The latest report, which is only the first phase of a larger study being conducted under the auspices of the Golf 20/20 project, says there may be as many as 26 million adults in the United States who dont play golf, but want to. Thats as many wannabes as adults who actually do play the game, the study says.
And in addition to the 26 million we already have, there are 4 million juniors not counted in the adult number, plus 6 million who participate only at practice ranges and alternative facilities, the study tells us.
These are the people that Golf 20/20, the industry-wide initiative unveiled by PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem in a conference at the World Golf Village last November, is looking for.
First of all, credit where its due: The NGF, the Tour and the other organizations involved in 20/20 deserve applause for quickly delivering something tangible in pursuit of objectives that were considered elevated pie by some who attended the November conference. (One of the long-term goals, for example, is to make golf as popular as the National Football League by the year 2020.) With regular reporting of this nature, the world of golf ' and sports 'will see that the game is serious about not going the way of tennis.
That said, its time to exit the realm of wishful thinking and take a hard look at the potential the study seems to detect.
Where are these people? Whats holding them up? Traffic? They cant all live in Atlanta.
And supposing theyre there, what will it take to make them apparent instead of latent? Have we perhaps overestimated their willingness to spend?Make no mistake, spending is what its all about. Sure, more players will be good for The Game Itself. But unless the registers ring, who will want to be in the industries that support golf?
One problem many in the golf industry have had with NGF numbers over the years is the question of whos being counted. The NGF has traditionally divided the nations golfers into three segments: Avid (25+ rounds per year, about 6.5 million people), Core (9-24 rounds per year, 7 million people) and Occasional (1-8 rounds per year, 12 million). That last groups importance ' or not ' has been the sticking point.
If you play golf, you know full well that anyone who tees it up less than ten times per year is either 1) a golf journalist who really works, or 2) someone whose interest is so casual as to be negligible. Negligible, that is, in the amount spent on golf-related goods and services. (See paragraph on spending, above.) And keep in mind, this is a group numbering slightly less than half of all the golfers in the country.
And indeed, year after year, NGF data confirms that Occasionals spend the least, per capita, on golf stuff. The more people play, the more they spend, generally.
Perhaps the next question the 20/20 group will address is how we can get the Occasionals to play more. That will necessarily involve getting to know them pretty well.
Its a good bet such research is on the way. Likely it will find that occasional golfers have varied interests, may be frustrated with golfs difficulty and/or time demands, dont like golf one way or the other but simply went on a lark when a friend suggested they bat a ball around for awhile ' or all of the above, and more.
It will also find that Occasionals may be former Core players who had to back away from the game for a while. Consider the perennial dropouts for whom their childrens toddler years become more important than the Saturday foursome. Perhaps the best way to handle their situation is to keep them interested so theyll come back once the kids grow up and get their own agendas.
Thats just a sample of the myriad issues the 20/20 effort has raised. More research ' including the next step in understanding these alleged latent demanders of golf ' will be ready for the next Golf 20/20 conference, Tour sources say. Thats set for Nov. 11-13 at the World Golf Village in St. Augustine, Fla.
Well be waiting.