I have to confess that I plagiarized the above title from a presentation given at the recent PGA Merchandise Show by Jon Last of the Sports & Leisure Research Group. Feeling myself somewhat informed on this topic, I was dying to know what was being proposed as fact and fiction and figuring that Pellucid was implicated somewhere therein in one way or another. After reading the report, I determined that he had posed the wrong question and, since it coincided so nicely with our annual "gathering of the faithful" for our 14th consecutive annual State of the Industry presentation which drew just over 200 participants between the live and webcast audiences, I couldn't resist making this the topic of my January missive here.
At a summary level, Jon does a splendid job of channeling the NGF by entering the conversation looking for positive "research driven facts" (the fact that all the quantitative research is provided by NGF would also support my claim). The "better" headline for his presentation and discussion should have been "The REAL State of Golf: Qualitative vs. Quantitative Facts". In this issue, I'll work through various assertions made in his presentation and why one needs to understand the differences and values in qualitative ("I think, I feel, I believe") vs. quantitative ("this happened") research and analysis:
- Qualitative vs. quantitative research, a primer in the differences, purposes and historically correct applications (I know it sounds boring, I'll try to make it entertaining)
- Some head-to-head comparisons of the qualitative facts outlined and the quantitative behavior actually demonstrated in '16 (we weren't watching the same movie here)
- "Growth by inference" generally hasn't worked in any industry or business - why selective insights hurt rather than help one's cause in determining course corrections (AKA, what the heck is an "echo chamber"?)
- The need for an industry information strategy and plan; not "one voice" but one set of robust and broad facts from which stakeholders, advisors, the investment community etc. can do their own analysis and draw their own conclusion
Let me be clear, I'm not attempting to pick a personal fight here with Jon Last and reasonable people can agree to disagree. It often turns out in America and capitalist systems that everyone brings their facts and interpretations to the public forum and eventually the public or the consumers decide which argument either prevails or best suits their view of the world. So it will be here as well. What this does resurface and reinforce though is that, as an industry, we have a weak, patchwork and inconsistent information foundation about the core drivers of our golf economy and their relative health. As history has shown us, you can't have a meaningful debate when multiple parties are bringing their own, diametrically-opposed facts to the table. In this issue however, I'm going to try anyway.
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