“There are between 20 and 21 million people who play golf who say they are committed to the game, that they plan on playing this game years from now,” Mona said. “The fact is that we have a franchise – if you want to use that term — that is quite stable.”
According to National Golf Foundation estimates there are about 25 million people that play at least one round of golf a year. Although calling anyone that only plays one round a year a real golfer is troubling, it is the number being used.
He states that the key segments to all of golf are youth and the millennials. The NGF deems millennials as being between 18 and 34 years old. The NGF had a comprehensive study done of millennials and found that six million are currently playing. Another separate study shows that 12 million millennials have expressed interest in taking up the game at some point.
Millennial aren’t playing
“This kind of sky-is-falling talk that millennials aren’t playing the game, the facts belie that,” Mona said. “It would be disingenuous of me to say, though, that there aren’t issues to address.”
The NGF study shows that millennials value the principles as much as anyone, but are turned off by perceptions of stuffy and old fashion or lack of acceptance. Mona said the areas that need to be addressed are dress codes, use of technology on the course and the use of music while on the course.
“There are courses that already are reshaping their whole experience to be extremely millennial-friendly,” Mona said. “There are others who haven’t so much. But if you talk to any operator who is paying attention to the business, most of them will tell you they are making adjustments to appeal to the millennial audience.
“They’re the next group coming along, and they’re going to be the core.”
He addressed the complaint about golf being expensive by saying that the average cost for a round in America is $37, with numerous options well below that.
“Part of that is communication,” Mona said. “To me, playing golf is like eating. You can go to the Capital Grille or Ruth’s Chris and have a completely different dining experience than at Subway or McDonald’s. But you’re still eating, and you don’t hear eating described as an elitist activity.”
Get ready to move over and let the millennials become the core of the game, but we’ve got probably 15 or 20 years before it happens.