates, and dance rooms
- Tennis or squash courts aside from the golf course
- Club privileges for members
- Facilities for families and friends (pool, daycare for kids, restaurant or lounge bar)
- Social events for young people (live music, date nights, movie/match…)
- Business center or meeting rooms in the clubs
- Conferences, meet-ups, workshops...
Does this make sense to you? Do you agree with that? Do you see something to add?
In the next article, we will study the point of view of golf players to understand why they play golf and hear about how their stories relating to the sport.
This story has been written from my perspective, my name is Arthur, and I am the founder of Untraced. If you have any questions or comments, I invite you to get in touch with me directly: firstname.lastname@example.org