May 23, 2014

Golf's Messaging is Not Up to Par

Golf has a major problem. People are giving up the game in droves and are not being replaced by new players. In 2005, 30 million golfers played 550 million rounds. Last year, those numbers decreased to 25 million and 465 million respectively.

The decline in participation is the result of a number of factors, from the personal problems of Tiger Woods—who inspired a generation of golfers when he burst on the scene nearly 20 years ago—to a shaky economy.

Over the past few years, the industry has come up with a number of schemes to make the game more attractive. The “Play it Forward” initiative encouraged amateurs to play from shorter tees to speed up the game and make it easier for novices. Ideas like expanding the hole, offering players the option to play 12 holes instead of 18 and “foot golf,” where players use a soccer ball, have also been proposed.

But rather than changing the core principles of a game that has been around about 700 years, golf organizations, private clubs and public courses might try rebooting their brand messaging with help from a content strategy vendor.

For instance, one of the problems experts say is stifling the growth of the game is that people feel it takes too long to pick up. While it certainly does take a significant time investment, that commitment is balanced out by the fact that golf is a game you can play almost your entire life. Learning to play the game is also a lesson in perseverance, another point golf-related companies should be emphasizing more.

Golf has also traditionally been a sport played primarily by men. But in recent years the gap widened significantly, with female participation down 23 percent, according to the National Golf Foundation. Recognizing that the industry is struggling to attract women, it has started to do target them more in advertisements. But one strategy that hasn’t been tried nearly enough is marketing golf as a game men and women can play together, on a date, as a couple or in any other scenario.

The fact is that golf has to change something and it has to do it quickly. As the number of people enjoying the game decreases, so will the number teaching it to their children, meaning the game will continue to shrink. Every industry or business has an engaging story to tell—it’s time for golf to find its own messaging hole-in-one.

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