Looking at this year’s Majors Championships, golf doesn’t seem to have a Millennial participation problem. The average age of those that hoisted a Major trophy in 2015 was slightly over 27. With Millennials classified as 18 to 34-years-old, one might look at the Majors winners and assume golf is successfully reaching and recruiting the Millennial generation.
That assumption is wrong.
When it comes to attracting Millennials to the game, golf has a big problem. According to the National Golf Foundation, in 2014, six million Millennials played 90 million rounds of golf annually. This level of play generates $5 billion worth of golf spend by Millennials annually. Sure, that’s a significant amount of money, but this is the generation that is responsible for golf’s biggest decline in the past 30 years. In the early 90’s Millennials dominated the market, but now, something’s trending and it’s #notgolf. Today, their participation reflects a 36% decline from those glory days. Here’s why this is a big deal: In 2015, Millennials will become the largest living generation in the United States. Beginning this year, Millennials will outnumber Baby Boomers, who account for 56-percent of the golf spend.
As the number of Millennials in the United States rises, one thing is clear: It’s time for golf to shift course and begin marketing to this generation’s needs and interests. But how?
There are two things that golf must focus on to attract Millennials to the game: Community and Technology. These two factors are keystones for Millennials in every buying decision they make. Millennials want to feel as though they are part of something bigger than themselves. Similarly, they never want to leave their friends behind from whatever they are experiencing. Through both of these pursuits, they want to be tapped into technology so they can share their experiences with an even broader community.
A great example of a company that has married community with technology and subsequently attracted Millennials is Top Golf.
In 2000, Top Golf’s brothers, the Jolliffe’s, were just two guys wondering where their golf balls landed on the driving range and why the experience itself wasn’t more fun. This question led the two to create a golf experience rife with community competition and technological engagement.
At Top Golf, players compete against one another to hit targets and their golf balls are outfitted with microchips so that their landing spot is precisely determined. Through on-site technology and the download of the Top Golf app, players can see where they stand against friends and other competitors worldwide.
Top Golf broke golf’s mold. It strayed from the solemn seriousness of the driving range and built indoor facilities blasting with music, drinks and energy. In turn, it made practicing golf social, by allowing participants to engage in a community experience centered on technology.
For Top Golf, the experiment of breaking golf’s mold to blend community and technology into the game has worked out famously.
Annually, Top Golf sees 8 million visitors worldwide and the company expects significant growth over the next 3 years. Those numbers alone should be all it takes to convince every club manager in America to prioritize community and technology into their business strategies.
The thing about Millennials, is that they don’t want what their parents want, and they certainly aren’t looking to enjoy what their grandparents enjoyed. The irony is that country clubs are still serving the same stale experiences. They communicate in the same lackluster ways and worst of all, they are ignoring that mobile technology is a way of life. Millennials are a generation who have always known technology and they are most comfortable when it is at their fingertips.
If clubs wants to attract this group—and their significant buying power—they must adjust their game and meet Millennials where they are; at the corner of friends & their smartphones.