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Growing the game through the power of referral

POSTED ON July 27, 2016 @ 6:42 pm

How were you introduced to the game of golf?

I’ve been asking this same question over the past several years to the attendees of the various golf marketing presentations I’ve been conducting nationally. This would include golf managers, Boards, and players.

The results have been pretty consistent in this informal poll – approximately 80% are saying a family member or friend introduced them to the game of golf.

Are we as an industry overlooking a great opportunity that is sitting right under our noses?

We have some great new initiatives and (finally) a “whole of sport” approach happening in our industry, which will become much more apparent as we head into the end of this year. The nation and the world will be watching our shores with all the great events were holding in November this year.

We all would agree that the national organisations are the ones with the greatest potential to grow the population of golfers through their player development efforts. But what about trying to reach the non-golfer with a personal “invitation” to try golf from a friend, colleague or family member as another strategy? This is something that each and every one of us can do now! As with most grassroots efforts, engaging the “Core” of golfers to invite or refer others into the game can be hugely impactful and efficient.

Many golfers feel they have no vested interest in growing the game (and are naturally most interested in their own games), but there are golf lovers who take pleasure in inviting folks into the game that has added so much to their lives. I can personally vouch for that occurring and I look forward to the days I can play with my son and daughter when they get a little bit older.

Some recent National Golf Foundation (US) research found that 41% of the estimated 14.4 Million Core golfers in the US know at least one non-golfer who is interested in playing golf. The average Core golfer knows three interested non-golfers. This equates to approximately 5.9 million Core Golfers who know 17.7 million interested non-golfers! 85% of these Core golfers said they would be happy to refer a non-golfer to some kind of structured golf program.

What is the estimated size of the “referral team” currently in Australia?

Not totally sure, but Golf Australia statistics show an approximate participation of 1 million golfers in Australia, with 80% of these playing more than 6 times a year. If we took 41% of this number it would equate to 328,000 Core golfers, which would know just under 1mil non-golfers. Even if the figures were only a quarter correct, it’s still 250,000 non-golfers that we could introduce golf too!

In marketing we sometimes overlook the obvious. Have we all forgotten how we were introduced to the game? Was it an Uncle or Grandmother, maybe a friend, who took the time to share something they loved, hoping we would love it too. No golfer ever forgets who taught them the game, they recall everything about it; how old they were, where they were… But mostly we recall the encouragement and passion that our mentor had for the game. They are special memories that endure for a lifetime. Wouldn’t you like to be part of someone’s memory? A fond recollection of a gift you gave them, a gift they will cherish for a life-time?

In a nutshell if each person that played the game of golf 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.

Is it time for individual golfers to take an active role in promoting and ensuring the ongoing health of our sport?

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.

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, it’s time for each and every one of us in the game to step up and make a difference.

Who best to be ambassadors for the game than all of us who work in this industry and play the game regularly? We love the game and we know our product better than anyone else?

Do we each as golfers have an obligation to encourage others to try the game? I think we do.

Should we each try to inspire one? Be an example and share with one… just one.

Please share with us how you were introduced to golf, and then go out and invite another to join us in this great game of life.

Here are 11 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.

If you are need of any assistance with your marketing drop me a line at mike@golfindustrycentral.com.au or 0415 682 259.

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