Mon Oct 13 2008Growing the game, one golfer at a time
(Originally published in Golf Business News August 2008)
Growing the game, one golfer at a time
"Have you introduced anyone to golf in the last year? What is their name?"
This is the question posed by veteran golf writer Bill Giering who instigated the 'Just One' initiative in the USA which has been the topic of several articles and was mentioned in the June issue of Golf Business News.
In a nutshell, it says if each person in the golf industry was to introduce just one new person to the game it would have a tremendous effect on the number of new players entering our facilities. Imagine the impact if every golfer in Australia introduced a new player.
It is time individual golfers take an active role in promoting and ensuring the ongoing health of their sport, according to Mr Giering, who adds: "In my 30 years of golf, I've never met one person who had been introduced to the game of golf by a national program. It's always a family member or friend."
This idea hit home for me recently because for several years now I have literally taken my eye off the ball with what I had pledged to do as a PGA golf professional – to promote the game of golf! The game that helps put food on my table each night, the game that brought me to Australia and introduced me to my wife, and the game I will teach my son.
A few months ago I contacted several friends of varied golfing ability to see if they would be interested in going to the driving range for a hit on a regular basis. Since most of us have young kids and time is so precious, we scheduled every Tuesday night as our "range night" and we play nine holes once a month. It's also a great chance to escape my day-to-day responsibilities and down a nice cold beer.
One member of our group had played golf only once a year at a corporate getaway and was hesitant to come at first and practice with more experienced players. Now after several weeks of practice, encouragement, and a little coaching he is so hooked on golf that he is pushing us to play all the time, even in the rain. He still has further to go on improving his overall game but his score doesn't matter. The camaraderie and experience of a round of golf or bucket on the range with his mates is good enough for him and he cannot get enough.
"We hate to be called elitist, but most of us do shy away from people who don't play when they express an interest in trying," says Bill Giering.
When was the last time you invited a beginner to a round of golf or for a hit at the range? How many of you cringe when you get paired with someone who has a 25+ handicap or who has only played a couple of times? With worldwide golf participation rates shrinking or steady at best, the Just One initiative may be the saviour we've all been waiting for.
"Who best to be ambassadors for the game than all of us who work in this industry? We love the game and we know our course better than anyone else," said Jack Crittenden, Publisher and Editor-In-Chief of Golf Inc, a leading industry magazine based in the USA.
It would be great to see the Australian golf governing bodies and the many companies that the industry supports, get behind one solid "Grow the Game" initiative such as Just One.
One company that has taken the initiative, Club Car, established its own "Lets go golfing" program for its US employees that has seen 200 employees newly introduced to the game. The company also promotes a golf league to keep interest in the game and has gone as far as compiling a "How to" DVD that they will happily give to other industry companies to introduce their own employees.
"Club Car is planning on a similar program here in Australia and is currently working on the format that best suits our local employee base, which is much smaller than the US" says Club Car CEO John Stevenson.
Here are 11 other ways you could personally help grow the game:
- Introduce just one new or infrequent golfer to the game. Invite them to the range, for nine holes, or even just to watch it on TV. Get them interested – it's also a great way to bond with your son or daughter and can even be fun with your wife.
- Introduce 'beginner tees' to your course. Create a simple tee box similar to a drop zone with tee markers: Par3 100mtr, Par4 150mtr and Par5 200mtr.
- Make the game fun for beginner golfers. Don't criticise them for not knowing the rules and don't even worry about the rules. Let them tee up for every shot, throw the ball out of the bunker after two missed swings, and pick up the ball after so many shots. Just get them involved.
- Set aside off-peak playing times for beginners. E.g. Last hour of each day, back-nine early in the morning.
- Recognition in club newsletter for members that introduce a new player. Conduct a 'What's their name?' contest.
- Introduce a golfing club or program at your workplace. Go to the range for a hit every week.
- Promote a nine-hole golf competition, if you don't already have one.
- Hold a themed "Jack and Jill" event for your members and partners. The beginner in the group only has to putt the ball once it reaches the green.
- Conduct a free introductory beginner golf clinic monthly. Charge for range balls if you need to cover costs.
- Hold a parent/child nine-hole event. Make it a best ball format and make sure the kids receive some kind of prize.
- Have a putting competition with themed holes on the putting green on corporate golf days. Invite the non-playing employees of the corporation to participate.
In the immortal words of Bill Giering, "Have you introduced anyone to golf in the last year? What is their name?" I can say YES and his name is Marcus. Go ahead and introduce someone new to the game of golf and send me your stories and ways you are growing the game at your club or company.
To read the full story by Bill Giering, go to www.justonegolf.com.
© Copyright August 2008 Golf Industry Central Mike Orloff
Contact us if you need any help in devising your own Grow The Game program