A study called, “Beyond Millennials: New Generations and the Influence of Family,” helps give some insight into golfers’ preferences and interests. The goal of the study is to help “facility operators … identify approaches to adapt and develop their offerings to meet the needs of the next generation of members and customers.”
What will country club golf courses look like and offer in 2040? What about 2050?
Country club and golf club general managers should examine middle-age and younger golfers’ behaviors and habits surrounding the game as they formulate their long-term plans.
Earlier this summer, GGA Partners, The National Collegiate Club Golf Association (NCGA), and The City Tour released a study called, “Beyond Millennials: New Generations and the Influence of Family,” that helps give some insight into golfers’ preferences and interests.
The study gathered data on the golfing habits and behaviors of more than 1,500 players who are members of Generation X (born between 1965 and about 1980), Millennials (born between 1981 and 1996) and Generation Z (born between 1997 and 2012). The average age of the respondents was 30, and 66% of the respondents were under 35.
The 2022 Millennial Golf Industry Survey was conducted in November 2021 through January 2022 through a survey link distributed by NCCGA and The City Tour to their nationwide email and player network.
The goal of the study, which has occurred annually since 2017, is to help “facility operators . . . identify approaches to adapt and develop their offerings to meet the needs of the next generation of members and customers,” an overview stated.
The full study can be found here.
Here is a look at some of the findings:
• The research on how often the groups play golf was intriguing, with the study noting Millennials (32.2 rounds per year) “play significantly less golf than” Gen X (37.9) or Gen Z (37.6). Since Millennials are anywhere between the ages of 26 and 40, many are likely busy with their jobs and perhaps raising young children.
• The survey asked gofers to identify their top barrier to playing. Gen X most often cited the weather (46%), Millennials pointed to time required to play (59%) and Gen Z said cost (55%) was the biggest dealbreaker. Time required to play was among each group’s top three barriers. As a Gen Xer who lives in Northeast Ohio, I can attest to the fact that the ever-changing weather here can prevent golfers from playing as much as they would like. As my wife and I both worked and raised three sons during the past two decades, lack of time was my largest barrier to playing golf more.
• More than 60% of the respondents in each generation said they play golf most often at a public course, with Millennials being the most likely to do so (67%). Meanwhile, anywhere from 33% (Millennials) to 38% (Gen Z) of respondents said they played most often at either a private or semi-private club. A large number of Gen Zers are teenagers who are likely playing at a club under a membership that their parents have. This particular group is one that club leaders should focus on as they craft long-term strategies to accommodate the needs of current and potential members.
• When asked what amenities they would like to see at a private course, each group’s top choice was different: Gen X, dining facility (54%); Millennials, nighttime use, (63%); Gen Z, simulators (58%), but nighttime use (57%) was a close second. All three groups had simulators and nighttime use in their top three most desired amenities. Nighttime use may refer to a feature such as having lighting on the driving range and practice green. It’s also worth noting that an outdoor bar was the number 3 most desired amenity among Millennials. These findings reflect approaches to the game that I think differ from previous generations. There’s a significant interest among these groups in making golf a social activity that is centered on a more casual and fun atmosphere. While simulators add a fun dimension to the golf experience, they also serve a practical function by allowing clubs in colder climates to offer some services during the slower winter months.
• On private club membership, Gen X is willing to pay the most for an entrance fee ($6,759) and annual dues ($4,347), compared with Millennials ($6,006 & $4,088) and Gen Z ($6,066 & $3,973).
• The study also looked at what type of social and environmental factors influenced where golfers chose to play. On the social component, youth golf programming and diversity of golfers was important to all three groups, while course maintenance practices and offering electric carts were the most commonly cited environmental issues.
Based on this study, golfers who will be on the links for the next 20 to 30 years are interested in experiencing the game in some new ways and would like to play on courses that have sound environmental practices, diversity among its players, and plenty of instruction for children. The COVID-19 pandemic gave golf a much needed boost. Whether the momentum from that bump can be sustained will depend, in part, on clubs’ willingness to respond to the needs of current and prospective members. This study provides a nice overview and club leaders would be wise to heed many of its findings.