By Bill Bales*
A Case for Indoor Golf
Indoor Golf is REAL. When you play golf indoors you use clubs and balls, gloves and shoes. You wear your golf shirt. You can play rounds or practice. The emphasis is on making good course management decisions and executing good shots.
Indoor golf will never replace outdoor golf. The most avid indoor golfers are the first to hit the outdoor courses when they open. But indoor golf can make a strong contribution to the game overall through broader reach, the education of beginners, game improvement via teaching, club fitting, self-analysis, and increased access for golfers of all levels.
shares the concern, with many in the golf industry, that the game of golf is losing relevance to even the most ardent participants, as well as the disturbing number of newcomers who leave the game almost as quickly as they enter the game.
Golf, one must recognize, has not suffered from lack of new customers. In fact, tens of millions of individuals have taken up the game over the last ten years in North America alone. The game of golf has been extremely successful in luring new players. Where golf has failed is in keeping players in the game.
About as many players in North America leave the game each year as take it up.
Logic would seem to dictate that golf must apply the old retailer adage that, “your best new customer is an old one that you keep,” when seeking ways to enable growth in not only participants, but also rounds. Golf 20/20
has focused on the need to return relevance in the game to its core players.
subscribes to this goal, but takes perhaps a more pragmatic, and admittedly partially profit-driven, view of this issue. Data indicates that the biggest factor affecting golf and the loss of players and rounds is, quite simply, time. We have evolved culturally to a point where we live our lives in much shorter time increments than in the past. More activities compete for a share of these increments; extended work hours, longer commutes, greater involvement with our kids’ extra-curricular activities, and competing leisure activities with fewer impediments and lower time demands. Other key factors fostering the loss of golfers include weather, pace of play, intimidation, structure, social impediments and inability to improve.
believes that underneath all the data is one very critical element which forms the root of why most players leave the game: fun. There is a great deal of evidence that shows that people who leave the game aren’t enjoying it enough to justify staying in the game. Logic arguably supports this. We all have a limited amount of expendable time and income and we will generally invest our expendable time and money on things we choose, versus things we’re forced or obligated to do (work, family functions, personal commitments). And, logically we will choose to do things that make us feel good – things that are fun.
believes that if golf was more fun for more players, more players would invest the time and money and expand or maintain their participation in the sport. With its focus on indoor golf, aboutGolf believes indoor golf, and particularly the use of its simulators, can aid the expansion of the game – including the increase of rounds on outside courses.
Overcoming golfer objections:
The majority of players who leave golf say it’s because there is not enough time to remain involved. Eighteen-hole rounds, including commute time, can take up 6 hours or more. Nine-hole rounds, including commute time, can often take 4 hours or more. Many golfers say this is simply too long. Indoor golf enables the play of any number of holes for any length of time. If a golfer has two hours free, he/she can play for two hours. Indoor golfers can access the course after work and after dark. They can play for 30 minutes or all day.
The highest number of golfers, per-capita, is in Canada, where most players have access to golf courses fewer than six months per year. Additionally, the four highest per-capita golf states in the U.S. are along the Canadian border. The majority of golfers in North America live where courses are closed half of the year or more, notwithstanding the rainy days that occur during “golf season.” Indoor golf courses never experience inclement weather; cold, hot, rain, snow, high winds, lightning. Northern golfers can play year round. It never rains indoors.
Pace of Play:
Slow play not only creates obstacles for many golfers relative to the time objection, but also many golfers simply don’t like to wait to hit shots. Conversely, many golfers, including many beginners, are unable to keep up with the pace of play. With indoor golf there are no groups in front or behind you. There are no marshals, and no marshals are required. Golfers can spend an hour playing one hole or an entire round, however they choose.
Many golfers are intimidated on multiple levels by many aspects of the golf experience. The game in many ways makes participation difficult for beginners, poor players, juniors, slow players and even fast players. Many golfers are unfamiliar with basic etiquette, or the “rules of golf,” and how to simply “get around the course.” Many are not good at following their golf ball and hence have trouble finding it. Inexperienced golfers, ladies, and juniors can be easily intimidated by the “regulars” as well as the overall golf course environment.
The factors of intimidation affecting indoor golfers are far fewer than outdoors. Slow players can play as slowly as they want. Beginners who don’t know the rules or etiquette won’t get into anyone’s way while they learn at their own pace. Indoor golfers don’t have to search for their ball. The “regulars” can play on their own simulators, and not be bothered with those who are still learning their way around the course.
Golf is a very structured game. Not all golfers, especially beginning golfers, enjoy the structure. Likely evidence to support this point is the fact that as many as four million “golfers” in the U.S. only participate at driving ranges.
Many courses can make the experience seem more like an afternoon at reform school than a recreational outing – with rules, lectures by starters and marshals, and an indifferent pro shop staff. Indoor golf imposes far less structure. If players want, they can spend all their time holding long drive contests, closest to pin contests, disregarding the rules, or re-writing the rules. Golf traditionalists would shudder at the thought of a growing army of golf anarchists changing, for their purposes, how the game is played. But this can introduce more people to the game, and ultimately create more golf traditionalists. And, it doesn’t hurt anyone or affect how others play the game.
Many golfers don’t have a compatible group of friends with which to play, or have trouble finding compatible friends available at the right times. This is a noteworthy contributor to the high rate of golfers leaving the game.
Because of greater access, it is more likely that indoor golfers can find compatible groups. But also, with indoor golf, it is totally acceptable for one or two players to play a round. Because of greater time and access, indoor golf makes it more feasible for compatible players to get together in the social golf atmosphere of their liking.
Inability to improve:
One of the largest reasons golfers leave the game is that they get frustrated – they fail to achieve their expectations – they fail to get better.
Indoor golf with the right simulator provides unprecedented technology in a neutral environment that has been proven to aid game improvement. The potential of indoor golf to aid player improvement should not be taken lightly – it can be a powerful stimulus to game improvement, which begets fun, which begets greater participation.
Originally posted by BillBales
on 02 May 2012.
All contributors: BillBales
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