“I really wish I had started golfing when I was younger” is a lament often heard among golfers. If you’re a golfer, there’s a good chance you either share this feeling or know someone who does. But how common is it and what are the implications for the golf industry?
It turns out to be shockingly common. According to a Linkedin poll, as many as 86% of golfers admit that they definitely wish they had started playing golf when they were younger.
Almost nine out of ten. You read it right.
The survey was conducted among members of one of the most popular golf groups on Linkedin and consisted of one question: Would you like to start playing golf at a younger age?, with three possible answers: Definitely, Maybe or No.
The chart below is self explanatory:
For better insight, respondents were also asked to indicate the age they started playing by entering it in the comments section of the survey.
Unfortunately, there were only 29 correct answers. Representing a small sample, still allow interesting observations to be made.
The chart below shows the minimum, maximum and average values of the reported starting age, broken down by survey response:
Clearly, this regret, which for lack of a better term could be described as a kind of consumer’s reverse remorse, increases in both frequency and intensity as the golfer begins to play later in life.
For a bunch of players who don’t regret it, it’s easy to hypothesize why: they were already very young when they were introduced to the game.
It is worth noting, however, that in the first group there is one person who, although he started playing at the age of nine, still regrets that he did not start earlier.
The table below shows some of the collected comments to better understand the sentiments expressed by players:
What does this mean for the golf industry?
Let’s get something clear first. Nearly ninety percent of respondents basically say, “We love your product, but we also feel bad all the time we couldn’t enjoy it because we didn’t know how good it was.”
“We love your product, but we also feel bad for all the times we couldn’t enjoy it because we didn’t know how good it was.”
This is probably one of the most shocking statements about consumer sentiment you’ve ever come across.
If the golf industry were a single company in any other industry, that statement alone would be grounds for firing the entire management team, but for the golf industry, it’s just a normal job.
Ironically, the root of the problem lies in the game of golf itself: it’s simply too good a product for its own good.
So good that it has historically managed to sell due to the incredible loyalty it generates among golfers who are eager to share the excitement of the game with friends and family.
A second survey was conducted to validate this idea. This time with members of several golf-related Linkedin golf groups with the following question: How were you introduced to the game? Possible answers are: friend/family member/co-worker; Out of my own golf curiosity; Golf industry event/campaign and others.
Here are the results:
As predicted, friends, family members and co-workers are the main driving force behind the game’s development with 75% of the results. It is interesting that almost 20% of people are attracted to the game by their own curiosity.
Only 3% of respondents claim that it was the golf industry that brought them into contact with the game.
While this was an expected result, it must be acknowledged that it is nevertheless a remarkable achievement for a multi-million dollar global industry. If there is an example of successful word of mouth marketing, it is golf.
“If there is an example of successful word of mouth marketing, it is golf.”
But there is also a dark side to all this. The industry has become accustomed to doing little or nothing to attract new players. The hard work is left to the players themselves to do it for them.
This has two major drawbacks: first, golfers do so voluntarily and therefore cannot be required to follow any plan or achieve any goals, and second, their reach is limited to those in their immediate social environment.
This leads to an even more sinister conclusion: there is a gigantic pool of potential players who will never be introduced to the game simply because they are not lucky enough to have a golfer among their friends and family.
“There is a gigantic pool of potential players who will never be introduced to the game simply because they are not lucky enough to have a golfer among their friends and family.”
Without further research, it is difficult to estimate the lost revenue that this phenomenon causes to the golf industry on an annual basis, but one thing is certain: we are definitely not talking about pennies.
What can be done?
The answer is clear: the industry as a whole should recognize the situation and start actively engaging in attracting players to the game.
While it’s true that hundreds of millions are spent marketing and advertising golf each year, there’s a catch: most of these campaigns target people who are already addicted to the game. Their goal is to sell to already converted, not to attract new players.
If even a fraction of this effort were directed at attracting new players, it would increase the number of golfers, reduce the pain felt by those who are late to the game, and ultimately generate huge economic benefits for the golf industry.
The players have worked hard over the years. Let’s help them.
They deserve it. The game deserves it.
About the author:
Germán Lechuga is an enthusiastic, though admittedly not very outstanding, golfer who deeply believes that playing golf is one of the best things that can happen to anyone. After reluctantly ruling out having the talent necessary to advance his career on the PGA Tour, he decided to give the game something in return in the form of writing instead.
Admittedly, the opinions presented in this article are based on data representing a small sample, which may not be statistically significant. Larger-scale studies would be needed to confirm this information.
Golfer photo courtesy of Cottonbro via Pexels