Saturday, February 11, 2012

worth reading Is There a Path to Growth?

Jack Nicklaus may not play much golf anymore, but he still serves as an effective spokesman for the sport. Lately he’s been promoting Golf 2.0, the PGA of America’s latest plan to put golf on a path for growth. In his mind, the program “promotes out-of-the box thinking and details how we need to change in order to grow.”

To be sure, not everyone shares Nicklaus’ enthusiasm for Golf 2.0. Perhaps the harshest appraisal of the program has come from Wayne Mills, who calls it “just another expensive, misguided, tone-deaf initiative destined to fail just like all the others that came before it.”

Mills has written a blistering appraisal of Golf 2.0 for EXEGOLF, which describes itself as a magazine that “provides fast and comprehensive golf news from all around the world around the clock.” Here’s a little of his analysis:

Golf 2.0 is supposed to be an industry-wide effort to increase the number of players and the revenue generated by the golf industry.

Specifically, the Golf 2.0 vision is to go from 26.1 million golfers and $33 billion in consumer spending in 2011 to 32 million golfers and $35 billion in consumer spending by 2016. The 2020 vision is 40-plus million golfers and $40 billion in consumer spending.

The PGA intends to accomplish this by “re-training” their golf pros to package the game to be less time consuming and more affordable and to, once again, target families, women, and minorities. They will spend millions of dollars on Golf 2.0.

Newspaperman and philosopher H. L. Mencken once said, “Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.” Apparently that extends to the 27,000 members of the PGA.

Golf 2.0 thinks they will increase the number of golfers from the allegedly 26 million today to 40 million in the next eight years? Seriously? Boys and girls, it is time to step away from the crack pipe, sober up, and consider a few realities.

In the past decade, the number of rounds played in the United States fell from 518 million to 475 million. They have declined each of the last five years. The number of golfers has declined from 30 million in 2005 to 26 million today. According to a survey done in the fourth quarter of 2011 by the National Golf Foundation, 60 percent of the respondents don’t expect their financial situation to improve in 2012 and 56 percent say they’ve adopted more “frugal” behaviors that they intend to continue even if things improve.

What in God’s name does the PGA see in this that makes them think they will get 14 million MORE golfers in the next eight years? . . .

The game of golf isn’t going to grow in the next eight years -- or for the next 20, for that matter. The boom that occurred was a one-time thing based on a confluence of circumstances.

The so-called Baby Boom generation in the United States, the largest by far, came of age golf-, income-, and leisure-wise in the 1980s and 1990s. The economy boomed and the housing industry took off, based on access to easy credit creating an enormous increase in equity and personal wealth.

Now the economy has gone bust and the easy credit has dried up and the equity has been severely diminished. The value of retirement accounts has been cut in half, and the Baby Boom generation has been replaced by the Baby Bust generation. The Boomers are retiring to fixed incomes and dying off slowly. The population numbers are not there

Golf is a great game and will survive, but the industry leaders need to stop fooling themselves and wasting valuable resources on programs doomed to failure.