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Mayor's Blog: Hacking Away at Cynicism
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February 2014 Rounds Played Report

Stephen Colbert on HackGolf

Mayor's Blog: Hacking Away at Cynicism

Why “Mayor of Crazy Town?”

I invite you to click here to read the first installment of this blog.

Volume 4, Issue 4 – April 2014

Fellow Citizens of Crazy Town -

Most of the trends in the golf business are not on the upswing… but there are indeed positive stories in the narrative.

Considering the lack of momentum in our industry, it’s certainly a good thing that golf’s business leaders are keenly aware of our challenging situation.  Unfortunately, golf is not as relevant as it used to be to young people in America.  We need to figure out how to change the perception of many non-golfer Millennials who are most likely to describe golf with one single word… “boring.”  However, there are approximately seven million committed young (ages 18-34) golfers who are engaged with the game.

There is undeniable cynicism among industry people who have watched myriad growth programs achieve marginal success.  On one level, I can’t blame those skeptical of new platforms such as Hack Golf. But conversely, how can you not be supportive of Mark King, Ted Bishop and other industry leaders who continue to look for solutions?  Crowd sourcing ideas on how to make golf more attractive to new customers… and funding experiments with the best of the ideas… sounds pretty good to me.  I’m not aware of game changing innovations in any business that weren’t accompanied by multiple experiments… many of them failures. The Mayor is ALL IN, my friends.  

Of course I can crack a smile at those who suggest that recent articles about oversized cups and Foot Golf color our game with a hue of pale desperation.  We can’t always control the negativity and misinterpretation (or blatant manipulation of the facts, depending on the article you’re reading) of the working press who seem hell-bent on dragging golf down.  I prefer to look past the negativity and think about these adaptations of the game as sales promotions… it requires different “pitches” to attract various segments of prospective customers to the golf course.  Adapted forms of golf that generate incremental revenue are all positive and those who introduce them should be applauded.  The concepts that make money for courses will convert new trials… first from the owners & operators that choose to offer new golf “product variations,” and then from the consumers who give them a chance.

Change to the traditional golf product will not come without funny looks and the scoffing of naysayers and old-schoolers.  However, I’d prefer to support those who try something new in an attempt to change the trajectory of their own business.  Try a few things that you think your customer base might find fun and entertaining.  Sell those concepts with confidence.  Nothing cuts through like financial self-interest.  Like Gordon Gekko famously said…“Greed, for lack of a better word, is good.”  Every groundswell grows one ripple at a time.  

If we want the golf business to expand its customer base, to grow rounds and revenues, to maximize the GDP (Golf’s Domestic Product), then let’s sell golf, invite people to play, extol golf’s virtues, be more welcoming and promote the game as the ultimate recreational activity for those whose souls are open to it.  

Those who’ve read more than a couple of issues of this Mayor’s blog have likely come across that “souls open to it” phrase before. Consider it this way… if we’re rounding up a little bit, one-of-ten American adults played at least one round of golf last year.  At its most basic, doesn’t that logically mean that we would need to sell golf to at least 10,000,000 prospects to grow that number by 1,000,000?  Of course, if we target our selling of golf to the 20+ million pre-disposed interested non-golfers (a.k.a. the consistently documented critical mass of “Latent Demand” who are interested in taking up the game), the conversion rate would be much higher than 10%.  We need a higher volume of sales effort to reach growth goals that are more grand than a mil.  

Don’t forget that there are some in the business who are not thinking about growth at all.  Some believe that golf will always be a niche sport.  Numbers are all relative.  Was 30 million niche?  Is 25 million niche?  I just hate the idea that there are people out there whose lives would be enriched by this amazing game… who may never be exposed to it.

The one trend in golf that is on the upswing, is the competition for customers (especially the roughly 14 million Core Golfers) and their dollars.  The pressure to understand the market and your customers/prospects… and to innovate and position your business for success… has never been greater.  NGF has resources to help you.  

Cheers from the HMCT (aka Greg Nathan, NGF)

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Steve Young
You know as a retailer of golf equipment we literally get excited when we get a brand new golfer in our store. We can all remember the intimidation we experienced when we first took up the game. We all thought that no one had ever played as badly as us. It's hard to remember that "it's just a game" when we just made a 9 or 10. With this sport the real problem is that we must keep score. Looking at a scorecard at the end of a round can be somewhat depressing for new or unskilled golfers. So...what does all this mean? The game is very bi polar in nature, extreme highs and almost devastating lows. Similar, I believe, to the game of life. I wonder if the prolonged recession and portfolio losses don't have much to do with the lack of growth in our game. People are challenged financially and plagued by insecurity. This the golf industry can do nothing about, but the new efforts to reconcile poor play and emphasizing the fun and exhilaration associated with playing the game is certainly a step in the right direction. Keep up the research and good work. It is the responsibility of golf courses, golf professionals, instructors and retailers to do everything they can to promote and grow the game. As retailers, we always welcome the new golfer and do our best to encourage them while helping them select products. We also offer basic set up lessons to start them on the right path and encourage them to seek competent instruction to increase their enjoyment of this great game.
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