I was first introduced to golf by a neighbour in Liverpool, England in 1972. After borrowing and renting clubs
for a few months I took the plunge. My first clubs were a full set of used Ralph Moffitt’s (not a glamorous name
I accept, but he was a former Ryder Cup player and winner twice on Tour) which I bought from an old guy, using money my grandfather had left me. They cost £72 (US$187 back then) which today would mean around £1000 (US$2,200 plus at 1972 exchange rate or $1,320 at today’s rate). But those clubs got me from an 18 handicap
to 2 in 18 months so they were clearly adequate! But golf was expensive in the 1970’s both for equipment and
Many Clubs had waiting lists and the condition of courses left much to be desired. Any aspiring junior was
limited to restricted tee times at private clubs, if they were lucky enough to be a child of a member, and a lack
of competition. Public courses offered hope.
Fast forward to 2017 and I see posts on Facebook and articles laying the blame for supposed falling numbers
on the cost of entry into golf. Certainly Club memberships are falling and that’s because people now want choice
and flexibility and it’s not the elite sport it once was. Embrace it. It’s a real opportunity. But these posts are
generally by those in the industry seeking a scapegoat and quoting prices of the higher end clubs, apparel,
shoes etc.. and cost of playing higher end courses as the norm.
This is a red herring. Don’t get sucked into this negativity. It’s bull s***!
I could express how appalled I am at the cost of hotel accommodation, quoting the Ritz Carlton, but the fact
remains I can find a nice comfortable bed in a hotel of equal tranquillity, likely in the same area for a fraction
of the price. Similarly I could express outrage at the cost of a Hugo Boss shirt but this is irrelevant when cheaper
and more than adequate (often almost identical) alternatives exist. It’s called choice.
Now if the excellent marketing of the leading golf brands creates such desire, so be it. But this is the not
the golf market. This is brands within the industry of which there are many.
Today there’s a huge range of perfectly adequate equipment at prices affordable to anyone looking to take up
golf and of course in the case of apparel there’s absolutely no need to have “golf” brands when sweaters,
polo shirts and shorts or trousers can be bought anywhere at lower prices.
I don’t want to get into branded clubs but all the deals are out there. Competition is strong both in respect of price and quality. There are starter half sets that are perfect for getting children into golf (in fact you only need one or two clubs to start with). These can even be purchased at WalMart and Costco.
There has never been a greater focus on kids in golf than there is now. Summer camps; kids lessons; companies like US Kids, Golphin in UK and Lynx Golf recognising the hardware opportunity, plus junior Tours for all levels of ability providing healthy competition.
It’s the potential that children present to grow the game that resulted in PlaneSWING launching our junior model called PlayNSWING (Play & Swing) at a price that encourages instructors to order multiple units and to have parents involved at home in their child’s golfing development.
As for adult equipment, there are brands out there that are half the price of the big boys and equally good, if not better in quality and suitability.
So what about playing? Well to start you can find a field; buy a cheap net for home; hit the range. It doesn’t have to be a multi-tiered entertainment facility. Range golf is cheap and a great way to socialise, learn and decide whether or not golf is for you or your child.
Access to golf courses has never been easier or better value with GolfNow in the US, 2 fore 1 deals in the UK and an abundance of discounts by public and proprietary clubs as they compete for business. And I don’t believe Australia is any different.
People can bleat all they like about certain governing bodies and so called Foundations not doing enough at grass roots and maybe that’s true. Maybe they do lean on the PGA Pro too much and expect them to give their time for free whilst they sit in their 501c3 not for profit ivory towers, taking their big salaries and the plaudits and surveying what a great job they believe they’re doing.
That may or may not be true, but it’s what I hear all the time from other golf pros. However the PGA Tour and
LPGA offer free entry for children at many events and with the Symetra, Web and Champions Tours, there’s
plenty of opportunity to get kids inspired!
But whinging won’t change anything for the better. Only affirmative action will do that. Complaining will just
get you down, alienate those around you and convince yourself that you’re in an ailing industry when in fact you’re involved in a game and a business with limitless potential and to many others probably have the best
job in the world.
I was inspired a few weeks ago by Michael Whan the LPGA commissioner. Michael shared with me and my
fellow Proponent Group members (positive, entrepreneurial golf teaching professionals) that golf amongst
girls is the fastest growing sector. From what I see out there, I can believe that. And what a great sport it is for
all kids to get into at an early age.
I bet most pros wish they had a dollar for every time a student has said: “I wish I’d started earlier”!
So for what it’s worth here’s what I suggest we do to build a foundation that brings more players, young and old,
Educate. Educate the adults and educate the children.
Educate the adults on the benefits of exercise, socialising and healthy competition which keeps the body
moving and the brain active. Target specific age groups by gender with tailored activities and form strategic
alliances with sympathetic local business that can add value and that see a commercial benefit in their
And with golf being the inclusive game it is, look to support disabled groups including the blind, those with prosthetic limbs, autism, cerebral palsy and other conditions where we know golf helps.
Educate the parents on the intrinsic values that golf offers throughout a child’s life. Share the success of that
child with the parents. Nurture, motivate and empower.
Offer classes that are affordable and fun. Keep golf simple!
We shouldn’t expect too much from our students but they should expect much from us.
We need to build their trust and discover between us if golf is for them. Once that’s acknowledged then
we need to act as independent advisors on equipment and structure the best deal for them. This is a potentially
life-long relationship between teacher and student. Both should treat it that way.
Ultimately this requires effort on the part of those involved in the game. It will not be handed to instructors on
a plate. People are not lining up saying “I want to learn golf”. There is no industry wide cohesive strategy,
so it’s up to the vocational and entrepreneurial instructors to take the lead.
It takes considerable planning and effort if we’re to be successful for ourselves, our students and for the game.
Never be afraid to fail and always be willing to ask for help. Colleagues can be the best resource.
Whilst golf has more competition than ever before, it’s never been a better product to sell. Why? Because in addition to all the benefits, it’s never been better value!
We need to build awareness. We must create and share the opportunity. It’s not the only show in town. We really
do need to sell this sport. But once involved, we know people stay in golf.
Golf truly is the best activity in the world. It’s affordable, it’s healthy, it’s family, it’s about integrity, it’s social,
it’s exciting, it’s competitive, it’s for everyone and most importantly golf is for life!