Gerrit van Rooyen
As we start a new year, I’d like to speculate about what trends we are seeing that will influence the sport of golf in 2020. Whether these changes excite you or scare you, here is a look at what to expect in the next year, and next decade, of golf.
Off course experiences
Spending five hours playing through 18 holes might be some people’s idea of a perfect day, and if it is, good on you! For others, off course experiences are a way to enjoy golf without as much commitment. These places include driving ranges and pitch and putts that combine a golfing experience with other amenities. Food, drinks, and music make it a more social and less competitive endeavour. One example is a company called TopGolf in the USA. Their numerous facilities include all kinds of golfing games for any level, but also is a place where you can host parties or events. They have everything from virtual golf where you can play a game on famous courses all over the world to their signature game where you need to hit a microchipped ball close to a target to earn points. They even have regular tournaments for their more competitive clients. This has appealed to the Millenial generation that likes to multi-purpose their outings. Due to this, Millenials are thought to overtake the largest market share from the older generations in the upcoming years.
Women in Golf
There have been increasingly more women interested in golf over the years. About 25% of golfers, in general, are female. However, if we look at those interested in off-course golfing experiences or at the junior or beginners levels, that number starts approaching half. Girl’s nights are becoming common at these off-course locations and they create a place that women can network, both professionally and socially, without the intimidation of holding up more seasoned players on the green.
With younger generations and women getting more interested in golf, retailers need to keep up with the demands. One thing putting these groups off is the fashion connected to the game. They don’t want to look like they raided their granddad’s closet. So when Under Armour introduced their women’s line of golf apparel they hit $1 billion in sales in a very short time. This is because they reimagined what golf clothing should be with a younger demographic in mind.
Other than fashion the younger generation is also being sold to through tech. Young golfers want to get better and the industry is responding with tech innovations. New apps and equipment are coming out all the time. Some will last while others will be a passing fad. This includes anything from a simple GPS app to a self-driving pushcart to carry around your clubs. Makes me think of my future of golf blog, but a lot of this stuff is already happening today.
Like every other industry, Amazon is taking over the world. Lucky for us (at least in my opinion), the shipping to NZ is far too high so we haven’t been monopolised but other online stores are in danger of closing down all the small golf retailers. What’s that mean? Well, people are buying without expert advice. Likely a lot of things on a whim that isn’t really going to help their game. But this is just how it is. I hope enough of us will continue to support our local shops and resist the urge for discounts. When you pay less, you always get less.
While trends in golf change and we see fresh and more diverse faces on the course, we can feel safe that golf is a sport that will continue being popular. While it may feel it’s moving away from its traditional origins, the more people that get excited about golf from off-course experiences or because of tech and fashion, the more that will find themselves eventually on the green.