2018 PGA Merchandise Show: An Industry of Dreams and Optimism 

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The palpable excitement of walking amongst 40,000 attendees while attending 12 educational presentations creates within one a sense that the game is alive and well.

This enthusiasm was balanced with an insightful presentation “New Paradigms for Golf Marketing” by Jon Last, Sports and Research Leisure Group, that concluded engaged golfers are mired in flat line participation.  His survey of 2,000 golfers concluded that “the reality is that the engaged golfer who drives 80% of the spending is maxed out and less than 1 in 5 golfers believe that participation growth can be achieved by existing golfers playing more. Expected expenditures across all categories are trending lower for the first time in three years.”

Equally compelling were the findings presented by Sandy Cross, Senior Director of Diversity and Inclusion for the PGA of America.  She cited a 2015 study by Golf 20/20 that of 12 leading golf organizations, 95% of the Board of Directors, 97% of Senior Leadership and 86% of full-time staff were Caucasian.  Ninety-two percent of the US population growth from 2000 – 2014 was multicultural that represents $3.5 trillion in spending power.  Caucasians will become the minority in America within the next decade or so.  Her astute conclusion is that “Golf is Sport of Invitation” that suffers from the self-reinforcing vortex of sameness. “If you can see it, you can be it.”  It is noteworthy that on January 23, the PGA of America issued a comprehensive report on Social Responsibility.

Jay Karen, CEO of the National Golf Course Owners, presented, “Golf Course Operator’s Bill of Rights for marketing and Distribution of Tee Times” before a very sparse crowd.  Not one software firm is even close to compliance with the standards established.  To me, those standards represent putting fine clothes on a pig.

It is my philosophy that presenting a contrarian view based on independent research ensures that golf course owners understand the challenges ahead and the opportunities that exist.  Being too guarded and too careful and too curated creates blindness in judgment as nothing is viewed exactly the same by any two people.

For those that see the glass half full, click on DOWNLOAD REPORT to see the ten positive things that I saw at the PGA Show that would probably provide optimism to the hopeful.

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