Commitment to Golf: An Alternative Look at Segmenting Golfers
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Commitment to Golf: An Alternative Look at Segmenting Golfers

The currently accepted view of the golfing population, conceived by NGF in the mid-1980s, splits golfers into two groups – those who play less than 8 times a year (Occasional Golfers) and those who play more than 8 times (Core Golfers).  We chose the number 8 because it effectively divides the golfing population in half, and because this demarcation seemed to have “face validity”, as Occasional Golfers accounted for only a small proportion of rounds played and spending.  The thought was that golf businesses should focus on Core Golfers who had the most economic impact.

Recently, we began to think that there might be a better way to segment golfers – by their commitment to the game, as opposed to their frequency of play.  In a survey of golfers conducted in 2011, NGF asked a representative sample of golfers to classify themselves into one of 5 commitment categories.  We presented golfers with the statements shown below on the right and asked them to choose the one that best characterized their level of involvement in the game.

What we found surprised us in many ways.  First of all, we found that there were many more committed golfers than you would be led to believe existed by looking only at frequency of play.  Only 56% of participants are classified as Core Golfers, but we found that 78% of golfers (Nuts, Hooked, or Casual) are actually “committed” to the game and are highly likely to stay with it.

Over half (58%) of Occasional Golfers are actually committed to the game – they just don’t play very often.  This could be by choice – they like doing other things just as much; or, by circumstances – they have young children at home, are at a particularly challenging time in their careers, or maybe just can’t afford it.  Regardless, they have a 95%+ chance of staying in the game (barring physical reasons).

We also found that you don’t have to be good to be committed to the game.  On average, a committed golfer’s average score is 100!  It seems that most people play in spite of their ability, not because of it.

If it’s not ability, why do golfers like golf?  For Casual golfers, and those even less committed, it’s about being outdoors, the social aspects, and getting some exercise.  For the Hooked and the Nuts, they enjoy the challenge of the game, and the euphoria that comes from hitting a great shot.  Hooked and Nuts ‘thrive to strive.’  They have a higher level of intensity than Casual and the less committed golfers.  Keeping score, the competition and practice are high on Hooked and Nuts’ lists of what they like about golf.


Tracking Core Golfers is still vital, but the data shows that tracking the segments of golfers who classify themselves as “committed” is just as important.  In a future issue, we will examine the underpinnings of commitment in more detail.

Featured Report
Golf’s Largest Opportunity for Growth – Latent Demand
As the golf season begins for many around the country, now is the perfect time to consider how to grow the game in 2013.  One of the largest, if not the largest, growth opportunities exists among those people who express an interest in playing golf, but have not yet started.
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