Attending the PGA Show for the 29th year, truth be told, the expression “more things change, the more they stay the same” comes to mind. The crowds seemed slightly smaller, apparel seems to be growing while equipment appears to be consolidating around five major vendors: Titleist, Callaway, Cobra/Puma, Ping and Taylormade.
Perhaps the most surprising story was that the World Golf Foundation reported that the golf industry contributes $3. 9 billion to charity annually in which 143,000 charitable events were held in which 12 million participated.
The $20 billion raised in charity over the past several years by the golf industry exceeds that of the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL combined. Absolutely impressive!
In the presentation, “The Real State of Golf – Fact or Fiction,” Jon Last, President of Sports and Leisure Group presented the case that citizen journalism which reports through “echo chambers” that the golf industry is a train wreck misrepresents fact. The golf industry has now stabilized and “flatness isn’t necessarily a perfect straight line.”
He highlighted in that fast pace world with abundant reporting, we tend to select those statements regardless of their veracity that reinforce our perspectives in a polarized world.
Other interesting facts gleaned from over 1,000 golfers surveyed included:
- 25% do not always keep score.
- 50% met a stranger at a course who became a friend.
- 60% have introduced someone to golf
- Top Golf resonants well with all for two simple reasons: 1) you are not required to have successive successful shots to have success, and 2) the time between shots is measured in seconds not minutes.
- Only 4% show an interest in footgolf or disc golf.
We noted the release of a plethora of social media applications:
- All Square: Connect with a community of passionate golfers and discover local and international golf courses with reviews, upcoming events and recommended hotels.
- Vox Golf: A tournament model which events can be set up on a daily basis for all those playing at a course. The VoxGolf app allows players to sign into games on their mobile phone, with cashless entry fees, a digital scorecard and a live leaderboard showing progress in real time.
- Copyme Golf: An innovative movement learning platform that rapidly teaches anyone who wants to learn or improve their golf swing — in minutes through goggles in which one views, in a 3D environment, an ideal swing 30 times impacting their subconscious.
- Find a Game.io: Enable social invites to fill a golf course’s partial or empty tee times with golfers who opt in. Though this application has not launched, it was previously branded as Top 500 Golf. I take exception to the PGA allowing a vendor to appear on the Forum Stage whose application hasn’t launched and who misrepresented, in my opinion, the deployment status of their application. Only through questioning was the deception revealed.
These applications are in addition to phone apps: Game Golf, Golf Fix Finder, GolfNet, Golf Now, Ping Putting and Strackaline.
What was encouraging to listen to was the presentation regarding the burgeoning success of PGA Junior League. Participation soared in 2016 to 36,000 of which 80% were new to golf.
The goal is to have 100,000 kids with a $175 – $200 registration fee enrolled regarding of the physicality of the individual. Dick’s Sporting Goods in donating $500,000 over the next three years to help achieve that goal.
Captain Registration (for course’s seeking to conduct events) is open. Consumer registration opens on February 1, 2017. The core philosophies of play – coach – practice can be customized to any facility where the foundation of a team scramble event takes the pressure off of the kids and encouraging camaraderie and sportsmanship. One of the great secondary benefits of PGA Junio League is the exponential value of the kid’s parent buying memberships, merchandise and food and beverage while attending events.
In a Cobra/Puma presentation, Greg Norman endorsed the concept that concept of the same length iron as currently played by Bryson DeChambeau. In testing the clubs that Cobra will be release in May, 2017, Norman noted he really liked the feel of a same length shaft for the 4 iron – 7 iron and that for the 8 iron through wedges, it would take perhaps a month to become comfortable. For golfers just coming into the game, he felt the same length iron was the preferred path for quicker success on the golf course.
During the Cobra presentation, Major Dan Rooney introduced a new line of clothing to debut this spring titled, “Volition America.” Comprising apparel, footwear and Accessories, proceeds will help help raise critical funds and ensure no family is left behind in the field of battle as Volition America will raise funds to help military families pursue their passions through education. To date, over 13,000 scholarships have been awarded. Cobra/Puma has committed to donate $500,000 to the Folds of Honor. The Volition America logo is really cool.
Elisa Gaudet, an awesome advocate for increasing women’s participation in golf, announced June 6, 2017 as #WomensGolfDay at www.womensgolfday.com.
Listening to the presentation at the PGA Forum certainly inspires that though the golf industry is “flat,” the opportunities to grow remain hopeful.
Finally, “heard on the street”, two things of note:
- Links Insight has entered into a data gathering and distribution deal with GolfNow that will increase adoption of the platform and also increase the amount and quality of the data in the system. GolfNow will NOT have access to individual club data but the two firms may work together on the anonymous aggregation of data at some time in the future. I am a big fan of Ray Cronin and Russ Conde professional efforts to develop a national database to facilitate benchmarking.
- Further obtained clarification regarding changes in the Rules of Golf to be announced in March. The five minute rule for lost ball will be reduced to three minutes, you will be able to repair spike marks, the procedures for dropping a ball when required will be simplified and the lateral and water hazard rules (red and yellow stakes) will be consolidated.