What’s the key to growing the game? There isn’t just one… it’s going to take a number of different solutions. My own experience taught me that there is no one size fits all reason that is preventing people from playing more golf… the barriers change as golfers meander through the “golf chasm”. The golf chasm is that gaping hole that many of us fall through during our busy adult years that prevents us from playing as much golf as we’d like to play. It’s easy to find the time when you’re a kid who is sent to participate in a youth golf program that serves as your summer nanny and it’s easy to find the time when you ditch that inconvenient thing called a job, but in between those two stages… it’s complicated.
Most of us descend into the golf chasm before we’re old enough to vote… and we don’t emerge until we’ve got a little extra color in our thinning hair.
The golf industry does a great job providing programs to get golfers introduced to the game when they are kids. And when golfers are seniors, they show up in droves without a lot of prompting. It’s those in between years that are challenging… and it will take more than emails encouraging golfers to “book your next tee time now” to help golfers escape the chasm a little more often.
My own experience with the chasm started at age 18. After learning to play as a pre-teen and playing a lot of golf in high school, I headed off to college to a dorm room that barely had room for my bed and clothes much less a set of golf clubs and I quickly got consumed by studying, extracurriculars, summer jobs and a budget crunch that left room for beer or golf, but not both. After college, a job somewhat eased the budget crunch but it was replaced by a time crunch… marriage to a non-golfing spouse, 60-80 hour per week job, a move to a new location, a mortgage and before I knew it three little people that consumed most of my non-working hours. For 35 years I played 1-5 rounds of golf a year. I finally crawled out of the chasm when I retired from my corporate job and we became empty nesters and I’ve been happily playing 50+ rounds a year ever since.
When I look back on my ‘chasm years’, I’m convinced that I could have played at least an extra 10 rounds per year if someone had been looking out for me and helping me squeeze golf into a crowded schedule. Alas, I was on my own.
Do the math… if 15M of the 25M golfers in the US are currently in the chasm and if we helped them squeeze even 5 more rounds per year into their schedule we’d grow the entire industry by 15%. Would an additional 15% in revenue make a difference in your operation?
What do you do when a golfer falls into the chasm? Do you have programs in place to help them squeeze in at least a few extra rounds a year? Or do you just say “Hmm… I wonder what happened to that guy/gal… they used to play here but we haven’t seen them in ages.”
Of course there is no simple answer to this multifaceted dilemma… the help that golfers need during their college years is different than it is during their young professional days and different yet in the diaper years, etc. But is there any doubt that we need to do better as an industry to help golfers during the chasm years? This is life and death stuff for the industry, so I’ll be focusing a good percentage of my upcoming columns on ideas for helping golfers avoid the chasm. If you have some techniques that you’ve found particularly effective in this regard, please weigh in.
Let’s give golfers more HELP! by building a bridge across the dreaded golf chasm… inspired by one of the greatest foursomes of all time.