Golf Industry Central May 2012 - Page 27

multi-course operators. The AGA’s 10-year goal: Double golf industry revenue by 2021. Lessons learned The year had its triumphs. The AGA did indeed make a splash and quickly moved to the forefront of efforts to energize the sagging golf industry; the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Asian Golf Monthly and all of the domestic golf publications heralded their approach. But there were surprises along the way. Here’s how those four core beliefs fared over the year: 1. The AGA’s research confirmed that golf is in big trouble. Executives for the game’s big revenue and marketing vehicle -- TV -- described golf as a loser because it has no traction among young audiences, with one saying, “Golf is becoming a niche sport similar to equestrian events, gymnastics, and track and field.” The BCG’s study for the PGA of America forecasted no growth in the game until at least 2016. And lack of play not only is putting many courses at risk of insolvency, but has sparked environmental and citizen groups to question the need to devote so much land, water and fertilizer, and, in some cases, municipal funds, to golf courses. With entry-level programs failing to recruit youth, the AGA sees no upturn without recapturing the recreational golfer. 2. It was on the “wow” equipment factor that the AGA encountered its biggest surprises. It believed that equipment companies had already developed highperforming equipment that was being kept in the lab because it did not conform to USGA regulations, but it did not find any evidence of such development. Existing nonconforming equipment proved to be only marginally higher performing than regulation equipment. Golf’s top equipment makers resisted committing R&D to exploring the physical boundaries of performance. They have concluded either that performance cannot be significantly improved or that the risk of alienating the USGA and 5 million classic golfers is not worth the potential appeal to 20 million recreational golfers. 3. The snowboarding metaphor warrants more review. “Unlike a mountain, the golf course requires everyone to play in sequence, on the same holes,” Zider said. “Speed golfers, excess noise and fun, and nontraditional clothes may irritate the classic golfers. On the mountain, snowboarders found their own space and their speed didn’t affect skiers.” Course operators understandably do not want to alienate their Classic Golf base and would need a strategy for accommodating games of different speeds. As for the alternative rules advocated by Project Flogton, they reach beyond the everyday