A One-on-One Approach to Growth
But to jump-start golf growth, heres an idea: Instead of just using golf companies and organizations to attract golfers, use golfers.
Whos more passionate about golf than golfers? For the same reason that consumer products companies put people in their TV commercials, golf should make better use of its people to promote the game. Its a basic truth of human relations: People listen better to people they know, one on one, than to corporations. And unfortunately, there can occasionally be a tendency to mistrust conglomerations of people, especially when profit is involved, even if the group means well.
Heres the formula, then: Each one teach one. Well, more accurately, each one bring one to golf. The math goes something like this: If, of the nations 26 million adult golfers, 6 million (the generally accepted size of the avid-player segment) each introduced one person to the game, there would be 6 million new golfers by next New Years Day, right? OK, not everyone will do it, and not everyone who comes to the game will stay. But if even, say, 10 percent ' 600,000 new golfers ' stay with the game, thats overall annual growth of more than 2 percent.
The number of adult golfers grew 1.6 percent between 2001 and 2002 with the help of programs then in place. What could happen if we were to add a concerted grass-roots effort to those initiatives? And if each of those new golfers spend $300 their first yearyou get the idea.
The idea sounds so reasonable, as if it couldnt possibly fail. But before we start setting up the lemonade stand (the last time most of us felt that sure about a business plan), it should be admitted that its not a sure thing.
Its intuitive, thats for sure, says Joe Beditz, president and CEO of the National Golf Foundation. All our research over the last 20 years shows that 90 percent of people who come to the game have been introduced by a family member or friend. So in a sense, its already happening.
My problem with it is that there are still more former golfers than golfers. The attrition is too high.
And that may be because of a problem that plagues all grass-roots efforts: Lack of uniformity. After all, the way I introduce someone to this enticing but difficult game may differ from your method.
Taking someone to the driving range and giving them a bucket of balls and a driver isnt going to do it, Beditz says. Theyll try for awhile, then say, Thanks, but not my cup of tea.
Instead, take them for a walk around the course to show them how beautiful it is. Buy them a beer and a hot dog in the clubhouse. Then ask, Do you like this ambience? Would you like to look into it some more?.
Beditzs plan of attack, although a good one, may not be the same you or I would choose, but every successful plan will have this in common with others: Forethought.
If I would really take it seriously, finding out who would be right for the game ' lets say its my friend Bob, says Mark King, president and CEO of TaylorMade-adidas Golf. I have to ask myself: Does Bob have the time? The discretionary income? Is he competitive? If all these things line up, great; youve got something. But if you just ask your neighbor, Hey Al, lets play golf, well, youd probably get a return of less than 1 percent.
Spoken like a true businessman. Beditz, King and others in the industry agree that if a grass roots campaign were to succeed, it would require some sort of support and follow-up network, be it the cooperation of pros for lessons, regional repositories of used clubs for newcomers concerned about cost, or flighted tournaments to give newbies something to look forward to.
This is where the private sector can come in big. The kind of support necessary to make the grass roots sprout can usually be provided at relatively low cost. Some of the infrastructure is in place already: Nike, for example, has golf learning centers at 66 courses throughout the country.
But whatever is done by way of grass-roots encouragement has to be accomplished without too much brandishing of corporate logos. In this advertising-drenched age, its difficult for some consumers to fight the inclination to see profit motive behind even the most altruistic acts. Unfortunately, some people are suspicious of something for nothing, or something for little.
And although the private sectors game-growing efforts are beginning to gather momentum, thanks in large part to the energetic leadership of M.G. Orender, president of the PGA of America, the one thing those efforts lack is the one thing they need most: An already-known, friendly face to start the process. Even solid local programs that have been drawing players to the game, such as the LinkUp2Golf program first tested in 2001 at eight courses in Raleigh, N.C., cant compete with that initial contact. (However, the LinkUp program, also called Play Golf America, is expanding to seven markets, plus seven military bases, and happy newcomers have been recruiting friends.)
If you choose to start right away, even without organized follow-up in place, go right ahead. And let me know how it goes. It can be anyone, by the way. I found a perfectly good three-year-old at my house who was willing to oblige. A couple times each week, we hit balls at the range, pop a few on the putting green, and have a fine time.
So far, so good.
Email your thoughts to Adam Barr
After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time
Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.
On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...
Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).
Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.
It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard
On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...
There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.
He sure looks like the real deal, though.
His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.
Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner
Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2
With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.
He picked up one more No. 2, too.
The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.
In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.
Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.
“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”
Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.
Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.
He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.
Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title
Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.
Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.
His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.
“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."
Tom Brady, postgame, on wearing the wrap on his hand: “I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that. It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament.”— Ryan Lavner (@RyanLavnerGC) January 22, 2018
Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.
Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.
Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder
Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:
Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)
What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.
Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.
Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.
Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.
Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.
Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:
Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry