More Fun & Games: Golf’s Mantra For 2016 & Beyond

Each day I read article after article trying to learn as much as I can about my craft, and lately I have been coming to a similar conclusion. I feel golf instructors, myself included, are taking golf and golf instruction a bit too seriously. The newsletters, articles, and marketing materials I read are usually about a new piece of technology, a new training program, or an award somebody won. This is all well and good, but if you’ve been watching the next generation (my generation) as they examine whether golf is going to become one of their regular activities you’ll find that we may want to inject a more fun and social atmosphere into playing and learning the game.

Each spring and fall I attend a Wisconsin PGA Meeting to go over section news, events, and examine the state of the game. The last meeting I was happy to hear the word “fun” mentioned more times than the past several meetings combined. As an instructor I sometimes find myself overly focused on “how” to make golfers better and not enough on the emotional highs enjoyed by golfers working on their games.

On the ride home from the meeting I was listening to a podcast that featured Troon Golf’s Dana Garmany. As the Chairman and CEO of the world’s largest golf management company he is privy to a worldwide view of what’s happening in the industry. He makes a pretty good case that Millenials are already making decent money, but are spending it on things like road bikes and family activities that only take an hour or two to complete. His point is that its not that the next generation can’t afford the game, they’re just choosing to spend their money elsewhere. He also discusses how eliminating intimidation and embarrassment are key to golf’s future success.

Another interesting point made by Garmany was that today’s 35-year-old golfer talks more about who he played with than where he played. It is simply more of a social occasion for many younger golfers.

At many golf courses today you’ll see group lessons to help make the lesson less intimidating. You’ll also see leagues and tournaments designed to not be super competitive, as many golfers take great joy in simply striking a few more solid shots each round. The articles I read focus on tools designed to help the 5-10% of lesson takers who are competition focused, but we must not lose sight of the bigger picture.

Garmany does not see the situation as dire, but golf has to make generational adjustments like every business must. He believes that 9 hole rounds, jeans, and music piped onto the practice range will rule in the near future, but is there really anything wrong with these changes?

Some Professionals get a little worked up about the change “ruining” the game they grew up with. However, remember, the game we all grew up with was different than the game our parents learned. If golf were only about traditions, we’d still be playing hickory shafts while wearing a tweed coat or long dress. The game will continue to evolve and hopefully all PGA Members will be part of energizing the next generation to appreciate and enjoy all the ups and downs of playing one of the greatest games ever created. Let’s all be open and find more ways to make golf fun and recognize that even though the appearance may change, the essence remains the same.

-Matthew Lindberg, PGA