• Filling golf with optimism

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    BUDDY DE JOYA

    People in the golf industry or those who are at least familiar with the game, say that golf is a dying sport. It has been narratively stated that it’s difficult, excessive playing time, expensive, strict imposition of rules and etiquette, discriminating or elitist, closing down of golf courses, and dwindling of the number of players. Well, it actually depends from which perspective you are coming from.

    I have personally experienced the growth of golf. As a junior player in the 1960s and 70s, I have rarely seen other junior players running around the clubhouse and playing on the golf course. Now, you see them all around, including parents and yayas! There are more junior golf tournaments now than ever before.

    It is true that golf reached its peak in the late 1980s till about the mid 1990s. With the presence of Tiger Woods, it brought golf to another level. People started to watch more on T.V. and some engaged in learning and playing. The building of golf courses boomed tremendously along with real estate in the USA, Europe and some parts of Asia. The growth was unimaginable and filled with enthusiasm. With much anticipation, there was actually an overgrowth in the building of golf courses.

    At this point, golf is not dying. It is in the process of adjusting to its natural proportions, equating to the actual number of avid golfers, the new players coming in, and the number of golf courses built worldwide. Yes, golf courses are closing down, especially in the U.S.A., but simply because there are too many. Just the same, golf is thriving, especially here in the country today.

    Based on the Asian Golf Profiles Special Report (2016), regarding the age breakdown of golfers in South-East Asia; 0 to 29 is 1%, 30-39 is 11 percent, 40-50 is 31 percent, and above 50 is 57 percent. Locally, junior golf is 8 percent, senior is 41 percent, and others is 51 percent. Take note that in Southeast Asia, there is only 1 percent playing golf for ages 0-29. But, in the Philippines we have 8% junior players. It is a great indicator that the young market is being encouraged locally, and more champions being developed.

    Steve Mona, chief executive of the World Golf Foundation, said “clubs have to urgently adapt to the demands of younger people to ensure the sport has a future, as decisions by the world’s two biggest sports brands —Nike and Adidas—to pull out of golf equipment raised fears about the sport’s long-term future”.

    He added that, “The headlines ‘golf in crisis’ are overblown. We have a healthy number of core golfers, but we do need to attract new and younger players. Each year about 500,000 leave the game because of death or the physical inability to play, and so every year we have to replace them.”

    When and how do we attract new younger players, and the millennials (1980-1999)? NOW is the time for “The Big Change…”

    Learning and playing the game must be made easier, so, the approach to coaching and instructions must be simpler. Golf courses can be shorter and holes bigger. Instead of playing 9 holes or 18 holes, playing 3 or 6 holes may be allowed to cut playing time. Pricing can be made really affordable and exclusive clubs must be made public (sort of questionable but probable). Dress code, rules and etiquette can be revised to be more casual. Some moderate drinking, music and using the social media may also be made part of the game. It’s all about convenience, fun, moving forward and the appreciation of new technology for the millennial and younger generation.

    Forget traditionalism, time continues to move forward… Change is now.

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