According to news articles, golf course owners and even sports equipment manufacturers, a lack of golf popularity is caused by a drop in participation by Millennials. These eighteen to thirty-year old's seem to value iPhones and computer tech more than a good walk in the park.
Can kids from the Gen-Y generation find happiness playing the sport that lasts a lifetime while retaining some of its traditional elements?
Robin Williams must have had millennials on his mind when he created his comedic skit on golf, with the excerpt "go whacking away with a tire iron...and each time you miss you feel like you’ll have a stroke. That’s what we’ll call it, a stroke, cause each time you miss you feel like you’re gonna fracking die."
Millennials seem to want a more fun and reactive game and golf is a game that you play within yourself. Obviously Rory McIlroy is helping the game by bringing a fresh, young face to a new generation but is that enough?
Course rounds are showing the decline - according to TaylorMade President Mark King, rounds for the new generation are down thirty-five percent in the last ten years. With that, golf courses are falling upon hard times with closings totaling one every forty-eight hours! Should people blame Millennials for this affliction or should the golf course discussion be about the financial bubble which burst ten years earlier?
Nope, Gen Y'ers don't want that much of a challenge, the mindful struggle to get a small white ball into a tiny hole; they want fun and ease...no challenges that cause distress.
Enough talk about what they don't want...what do Millennials feel is necessary to enjoy golf? This enigma is what organizations are struggling to figure out; is it the end of having to "belong" to a golf club, is it too expensive, do they want more fun...or a quicker round?
Bryant Gumbel's commentary on HBO Real Sports discussed ways in which Gen-Y'ers are currently enjoying golf courses, driving ranges and, basically, making the sport their own.
Here are a few new ideas which are trending:
- 15 inch golf holes (as King said, "you can't miss with that" but, where is the challenge?)
- Foot golf - A mix of soccer and golf where folks kick the ball around into a larger hole.
- Top Golf - a blend of driving range with microchips in golf balls, night club entertainment and a bit of friendly digital competition.
- Easier scoring for golf beginners.
- Free beer on Saturday's?
Golf for Beginners has also come up with a few ideas to enhance the game for multi-generational sports fans - how about softball golf or hockey golf? They'll be tearing up the course with these blended sports but, if it brings players into the game, isn't it worth it?
Golf may be going through growing pains but, in my opinion, is not doomed to aged traditionalists who want to keep folks out, not bring them into the game.
I think the game of golf is safe because millennials will eventually get older and want to enjoy a more conventional sport - so many women enter the game as they mature and enjoy the cameraderie and challenge. The current concern with Generation Y is to get them interested early so that they are ready for the challenge when they have kids.
Are you a Millennial? Do You Play Golf? Voice your opinion on Twitter @Golf4Beginners and on our Golf for Beginners blog.