Connect with us

Opinion & Analysis

The Great Opportunity in the Golf Industry

Published

on

Amateur golf, not the professional golf on TV, has been the subject of many articles in recent years, and there have been few, if any positives when the subject is participation. Course closings, dramatic drops in play, retail chains selling golf equipment going out of business… and the list goes on. 

There is a melody in the wind, distant, but if you listen closely it’s growing. Reduced to numbers, it’s this: By The Year 2020, The Number of Americans Over 65 Will Increase by 55 percent.

Think of it this way. You own an Italian restaurant and you hear that Italy is closing and moving down the block. I don’t think the entire country will be dropping in, but you can bet I’m expanding the menu and sprucing the place up.

I realize that reaching 65 doesn’t mean automatically retiring and taking up golf and that some in this category already play, but if you just look at hard numbers the message is irrefutable. There are a whole bunch of folks that, starting in 2020, could have a positive impact on a game that has suffered participation losses. One could even conclude that now is a good time to formulate plans and programs to capture a chunk of this significant market.

What kinds of plans, you might ask. Well, to start, the industry has several organizations with well paid, skilled people who are more than capable of tackling such potential. Since I brought it up, I’ll throw out some thoughts, but I’m simply another amateur voice.

To start my big picture objective, I would engage the Golf Channel and get them actively on board. Why so much emphasis? Go back to the participation statistic. If we can’t get them on the bandwagon (they’re a for-profit business, and their business is golf) it’s time to head to the 19th hole and a cold one.

What is on the bandwagon? Again, I’ll repeat, they’re the golf marketing experts. I prefer to be regaled by the quality and depth of their insight. Should they ask me, if it were “my restaurant,” I’d say we need a definitive culture on speed of play. Bringing in new players to “enjoy” slow play invokes the response “too slow, no fun” as they leave the premises.

Slow Play

I’m a very strong advocate of 3.5-3.75 hour rounds. I play with other old people and we have no problem with those times. We could run around and crowd the folks in front, but that’s just as objectionable as a 4.5-hour round.

“No Fun”

If we approach this (or any) group and say that golf is fun, we are being disingenuous. Golf is fun only if you are clear that the definition is the joy of overcoming a very difficult challenge. No one will defeat the game; the fun comes with small victories. Now Top Golf is fun, but it isn’t golf unless swinging one-handed while holding a cell phone in the other is the long lost magic move we’ve all missed. I still take the grandkids, though. It has beer and excellent viewing. 

Senior Lessons

I watch young, supple instructors showing swings that if I attempted I’d need a lifetime pass to the Chiropractic Institute. The market here is a 65-year-old group. They aren’t flexible, and many have scars and lesions from surgeries. I see the Golf Channel running a series on lessons specifically oriented to the physicality of the majority. My restaurant customers don’t like really spicy food, and I don’t try and teach them how to enjoy it.

Course Setups

Courses are set up with range flags tuned into tee markers. If you comfortably hit the ball to the green flag, play the green tees. Why? Go back to the paragraph on “too slow, no fun.” In this instance, the green tees allow the occasional chance to hit shots into a green that provides an “occasional victory.”

This issue isn’t about perfect ideas that guarantee success. It’s understanding that the amateur game is facing an opportunity that’s unique and significant to long-term stability.

Now, being honest, this story doesn’t really apply to GolfWRX readers. They already play, in fact; some may play on courses that have plenty of customers, thank you very much. It really applies to those in industry leadership positions and it would be nice to see some positive programs emerge. It would also be nice to pick up 20 yards. Call me negative, but I think the odds are about the same. 

It’s a positive opportunity; gotta keep pushing!

Your Reaction?
  • 327
  • LEGIT28
  • WOW1
  • LOL2
  • IDHT1
  • FLOP5
  • OB1
  • SHANK27

Barney Adams is the founder of Adams Golf and the inventor of the iconic "Tight Lies" fairway wood. He served as Chairman of the Board for Adams until 2012, when the company was purchased by TaylorMade-Adidas. Adams is one of golf's most distinguished entrepreneurs, receiving honors such as Manufacturing Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young in 1999 and the 2010 Ernie Sabayrac Award for lifetime contribution to the golf industry by the PGA of America. His journey in the golf industry started as as a club fitter, however, and has the epoxy filled shirts as a testimony to his days as an assembler. Have an equipment question? Adams holds seven patents on club design and has conducted research on every club in the bag. He welcomes your equipment questions through email at barneyadams9@gmail.com Adams is now retired from the golf equipment industry, but his passion for the game endures through his writing. He is the author of "The WOW Factor," a book published in 2008 that offers an insider's view of the golf industry and business advice to entrepreneurs, and he continues to contribute articles to outlets like GolfWRX that offer his solutions to grow the game of golf.

34 Comments

34 Comments

  1. Scudder Graybeal

    Sep 1, 2017 at 10:31 am

    Barney-Come visit us in The Villages. Twelve regulation courses (10 are 27 hole layouts) and 36 executive courses which can be harder than the regulation courses. The largest golf complex in the world and more courses to be built. 55+ mostly retirement community with some real world beaters from all over. Always looking for ways to increase golf participation and speed up play. We like “out of the box” thinking. Would love to play with you again and swap war stories.

  2. Charlie

    May 21, 2017 at 2:35 pm

    “Senior Lessons
    I watch young, supple instructors showing swings that if I attempted I’d need a lifetime pass to the Chiropractic Institute. The market here is a 65-year-old group. They aren’t flexible, ”

    Boy, I’m 70+ and as a Starter for my local GC I watch hundreds of seniors play hole #1 and hole #18. Seniors are not flexible and they hit the ball fat or thin almost every time. Divots, if they get a divot, are on the wrong side of the ball. Good senior instruction would help us get that divot moved to the target side of the ball. Getting that swing-bottom on the target side of the ball when we have a short backswing is no easy task and we need good senior instruction to help us. I know – I’ve been working on that divot problem for 3 years and I still am VERY inconsistant.

    • setter02

      May 22, 2017 at 7:17 am

      Depending on the changes needed, a good number of Sr’s don’t want to regress in their current ability for any length of time (you have to put in the work for changes to take place) given they are on the wrong side of the expectancy equation. Also hard to tighten things up with all the moving parts added to their swings in hopes of generating more power/longer back swing.

  3. Dave R

    May 20, 2017 at 11:44 pm

    I’ll bet you are the grouch that complaines your milk is to warm

  4. Dave R

    May 20, 2017 at 11:42 pm

    Bogey golf mabey for you buddy. Ever read what you write ? Not likely eh!

  5. Dave R

    May 20, 2017 at 7:48 pm

    Mike finally someone who makes sense on this form good for you ,couldn’t agree more .

  6. DaveT

    May 19, 2017 at 5:55 pm

    Hooray, Barney! Somebody needed to say this.

  7. Kromulous

    May 19, 2017 at 9:18 am

    You need to redefine Golf in general, for older golfers. The scoring system is actually absurd, to say you get a par (most people think that means average, i know…) when you get a ball in the cup on a 400 yard par 4. Most Seniors, older ones, cant hit a Driver a 160 yards or better. He couldn’t make par if his life depended on it.

    Green tees will help, but getting older golfers to understand that you should play to the slope number of a golf course to start out is your target. If your playing a 125 slope course, and your a 1st or 2nd year Senior Golfer you should consider that PAR, not 72 on a course that you stand a better chance at getting struck by lightning than to actually shoot a 72. Hell most couldn’t do it from the 150 yard makers on any course.

    I have personally seen many guys quit because Golf is to hard, you got to make it easier at least starting out, so people have time to improve and engage the game properly. After all the par / birdie etc system was just made up for TV.

  8. JLG

    May 19, 2017 at 2:20 am

    At 35 I feel nothing but optimism for the game of golf. The fundamentals of the sport are too strong for it to do anything but grow. Such a pure feeling is the well-struck golf shot *Costner voice*. Golf also has tremendous physical benefits. GolfWRX plus teaching pros sharing information all over the internet combinated with video on your cell phone and launch monitors for $500 (and dropping) will have a profound effect over the next 5 years.

    • setter02

      May 19, 2017 at 2:55 pm

      Think about how small a percentage of ‘golfers’ are on wrx and are even 2% as informed as most on here, its basically non existent. I with with all the online golf forums worldwide (some will have overlapping members) you might total up 1% of the total golfers. As anyone who has worked within the industry can tell you, marketing works on the lemmings and they also have pretty steep delusions of their actual ability.

      I actually see things differently in that the fundamentals are too hard (it’s not an easy game, physically or mentally) and that is what hinders it. Its only a select few who crave that challenge, not even close to sustainable numbers to grow the game. It’s a niche sport, always has been, always will be.

  9. ROY

    May 18, 2017 at 5:35 pm

    Think BA is being a little too optimistic with his 55% growth in the 65+ age bucket over the next 3 years – not gonna happen

  10. setter02

    May 18, 2017 at 3:28 pm

    So what you’re saying is that you just couldn’t hold out long enough to cash in and help all these Boomers with Adams gear! I’ll be my typical self and be the naysayer, but your forecasting leaves little to be desired based on your previous position and the eventual outcome. Golf is expensive (relative to location, rural is much cheaper), takes too long (5+ hrs isn’t acceptable, never has been) and is competing with a host of other entertainment offerings to spend your money and time on that are cheaper and can take less (or longer if you so choose) time to partake in.

    Private will have to continue to get creative on pricing and payment structures (initiations will have to disappear as who at 65+ will want to join a place and being paying for 10 years for something), low to mid level public will be fine as people will gravitate towards that level if they still want to get more bang for the buck vs. quality (conditions, amenities) course.

    Another thing missed is how Boomers are now doing more with family as their kids are pressed for time and take on more of a parenting roll to help as their kids are all working, not many single income families anymore. Of the 6 ‘golfers’ on my street (3 retired, 3 under 40), 1 places once a week for 3 months, I play 8-12 times a month, the rest might play 5 rounds a season.

    But the #1 reason, it’s very hard to get good at or play to an acceptable level, people don’t want to bother with the frustration, more so if they were good golfers with a declining ability that they can’t accept. But what do I know.

    • FH

      May 19, 2017 at 1:10 am

      ….. but your handicap is you don’t know jack sh_t

      • Jebaited

        May 19, 2017 at 8:43 am

        I can see the reason as to why you have “no women, to handicap your performance” you can barely form a functional sentence, even while disregarding your disgusting overuse of elipses. Something tells me in 2020 you will be in the same bucket this article is describing, either that or you need to do some reading other than the 120 you read on your scorecard every weekend.

    • Steve S

      May 19, 2017 at 8:42 am

      “the brutal reality that most “seniors” are sedentary, decrepit, obese, weak, uncoordinated, clumsy, bitter, depressed, delusional and outright physical and mental failures”

      A generalization that bares examination. Seniors are usually defined as 55 and up. You comment may be applicable to many of those over 80 or 85 because their bodies and brains are worn out due to LIFE. Those who are 55-70 are probably in better health than any generation of that age previously. It’s also the generation Adams is talking about. If you go to rec centers around my area you’ll see that the overwhelming population during the day is gray hairs even tho they are a relatively small percentage of the total population here. A large portion of boomers did not work grueling jobs like their parents which means they aren’t physically worn out. Also, a much smaller percentage smoked than the previous (Greatest) generation.

      If your outlook is that negative about ageing then you probably should take yourself out before you hit 65 and save the rest of us the cost of taking care of you as you age.

  11. AceW7Iron

    May 18, 2017 at 1:55 pm

    “Senior”

    As in…I just had a SENIOR moment

  12. AceW7Iron

    May 18, 2017 at 1:53 pm

    I only invest in senor A flex shafts now…this is why…
    Resale will be so easy by 2020

  13. Matt

    May 18, 2017 at 1:23 pm

    Cheers Barney, great insight. In my demographic, among non-golfer mates (a mix of easy going mid-40’s gen x creatives and sportspeople), golfs garish ‘corporatizated’ appearance/marketing as well as the loud, ignorant guys you hear on the sidelines at PGA tour events, seems to sum up the game for them. I hope more retirees do start playing.

  14. Bishop

    May 18, 2017 at 1:18 pm

    I too, love the idea of using flags on the range as the tee markers (not that some of the young 30+ handicappers will heed the advice of an indication that they shouldn’t be playing from the tips). I feel like someone who is interested in actually playing from the correct tees, rather than swinging out of their shoes from the tips, then losing 2-3 balls per hole, will have much more fun, and it will definitely increase speed of play, as they’re not spending 75% of their time looking for their ball in the right rough.

  15. God Shamgod

    May 18, 2017 at 12:56 pm

    Athough I understand how the author, a man I greatly respect for founding Adams Golf, I believe he is missing the real reason why golf is in the position it is in and in fact this demographic shift is the problem.

    Golf participation grew greatly from the mid 90s to the 10s. Why did this happen? Some cite Tiger Woods but I think that is silly. Sure, some non-golfers picked up clubs for the first time after watching Tiger but the real reason for the participation bump was the baby boomer generation hitting prime golf spending age.

    The prime golf spending age is between 40 and 60 years of age. That is a time in someones life when they are likely earning the largest amount of money they will ever earn. They also have more time than they had when their children were young. They generally still have the physical health and stamina to play consistently.

    The people under 40 have tighter budgets and have more family commitments. The people over 60 begin to live on fixed incomes and many don’t have room in their budgets for golf. Of course this is contrary to the financial planning ads you see during golf tournaments, but most people didn’t plan that well for retirement (hmmm..$500 drivers?).

    The Great Recession hit the retirement accounts of many of these people now turning 65. Even if their accounts recovered, I believe it has altered their outlook on risk and spending going forward.

    I also notice that older folks tend to not spend as much on equipment. Maybe they don’t have the budget or maybe they aren’t as wowed by the latest stuff like they were when they were younger.

    The fact is that the boom the golf industry saw for 25 years until recently was due almost entirely to these soon to be 65 year olds. Now if those 65 year olds could somehow live like they are 40 again, maybe the boom would happen again. Of course, that isn’t possible.

  16. xjohnx

    May 18, 2017 at 9:34 am

    That’s the first time I’ve heard this idea of range flags that coordinate with tee markers. I think that’s absolutely brilliant. I would really like to see more people play from the appropriate tees.

  17. Huh?

    May 18, 2017 at 9:22 am

    I am curious to know why that man in the feature photo is wearing two wrist watches.

    • guessing

      May 18, 2017 at 11:16 am

      one is an actual watch the other is GPS unit.

    • talljohn777

      May 20, 2017 at 1:21 am

      One is to monitor his heart. The other is to monitor his insulin levels.

  18. Stewart Graham

    May 18, 2017 at 7:09 am

    Dear Mr Adams,
    I could not agree more ,often I have senior golfers 70/80 years old come to me after a series of lessons from a a young pro who has told them they do not have enough pivot not only in the backswing but in the follow through position as well .When will golfers and hotshot pros understand that there are two swings one for the tour pros and one for the ordinary mortals .At the moment in the current crop of tour players I can’t see many making making the senior tour.Swing the club head not your body.Stewart Graham PGA GB A A Golf de Bondues.France.

  19. Ian

    May 18, 2017 at 7:08 am

    Hi Barney. Valid points, but as a 30 year old, your solution doesn’t excite me. It seems like you want “The Old Boys” club with stuffy dress codes and select membership. Regress is the word that comes to mind.

    • Dat

      May 18, 2017 at 8:40 am

      Precisely why golf is still a rich old man’s game even though we keep thinking it has changed. It really hasn’t changed. Unless you actually enjoy playing the $15 9 hole muni down the road from the 18 hole private GC/CC.

      • George

        May 18, 2017 at 10:14 am

        Well the thing is the times are changing. I dont know almost anyone who wants to/will join a private club at any point in his life. Sure it is a rich mans sport. In about 20-30 years you will see that keeping it this way as a rich old man’s game will be a bad idea. I am also 30 and only know a very few people I can actually play with. Everyone I know thinks golf is a terrible sport. You have to realize that many people in my generation do not want to live in the burbs. Everyone is moving to the city.

    • mike

      May 18, 2017 at 9:02 am

      Im 31, i would love if there were more 65 yr olds out playing, they tend to play from 7-12 in the morning when us “younger” people are working anyway, and alot I know actually dont play weekends as they feel this is the time non-retired people can play. they pay membership fees like everyone else and allow courses to stay open and keep rates reasonable for the rest of us. TLDR more people playing lower cost and more courses stay open

      • Ian

        May 18, 2017 at 9:19 am

        Where is this utopia you speak of?

      • Jack

        May 19, 2017 at 12:05 am

        yes, exactly the point of the story. There are synergies to be had. 65 plus are retired and can play whenever they want and more often.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Opinion & Analysis

The History of Course Design is Yours to Play at Oglebay

Published

on

There is a much-talked about “New Golden Age” of golf course design underway that is driven by demand for ever-more spectacular courses at the top end of the resort golf market. Destinations such as Streamsong, Bandon Dunes, Cabot Links, Sand Valley and others provide the traveling golfer a spectacular golf experience; unfortunately, it comes at a price tag that is equally spectacular. When a week playing golf in Florida can cost as much as a week in Scotland, where do you go for a golf getaway that doesn’t require a second mortgage?

Oglebay Golf Resort in Wheeling, West Virginia, doesn’t just provide an affordable golf vacation option; with its three golf courses, it provides players the chance to experience a condensed history of American golf course design through its three courses. The resort sits on land that was once owned by a wealthy industrialist and is now a part of the city park system. Located about an hour from Pittsburgh, Oglebay draws the majority of its golfers from Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia. It’s kind of cool that when you drive to Oglebay from the Washington, D.C., you hit all of those states except Ohio, which is just a few minutes away from Wheeling. The area is especially picturesque in the autumn months when the changing colors of the leaves are at their peak.

The property has a rich history in the business and sporting history of West Virginia, but the three golf courses, Crispin, are a special prize that taken together form a primer on the history of golf design in the past 90 years. The 5,670-yard Crispin course is a one-off design by local golf enthusiast Robert Biery that was completed in 1930 and is a fascinating study of design techniques of that era. The slopes and elevation are severe and extreme by today’s standards. A clue was the raised eyebrow of the assistant pro when I said that I would walk the course. Uneven lies are the order of the day, the product of a time when there was neither the money nor equipment readily available to create gentle slopes and even surfaces; the course is true to the original contours of the West Virginia hillside.  There is little relief on the greens, which run a little slower than typical greens but make up for it in size and slope. It is by far the shortest of the three courses but the par-4 8th hole and par-5 9th holes are a thousand yards of joy and pain.

Hole No. 6 at the Klieves course

The Klieves Course is a 6,800-yard, par-71 Arnold Palmer design that was completed in 2000. The design features broad fairways, mildly undulating greens and opportunities for heroics on short par-4’s, all the prototypical characteristics of modern resort golf courses. While some architects choose to torture and torment, Palmer courses put a premium on fun and this one is no exception. The par-5, 515 yard 6th is a great example of the risk/reward available without that challenges the resort golfer without the need to humiliate. The course is very well maintained tee to green, and you’ll want to keep a fully charged battery to take photos of the vistas from the elevated tee boxes.

Hole No. 13 at the Jones course

In my humble opinion, the true gem is the Robert Trent Jones course. The 7,004-yard, par-72 Course carries a healthy 75.1 rating/141 slope from the back tees. It utilizes a gorgeous piece of land that meanders across the West Virginia hills to give a mesmerizing collection of holes that are equal parts scenery and challenge. Both nines start from elevated tee boxes hitting down into valleys that offer classic risk/reward propositions. Usually I have no problem identifying a favorite hole or two, but on this course it’s difficult. Having said that, the stretch of No. 4 (par 3, 193 yards), No. 5 (par-5, 511 yards) and No. 6 (par-4, 420 yards) are among the best I have played anywhere as a show of nature’s beauty and the at of laying out a golf hole. And the four par 3’s are not the place to pic up an easy birdie. The only one less that 190 yards from the tips is the 158-yard 15th, which is protected by a small, undulating green. All in all, it’s a perfect representation of the genius of Robert Trent Jones.

The golf is good at Oglebay and the prices are better. You can get in 18 at the Oglebay courses for as little as $32…on the weekend. And when you’re not playing golf, you can take advantage of the myriad of outdoor sports activities, tour the Oglebay mansion, hit the spa or visit the Glass Museum on the property (I promise it’s a lot more interesting than it sounds). There’s a lot of great new golf resorts out there and that’s a good thing for the golf industry, but destinations like Oglebay prove that there’s a lot of life left in the old classics as well.

Your Reaction?
  • 70
  • LEGIT7
  • WOW3
  • LOL1
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP0
  • OB0
  • SHANK2

Continue Reading

Podcasts

Two Guys Talkin’ Golf: “Are pro golfers actually underpaid?”

Published

on

Equipment expert Brian Knudson and GolfWRX editor Andrew Tursky argue whether PGA Tour players are actually underpaid or not. They also discuss Blades vs. Cavity backs, Jordan Spieth vs. Justin Thomas and John Daly’s ridiculous 142 mph clubhead speed.

Click here to listen on iTunes.

Your Reaction?
  • 3
  • LEGIT1
  • WOW0
  • LOL0
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP3
  • OB0
  • SHANK32

Continue Reading

Podcasts

Legend Rees Jones speaks on designing Danzante Bay in Mexico

Published

on

Hall-of-Fame golf course architect Rees Jones talks about his newest course design, Danzante Bay at Villa Del Palmar in Mexico. Also, Jeff Herold of TRS Luggage has an exclusive holiday discount offer for GolfWRX listeners!

Click here to listen on iTunes.

Your Reaction?
  • 2
  • LEGIT1
  • WOW0
  • LOL1
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP0
  • OB0
  • SHANK8

Continue Reading

19th Hole

Facebook

Trending