Footgolf – A Passing Fancy?

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 The numerous initiatives over the past decade to create a profitable foundation for a golf course seems never ending and nearly always largely fruitless. 

Programs to entice beginners, i.e., Get Golf Ready, minorities, women and juniors abound. After five years, Get Golf Ready – an awesome program to introduce new entrants to the game – has only been adopted on 1,700 of the countries 15,210 golf courses.

At the National Golf Foundation Annual Symposium in 2014, Dr. Joe Beditz, President, and CEO, presented nine alternatives activities that represented derivations from golf that could golf course owners could adopt to increase the utilization of their facilities, i.e., 15 inch cups, Beach Golf, Big Balls, Fling, FootGolf, Frisbee Golf, Racquet Golf, Screen Golf, Stand-Alone Practice Ranges, Top Golf, etc.  In addition, the introduction of golf boards, hovercraft, and incorpating music/tv into carts were highlighted as ways of diversifying a stagnant sport.    

If one sits at the base of Vail Mountain, it is very clear that sport, like golf, is very narrowly well defined: well-to-do Caucasians that can afford $175 daily lift tickets. It makes one ponder whether the programs that are trying to stimulate the revenues at a golf facility are having an adverse rather than positive impact on creating a stable economic foundation for a golf course?  

Last week, an article was published by the Sacramento Bee that “FootGolf Popularity Plateaus in Sacramento, CA” citing: 

“The City saw a decline in FootGolf rounds in 2015, and one course recently closed at Cherry Island Golf Course in Elverta. Operator Empire Golf said the FootGolf course wasn’t worth the negativity from traditional golfers and didn’t achieve the crossover it hope for while Haggin Oaks Head Pro Mike Woods speculated that the decline in rounds s due to increased competition rather than a lack of participation.

Rod Metzler, President of Empire Golf, the company that operates Cherry Island, said keeping the Foot Golf course open wasn’t worth the negativity from traditional golfers.   Strangely, the majority of gripes, Metzler said, weren’t from golfers competing for space with FootGolfers but from seeking flagsticks on the distant FootGolf greens.  It was fun to watch, Metzler said.  Especially in the beginning, the real soccer players flying the ball to 100-yard holes.  But we didn’t see any crossover.  That’s what we were hoping for.

Haggin Oaks, the area’s first course to offer FootGolf in July 2013, did almost 800 rounds a month during its 2015 peak, head pro-Mike Woods said. He speculated the 10% decline was because of increased competition rather than participation.  “I think it needs another level of promotion and life,” Woods said. “If we’re going to expand, we need to get out into the soccer community more.”

Note that more resources are being cited as required to ensure that FootGolf is a prudent diversion.  

It should be highlighted that the Sacramento Bee reported that “FootGolf turns ten this year. There are 451 courses in 48 states, according to Roberto Balestrini, who introduced the sport to North America four years ago and heads the American FootGolf League, headquartered in Palm Springs.”

Like it or not, golf is largely a game of the upper class in which well-to-do Caucasians undertake at their leisure for entertainment. It has a high cost of entry, isn’t a lot of fun unless one plays well, and consumes inordinate amounts of time.   Like Dressage, Polo, Skiing and 10-meter yacht racing, would golf be better to recognize what their sport is and not try to make it something it isn’t? 

Most golf courses fail, in my opinion, because they have failed to craft a meaningful strategic vision that defines the uniqueness of the experience they offer as a foundation to create customer loyalty.  The great thing about golf is that no two courses are identical.  But that advantage is rarely leveraged.  

Thus, is the heart of the golf industry’s challenge that the typical employee became attracted to the sport because they enjoy playing the game but lack the fundamental business skills to properly focus on what is vital to anage properly the facility? Perhaps.

What do you think?  Comment below. 


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