Last month I opened the year with an assessment of the industry's player development efforts during Golf 20/20 as we reached the terminal year of the "ambitious" program. I also outlined that, in spite of no quantifiable incremental growth in "attraction" over that period from all our conferences, programs and PR, the annual attraction rate held relatively steady at 2-3M "triers" annually. This month, I'll turn my attention to the 2nd culprit of our inability to grow the golfer base which is our annual attrition rate as well as our inability to identify, communicate with and reactivate the large, lapsed golfer base.
Rewinding the tape back to the inaugural Golf 20/20 conference, I have to (unusually) give them credit in the initial plan for incorporating into the (unrealistic) growth projections the fact that reducing attrition by 500K golfers/year was one of their math components. While we failed miserably in doing that, the strategy was directionally correct in that our annual erosion rate was unusually high and there was opportunity to "normalize" it. Rather than curse the darkness of golfer attrition, in this issue I'll attempt to light a candle on how we could make a dent in that component of our consumer base (in March I'll turn my attention to my 3rd and final element of returning to growth; increasing frequency through better marketing and skill development):
- What does the current industry turnover (new/lost golfers) funnel look like in shape and size?
- Retention - How do we do a better job (primarily individual golf facilities) of identifying likely defectors and engaging them before they're "out the door"?
- Reactivation - There's a sizeable pool of "former golfers" (haven't played in the past year but did play prior to that), how do we tap into that to grow the consumer base?
Before launching into this issue, I agreed to take up a dare by an industry veteran and long-time Pellucid sympathizer to publish his response to the January OtR issue that called out our abysmal failure in player development over the past 20 years: "In your message, you begin to put the finger on the problem (it appears), but stopped short of saying what needs to be said. I'll say it again. There are at least ten million people in the USA who would give golf a try right this minute. But this industry refuses to invite them. Forget Golf 20/20 - better name them Golf 0/0. They've been around several years and haven't moved the needle the slightest. Meanwhile, we're about to lose as many as 2,000 golf courses. Ten million new golfers will add at least 100 million more annual rounds to golf [that's assuming a median frequency of ~10 rds/yr], albeit, most won't break 100. Not only that but a new golfer today will add from $10,000 to $20,000 in new money to the industry. That's $10 to $20 thousand ten million times [golfers]! What the hell are the guys you mention, Finchem, Faye, Awtry, Baugh, Beditz doing for the game? Really only milking it [editor's note, they're all gone except Beditz; hard to chastise the departed]. The fact is they don't want anything to do with 100-shooters. I know people want to give golf a try because I started thousands of 100-shooters in my years of building participation in the game (mostly after I dropped my Canadian PGA card, in '67). Here's a true story: A student remarked to me that she needed to add a driver to her new set of golf clubs. I looked in her bag and, voila, there's the number-one wood! Those representing the industry via our "Associations" have no idea the potential out there. I dare you to publish this message."