Golf's Big Problem
By Kickntrue on 5/18/10
Yesterday the Wall Street Journal had a great article by Matthew Futterman on the biggest problem facing golf; the lack of participation by kids. If you're limited on time- scroll to the bottom and click through to the article. It's a must read!
According to the National Golf Foundation's most recent participation report, the number of golfers age 6-17 dropped 24% to 2.9 million from 3.8 million between 2005 and 2008.

Here's a reason: Want to make an eight-year-old cry? Tee up a ball for him on a 450-yard hole with a green surrounded by bunkers and tell him to hole out before the group waiting to tee off starts complaining to the course superintendent. All the testosterone-induced courses constructed over the past decade just make it worse.

...

Golf has to accept that today's parents don't have the patience to traverse the local muni with their kids for six hours and get yelled at for slow play, said Joshua Jacobs, chief executive of Total Golf Adventures, which runs after-school programs in 2,200 schools.

"The future of golf not only for kids but for families has got to be short-course facilities, like the nine-hole executive course that wraps around the range, or the pitch-and- putt next to the larger course," he said. "People aren't spending money on the lessons or on private courses with $75 green fees. You have to make golf affordable and accessible and I'm not sure the game is equipped for that yet."
I pretty much agree with the whole article, especially now that I have a kid (though he's a couple years away from his first golf course). There is a really interesting comparison sport, too- tennis. Basically tennis saw the same thing with their sport but made a couple very small decisions that has made it a growing sport with kids. Instead of saying, "kids play a sport based on the pros playing" they made decisions to make the game easier to learn at a younger age, and it's worked.

(This next part is me- not from the article.) I'm not going to lie. When I get to the course and there are complete hacks (playing slowly) in front of me- it drives me mad. But if we don't get people learning the game, and early on- it's not going to mean good things for the sport we love longterm. I don't really want to pay $100/round for the privilege, which is what's going to happen if golf play keeps deteriorating. The low cost tee time game will dissolve and courses will close. We'll only have a select few places to play- and supply and demand principles will take over.

At any rate- if you've been reading oob for very long- you know I don't often rate a link as two thumbs up- but this one is. Check it out- and comment below.

Golf's Big Problem - Wall Street Journal


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[ comments ]
GolfSmith7 says:
I took the time to read the article. I don't know what to think, because I hate slow play or parents letting their kids take a million strokes... Just a couple of weeks ago I played 36 holes while they were just on the 10 whole, ridicules. Yet I understand protecting the future of the sport.
5/18/10
 
mjaber says:
I think the first thing that needs to happen is we need to stop calling certain tee locations by their supposed gender titles. If you're teaching your 8-10 year old son to play, and tell him he's going to play from the "women's" tees, what is he going to think? A simple shift to just using the colors, or "front-middle-back" would go a long way.

Don't discount the executive courses (as suggested in the article) either. The one I play in my area is run well, and I've never had a bad experience there, either with slow play in front, or people I've been grouped with.
5/18/10
 
eventHorizon says:
I agree with mjaber... possibly that could also motivate the many high handicappers who play from the wrong tee to move up and help themselves enjoy the game.

I started playing at a very early age. My parents would take me out with them but for the first 3-4 years the farthest I was ever allowed to tee off from was the 150 yard marker. It never bothered me. As I got better my Dad allowed me to move back. Soon I was playing from the red tees and continued to move back as I hit the ball farther and had more control of my game.

That is how all beginners should progress. I don't care if the person is 40 years old. Start small and work up to it. And don't play out of the challenging situations... like a bunker or sidehill lie. Kick it out to a nice, easy to hit from area. The kid will be building sand castles before he figures out how to hit it out.
5/18/10
 
Big_W says:
I can't read that article without remembering my first times out, and the terror of seeing the ranger approach... and I started as an adult! Whether it's testosterone, beer or just self-importance, there are destructive forces that take the fun out of the game. I get impatient, too; but we're losing another local GC to condos any day now, and creating demand is the protection we need. And by the way, our par-3 muni is loaded with kids... and they're playing pretty well, thanks.
5/18/10
 
chief_broom says:
The first Tee here in Augusta, Ga. has a great little 6 hole course (4 par 3's, a par 4, and a par 5) that is in top notch shape (it gets relatively little use). My oldest son (13) is able to play a regulation course just fine (he's a 90's shooter), but my 10 year old does much better at the First Tee. Not only are par 3's much easier for beginners to play but pace of play there is not an issue (it's specifically there for kids).
5/18/10
 
tennesseeboy says:
I'm not buying it. I don't have kids so I've never experienced the problem of trying to find a place for a child to play. Having said that, every city I have lived in had plenty of options for children. One of the municipal courses where I live has a kids only course. There is a driving range near my home that has a 9 hole par 3 that always has kids on it and they offer teaching camps for kids all summer long. Yes, kids need a place to play golf. The $70/round 7000 yard country club course is not the answer.
5/18/10
 
Kickntrue says:
@tennesseeboy- out of curiosity- how packed is the kids only course when you play? i have a course near me with a kids only course- but i'm not sure i've ever seen a kid on it.
5/18/10
 
knh555 says:
I take my eight year-old to a 1500 yard nine hole par 3 course and a 2000 yard (red tees) par 33 executive course with four par 3s, four par 4s, and a par 5. He's only a bit slow and we wave people through when necessary. Keep it fun and find the right course.
5/18/10
 
tennesseeboy says:
@Kickntrue - I've never really checked to see if anyone was playing it. I've never noticed many kids at the course. I just checked the web site and it's a 3 hole course and it's free for kids. While on the municipal golf web site, I noticed that every municipal course has "junior club" times set aside for kids.
5/18/10
 
mjaber says:
Just to further my point, I started playing golf at the ripe old age of 30. My first 2 rounds were at an executive par 3 in Middleton, MA. I found that I really did enjoy the game, and wanted to try something more. This is where I made my mistake. I followed my brother-in-law and his dad to a tight, wooded par 72 in Westminster, MA. I shot a 154, and came very close to leaving my clubs next to a trash barrel on the course.

After that round, I spent some time at the range, trying to decide if I wanted to keep playing. I found another course in Hudson, NH that offered me my best bet. The course is described as being designed to penalize you for on offline shot, but not more than 1 stroke. I have played many rounds there, and I still believe that it was the best "next step" I could have taken.
5/18/10
 
mmontisano says:
in Dallas, we just lost our last par 3 course for campus housing last year, which is extremely lame since now my child is starting to get into the game and i want to try and keep him interested in the sport. we have a few executive courses here, but they were definitely NOT set up for kids to enjoy. i even have a hard time playing them they're that difficult. so as for right now, we've been relegated to chipping in the backyard.
5/18/10
 
new2golf says:
Here on the southeast side of Houston, we have a fantastic, family-friendly par-three course that is lighted and stays open until 10:00pm. I have been taking my kids (aged 7 and 7 now) for the past couple years. And the price is right too, just $5.13 for kids. The course has three tee boxes and holes go from 80 to 235 yards. I'm fortunate to live near this course.
5/18/10
 
Banker85 says:
there is a couple par 3 courses around by me which are usually not crowded at all. I think kids should just practice on the range or at the smaller courses. The longer courses no way unless your kid is breaking 100 regularly. I have two babies and cant wait to hopefully start their love for the game.
5/18/10
 
brtnsbs says:
Executive courses are the place to teach anyone or any age to play. In my opinion.
5/18/10
 
Shankapotamus says:
Somebody already came up with a solution for this. It's called the First Tee and anyone that has ever watched a golf tournament should have heard of it. I volunteer with the KC chapter and we provide all the things listed. A par 3 course and a 4 hole junior course, we have equipment for players of all sizes, and the kids get to play for free or at substantially discounted rates. I understand not all cities have the program but no excuse for parents in the ones that do. You can even drop off your kids and go play or hit balls while they learn with First Tee coaches and volunteers.
5/18/10
 
Clint24 says:
We hold mutliple junior golf camps and have a lot of junior lessons, and it seems to me that more and more have signed up. We even have an LPGA/USGA Girls Golf on Mondays (even more reason for me to hate Monday!) and the Metropolitan Youth Golf Foundation (kind of like a YMCA for golf; trying to get underprivlaged kids the chance to play golf), and both are really good. I under stand where this article is coming from, but like the two comments above me, a great par 3 or executive course would help a lot in this. We have a great executive course (2 par 4's) and its designed in which every club in your bag will be used at any point in the round.
5/18/10
 
BigDoctorJ says:
I think golf is way too overpriced. Less people are playing because they can't afford it and then that trickles down to their children. If a golf course were priced more like a bowling alley it would make more people want to play. If they had more options for things like league play, monthly cards that are actually affordable and worth getting, or even rounds that were $5 to play. All we hear is how bad the economy is and yet people still complain WHY we aren't spending our money! I know my pay checks make it hard for me to play more than once a week. And that's if I'm lucky. Just something else to consider.
5/19/10
 
lcgolfer64 says:
@BigDocJ
I think you're right, for me personally I opted to join a small, local course this year because they had an extremely good deal over the winter on memberships.

It was simple economics for me. While I didn't keep track of my golf-spend last year, but I knew that I would get a lot more from my 'dollar' out of the membership versus pay per play.
5/19/10
 
ElGalloGigante says:
I'm not too worried about the lack of child participation. Although I think the number is really showing the drop off of teen participation (First Tee is making it better than it would be), I'm sure many people will turn to the game a little later in life. I did, and I'm still relatively "young."
5/19/10
 
c5agalb says:
I have not read one word about kids picking up the game at a local driving range. I see alot of teens at driving ranges paying $8.00 for a large bucket of balls with friends and just wailing away with a 20+ year old driver they borrowed from the place. The teens are having a blast and nobody is bothered by rules, slow play, or if they have a collared shirt on. They laugh at one another when they shank a ball, put another ball on the rubber tee and have another go. Golf wont suffer if the kids dont pick it up, Golf is most suited for people that can devote the time and energy to it to develop a consistent game.
5/19/10
 
brian575 says:
I think one reason that more kids do not pick up the game is that you have to find other kids to play with. Most courses will not let you make a tee time without having at least two players. What this really means is that if you are a single you are always going to pay the highest rate for the course and if they offer junior rates you will not know if you will be able to get on or not until you arrive. So if you have to ask a parent for a ride to the course you may be heading right out of there without playing and I am sure that will upset the child and the parent for wasting their time. I am very aware of this. I am 29 and only have two friends that play more than 2 rounds a year. So I mostly play at the local muni's because they will allow a single a tee time.
5/19/10
 
brian575 says:
Also I have never been to a nice course and not felt like I was being talked down too. I only play nice courses when I can get a discount tee time. So when I show up I always give the pro shop my discount print out and they always seem to give me S%&*. I think that is another reason that more kids do not pick up the game, there are a disproportional amount of jacka##@S in pro shops. Golf is no longer a sport for the elite, stop treating the general public like they should be lucky you are even allowing then to step foot on your course. When I was young my father tried to get me to pick up the game and I started too (loved going to the range) then I went on my first course, and the people were terrible. It took me over 10 years to play again.
5/19/10
 
Clint24 says:
@BigDocJ, to tell you the truth, the struggeling economy has actually helped the golf business. We are a small, local, driving range, executive course, and teaching facility, and we've been open for almost 10 years, and we just recently had our best February and March to date. The economy is hurting, and may be hurting some courses (private), but it hasn't hurt us as much as some may think.
5/19/10
 
Da chrisman says:
@Clint24: Great to hear!!! Gotta keep the small businesses in America going, you're the economic backbone.
5/26/10
 
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