Featured Article By Ken Morton*

Why is it critical to have a Player Development Program at your Facility?

The golf industry today is in a period during which approximately the same number of people who are entering the game equals the number who are exiting the game. NGF studies have shown that the number of golfers and rounds have been stagnant for several years. Core golfers are playing fewer rounds than in the past, and overall population increases have not resulted in proportional growth for our sport.

In addition, during the 1990s the golf industry witnessed the largest growth of new facilities in history. As a result, there are far more courses competing for those same core golfers than ever before.

Then to complete the picture, we have a struggling economy, less leisure time and new social habits that include far more choices of where golfers can spend their hard-earned money. Taken together, these factors suggest that the golf industry must begin conducting business in new and different ways.

At most every golf facility, the general manager is currently faced with the reality that they must provide a quality experience that brings people back over and over again, in a time when rounds and revenues are flat or shrinking. At most golf facilities, revenues are flat or down but our customers/members are expecting more because they have more quality golf facility choices than ever before. One way to solve most of these problems is Player Development Programs.

Why is it critical to have Player Development Programs at your facility? There are many-many reasons, but the biggest reason is, if people in the near future aren’t going to play as many annual rounds as they played in the past, then we need more golfers to maintain or grow rounds of golf played. If we believe we must create more golfers in the future to sustain or grow rounds of golf, we must have quality, step-by-step, friendly Player Development Programs that educate and market the spirit and fun of our great sport.

Another major reason to have a Player Development Program is because it’s good business. Every new person that gets into the game needs to hit practice balls on the driving range, will support the Food & Beverage Services, must purchase new or used equipment and will ultimately purchase greens fees or membership fees, rent carts and so on. Surveys by the PGA of America have proven that every new golfer spends a minimum of $850 during the first year they play the game. Are the golf facilities throughout America leaving millions of dollars on the table by not creating stronger Player Development Programs? Absolutely!

Worse, there is huge pent up demand to play the game. While we have all this pent up demand, facilities are cutting costs and reducing staff. The truth is, over the last few years, there are more spectators watching tournaments and more people viewing golf tournaments on television than ever before. Simply put, our industry doesn’t get the importance of creating new golfers and the positive impact that it has for short-term business, and, more importantly, for long-term business.

With the advent of GOLF 20/20 a decade ago, the Allied Golf Associations began pooling their resources to “Grow the Game.” Included in GOLF 20/20 were the manufacturers of equipment who completely understand the importance of creating new golfers. For the first time, the allied associations and manufacturers in our industry joined forces to pursue the creation of national programs like Play Golf America and Get Golf Ready. They conducted seminars, symposiums and conferences to bring the industry together to “Grow the Game.” Although I highly recommend all facilities join these National Programs, the truth is, it takes each of our facilities to make these National Programs effective in “Growing the Game.”

The trouble with this top-down approach is that the game of golf for most people begins at each of our golf courses. Until golf facilities are willing to invest in creating future customers at the grass roots level, it doesn’t matter how much the industry promotes our sport. Until most every facility in our great country realizes they are a critical part of “Growing the Game,” golf will remain flat or will decline.

The game needs to turn to the golf professional at golf facilities because it is the golf professional who is the person who gives the golf lessons, creates the excitement and enthusiasm to bring golfers out more frequently, and who creates the new golfers that become the next generation of members and players. For the game to grow, player development must become a core mission at most every golf facility.

This article was written to suggest that facilities can no longer wait for others to stimulate the game. Facilities must put in place player development programs that create new golfers and that create more fun and excitement for core golfers so they increase rounds and revenues. We must find the dollars in our budgets to create Player Development Departments and support organized beginner programs through marketing and staffing so we truly “Grow the Game.”

Hopefully this article has gotten your attention on this subject. Now, your question should be, “How do I create a Player Development Program that operates in the black?” Since that is a bigger question, there will be several follow-up articles to explain how that can and must be done.


Originally posted by KenMorton on 12 Mar 2010.
All contributors: KenMorton, LynnwoodBrown,

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