“The leading golf organizations representing the game in the U.S. completely whiffed on a three-foot putt to promote themselves” and capitalize on the exposure provided by President Obama, who has played 270 rounds on 18 courses in six states during his time in office, a Democratic strategist wrote. But those commenting on the blog posting noted the danger of tying marketing efforts to “the most polarizing figure ever to occupy the White House.”
Writing for the “Congress Blog” in The Hill, which covers national politics, Joe Maloney, identified as “an avid golfer and a Democratic strategist with the Locust Street Group, a national bipartisan public affairs firm in Washington, D.C., charged that golf industry missed a golden opportunity by not fully capitalizing on the exposure that President Barack Obama brought to the game during his eight years in office.
“One would think the President’s devotion to the links, coupled with Mrs. Obama’s dedication to fitness and active lifestyles, would produce an ideal public forum for an industry like golf to tell its story of the game’s many benefits – mental, physical and even its positive impact in America’s communities,” Maloney wrote. “[But] only in Washington can such potential get turned upside down.
“Despite a steep reduction in the number of golfers and abysmal interest among millenials, the leading golf organizations representing the game in the U.S. completely whiffed on a three-foot putt to promote themselves over the past eight years,” Maloney charged.
“The current problems confronting participation in golf are not going away,” Maloney continued. “According to recent data from the National Golf Foundation, fewer individuals tried the game in 2015 than in the previous year, with a total of 24.1 million. When you consider over 30 million people participated in 2005, the decline is alarming.
“In light of these crosscurrents, a golf-obsessed weekend warrior of a President should have been a standard-bearer worth embracing – a gift from the golf gods – and a platform to tell the story of who plays golf in the 21st century amidst all the demands on our time,” Maloney wrote. “Hey, if the President can sneak away and play nine holes, you can too!
“Of course, President Obama’s golf regimen alone would not have negated declining participation numbers, and to its credit, many of golf’s leaders are embracing new methods to spur participation,” Maloney conceded. “But it does highlight a major problem inside a struggling industry. If the golf industry won’t get your back, who will?
“The truth is, today’s politically combative reality required that golf’s leadership defend their game from the brutal characterization of the sport as an inaccessible activity only for those who have time and money.” Maloney noted. “And what became the symbol for partisans and golf haters alike? President Obama – and his many rounds of golf.
“As President, Obama has logged 270 rounds of golf on 18 courses across six states,” Maloney noted. “Each round provided an opportunity for partisan hacks to smear the game along with the golf-loving President, who, in critics’ minds, should focus on the duties of the office and not play any games, let alone golf.
“Reporters loved to write these stories. White House press staff reiterated again and again that the President, like all previous presidents, deserved an appropriate amount of time to clear his mind. For President Obama, that meant long walks on the fairways and greens,” Maloney wrote.
“Still, inexplicably, golf’s governing bodies never had his back,” he said. “Worse, it seemed to have taken them by surprise.
“The eighth and last Easter Egg Roll event hosted [at the White House] by the First Family had a terrific roster of talent, including famous singers, actors and athletes, including Shaquille O’Neal – a legend from President Obama’s other favorite game,” Maloney noted. “But not a single golfer or golf representative attended this perennial event devoted to fitness and active lifestyles. And that’s on golf – not President Obama.
“As the Obama Administration approaches its final hole, one thing is clear: the golf industry is losing its most fervent, non-professional ambassador – and they shanked what could be their last shot for some time,” Maloney concluded. “Unless, of course, golf course resort developer Donald Trump wins the election in November. But that scenario presents a whole different public affairs challenge for the game of golf.”
Maloney’s blog posting generated several comments disputing his points, including this from Dave Will:
“You obviously know little about marketing. Why would anyone tie themselves to the most polarizing figure ever to occupy the White House? Either you love him 100% or hate him 100%. if you tie anything to him you automatically lose 50% of your intended audience.
“That is just from a political view,” the comment continued. “Go to your local public links and sit in the 19th hole. Among that chatter you will likely hear 60/40 chatter that he is a moron of the highest degree. That’s my experience. Heaven forbid you go to a private golf club, where the mere mention of the president is met with scorn and derision. The golf industry did not miss an opportunity, They obviously chose to not get associated with a guy that would get them loved/hated. ”