Eddie Bullock is renowned within the golf industry and his consultancy advice is widely sought after. Here he questions why UK golf clubs are not engaging with golf’s cool generation.
BY EDDIE BULLOCK
“This is my generation
I’m not trying to cause a big sensation
I’m just talking about my generation”
Well these well-known lyrics captured the mood of the times, they were to contribute and influence the future of many throughout the social revolution of the 1960s, and believe it or not, provided inspiration for many in sport and business.
One young man that adopted that 60s flamboyant attitude was to set the scene for future golfers, which arguably broke down the invisible social barriers within the golf establishments.
Yes, Tony Jacklin, not only did he win The Open after many years of British starvation, he also went and lifted the US Open. He became the firm favourite, gaining traction with the fashionable middle class generation. Golf was cool! In the 70s the perception of golf seemed to change overnight; a new tribe was introduced to the game that was to connect with one of their own.
Now the times have certainly changed, as the current youth aren’t trying to take over the establishment; they’re growing up without one. As many of us procrastinate about the right way forward in which to generate more golf participation, maybe we should focus more seriously and consider looking at the game from the eyes of those we should be encouraging?
Golf requires a total re- branding exercise to appeal and make an impact with the current and future youth market. Golf businesses generally need to be far smarter, focusing and engaging proactively with new markets while dismantling the perceived barriers of the “golf club” world.
For example, students that are studying to emerge into the business environment are prime candidates to attract into the golf recreational arena. During a recent report, produced by undergraduates from Bournemouth University entitled “An insight into factors that influence golf club membership and participation in the UK” some of the main key findings were:
Student Golfers – 90% acknowledged golf as an important networking tool and 74% of the students playing golf see it as a sustainable leisure activity after graduation. Non-Student Golfers – 74% perceived golf as an old-fashioned traditional game; 6 in 10 view golf as an inaccessible sport, and format change to speed up golf would attract 65% to potentially take up the game.
The report also highlighted that golf clubs need to move away from traditional marketing strategies by increasing their online presence and the support for a quicker game would align with other sports such as Twenty20 cricket, increasing the enjoyment to beginners.
Possibly the golf industry would benefit by considering a seed bed to entice and persuade those aspiring young adults towards golf, focusing on selling the game and engaging directly with this potential market in demonstrating the benefits and opportunities the game delivers, whether it be portrayed through a family lifestyle, healthy environment, business networking or the general camaraderie of the golfing experience.
Golf and club life is generally failing to connect positively with a potentially influential market for the future. Many club membership recruitment systems are antiquated in terms of motivating this youth audience to be a part of the “golf” fraternity. Moreover the values of the game need not be sacrificed or diluted; the skill is in blending the needs of the old traditions into the new!
There are many clubs and golf businesses in the UK which are recognising the importance of attracting this audience and are changing their youth membership policy, focusing on a market that has been neglected and whereby they are clearly building confidence and an optimistic and sustainable future.
Changes are inevitable, the key is to influence the changes so everyone in the industry is delivering a clear and concise message to the potential young adult consumer. We need to listen to what is required while being more flexible and to meet them where they are, rather than where we want them to be. This powerful youth market has a very powerful leverage as they have a choice!
Recreational golf is a social game with competitive influence- not vice versa. More fun in a time consuming game!
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