March 3, 2017
Wilmington, North Carolina - According to Stuart Lindsay of Pellucid, a golf industry solution provider, there are two groups that will be critical in helping to grow the game over the next 3 - 5 years and they represent different ends of the age spectrum.
Stuart looked at changes in rounds contribution, golfers and frequency as the Baby Boomers (roughly born between 1946 - 1964 depending on your source) and what he's calling Gen Next (1965-2000 birth years encompassing both Gen X and Millennials) have aged from 1995 to 2015. The picture is fascinating and outlines the dual challenge before the golf industry relating to the golfer franchise. Stuart says; "It's like trying to listen to a different song in each ear on stereo headphones."
The Baby Boomers are literally carrying the industry on their collective back as they continue the game into their late career/retirement years; they like the traditional product and are increasing frequency as everyone predicted they would (there is a revenue implication however...). As we chase Gen Next however and try to appeal to them, we can't alienate this bedrock foundation consumer base!
Gen Next has largely "taken a pass" on our traditional product both in participation and frequency which is offsetting the Baby Boomer "dividend" previously promised by the NGF and others. We need to reinvent ourselves in order to entice them into the game because, at current participation and frequency, when they're needed to replace the Baby Boomers aging out, the math is not going to be pretty.
So how do we attempt to accomplish both the "delight" and "entice" missions as owner/operators and consumer equipment manufacturers?
"I'm not suggesting that this is a herculean task or that it hasn't been attempted and conquered previously (think skiing with the dichotomy between downhillers (Baby Boomers) and snowboarders (Gen Next) which they largely figured it out with terrain parks etc. and different marketing messaging for each group). The first step is understanding that there isn't a one-size-fits-all answer and we'll have to deal with the inherent cognitive dissonance (explained at the end of this article) in '17 and beyond. Stuart's candid summary point however was well-taken by all; you must protect your Baby Boomer franchise at nearly all costs while intelligently enticing Gen Next."
There is no doubt that participation rates in golf have dropped over the past decade and efforts have been made on all fronts to reverse this decline. Some of these have helped, while others have not, or provided a temporary relief to the problem. Golf has endured for hundreds of years and maybe this participation slump is just bump in the road, still every effort should be made within the industry to support those entities who help to grow the game.