Rocking the boat is exactly what we need, if our industry is to remain healthy.
Our cover on this issue says it all. To be healthy and viable into the future, we must develop the next generation of golfers. Along those lines, a letter from one of our readers that we published in our December issue (“Where’s the Golf?”), sparked a whole thought process for me.
The next paragraph is going to anger a lot of golf professionals, but I am going to risk it. I have never met a golf pro who is not personable, polite, and thoroughly charming. They all love golf and have decided to make a career of it, and it shows. But in almost all cases, I have either met them going out of the pro shop on their way to give a private golf lesson, or more likely in the shop, where they’re taking tee times, selling me golf balls or clothing, and generally making the shop a pleasant place from where I can start my round.
And that is the problem: They’re in the pro shop, not out giving clinics, seminars, free lessons to juniors, or doing other things that can promote and enhance our population of potential golfers. Let me add that I don’t blame the pros for this.
They are doing what is expected of them within a club’s context. What I want to talk about is changing that context.
Any time you look at a club with a dynamic tennis program, it is almost always due to the fact that you have a tennis pro who functions as a “pied piper” for that game. He or she will have tournaments, mixed doubles on the weekends, children’s programs, and clinics. Because of this, the tennis program grows continually and as the tennis-playing community ages (and hopefully switches to golf, as I did) the next generation is in place, eager for tennis, and the part of the club membership that plays tennis increases from year to year.
Most private clubs were created around golf and still exist and revolve around the game. Certainly over the years, as demographics have changed, interests have moved to things like paddle tennis (although why escapes me) and other, more family-oriented activities. But the raison d’être has always been…golf!
Now, let’s ask ourselves: Do we have an aggressive, outward-bound, missionary program for golf built around new players and the younger generation? All too often, I think not. Again, this is not the fault of the golf pro. Male members want smooth-running, efficient golf on the weekends with little or no disruption. And as long as these members enjoy their experience, why rock the boat?
Because rocking the boat, I think, is exactly what we need if our industry is to remain healthy. Our advertising, our promotion, and our planning has to encompass the next generation, or we may find ourselves an endangered species.
In short, we need an army of “pied pipers” to make the greatest game in the world accessible to, and exciting for, those kids on our cover.
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