KARZMER: Here’s 3 ways courses could grow the sport

In last week’s column, I responded to Kevin Connelly’s recent column outlining the decline of golf and mentioned a three-point plan to help grow the game of golf locally.

Before I get into my plan, I want to make sure I’m framing this correctly. I view this plan as more of a “macro” solution rather than a “micro” solution. I, like most of the people reading this column, was not an econ major.

In my mind at least, I see a “micro” question as (these figures are obviously way off and only for example purposes): assuming there are 1,000 golf rounds played across all Valley courses, how can our one course capture the highest amount of those 1,000 rounds?

Whereas a macro question is: assuming there are 1,000 rounds played across all Valley courses, what can the industry do to increase the number of rounds to 2,000?

My three-point plan: get them playing, get them better and keep them here.

Get Them Playing

Sometimes I’m self-critical because I feel like I lack creativity and always go to the simplest answer. But in this case, I think this actually makes sense.

When looking at the question how to increase rounds from 1,000 to 2,000, there are only two answers — get current golfers to play more or get more people to golf.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t know a ton of “golfers” who don’t already play as often as possible. I’m sure there are some ways to get people to play more, but if we want to really grow rounds, I think the solution has to include bringing more people into the game.

To this end, I’m going to point directly to the golf courses themselves. I understand owning and operating a course can be a very difficult and challenging endeavor. And the idea of not maximizing rounds and revenues doesn’t seem quite right.

But I tried to put myself in the shoes of a “new” golfer. I tried to imagine not knowing how to play or the rules or the etiquette. I wouldn’t know how to make a tee time or how to “keep my ticket” for the starter or why the guys behind me are staring at me the whole round.

I tried to imagine all these things, and then I asked myself: when would I actually go golfing? And the answer was: I probably wouldn’t. I don’t know what the exact answer here is, but I think the courses need to come together and come up with a plan to welcome beginners.

One “easier” answer would be for local courses take turns hosting “newcomer times” each week. For example, every Monday from 9 a.m. to noon, a different course will offer newcomer tee times. There could be a little welcome packet or a 10-minute “how to” by the local pro. The point is,all newcomers will feel welcome to come out and experience the game with other new golfers. The more “new golfers” feel welcomed, the more likely they’ll be to come out and play.

Another, more expensive option would be for course owners to come together and pool resources (financial, equipment, etc.) to actually build new par three golf courses. I’m picturing simple little nine hole courses made up of 40-70 yard holes. Mat tee boxes. Slow greens. Two grass cuts (greens and then everything else).

It’s not about building a phenomenal golf course. And as hard as it would be to swallow, it’s not necessarily about turning a profit. The point here is to simply provide access to people wanting to get into the game.

Get Them Better

I don’t know about anyone else, but I don’t find much enjoyment in hitting really bad golf shots. So, if the area were to do a good job at bringing new people into the game, I think the next step to true growth lays directly on the shoulders of our local PGA Professionals.

If we really want to create true golfers, we have to help newcomers get better. I know my friends in the profession won’t like the idea of “free” clinics, but I think something along those lines is a necessary step two in the process of increasing our local customer base.

Keep Them Here

If steps one and two were to start working and we actually had an increase in the number of new golfers, I think the third step to real growth would fall on our local leagues and courses.

From a league perspective, I think it would be important to have dedicated newcomer leagues and that established leagues are “welcoming” to new players.

And from a course standpoint (country clubs really), I think it would be important for them to host events welcoming “new” golfers. Similar to a “pro-am” type format, it would really fall upon the clubs and their members to bring new people in.

If clubs were able to help create new relationships (business and personal) between current members and these “new” golfers, the end goal of creating additional long term members could be accomplished.

So there you have it, my (not so) very condensed plan to help grow the game of golf locally.

Yes, it would take some financial concessions by our course owners and area professionals. But I believe if that long term goal is kept in mind (increasing the number of rounds from 1,000 to 2,000), some of the ideas from above could help.

Jonah Karzmer is a former golf professional who writes a golf column for The Vindicator. In his spare time he sells commercial insurance for The Karzmer Insurance Agency and loves getting feedback on his weekly columns via email at jonahkarzmer@gmail.com.

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