ORLANDO, Fla. – Jack Nicklaus is worried about eroding interest in golf.
That’s why he has come out in favor of installing golf holes with synthetic greens at neighborhood parks, much the way cities install swing sets at playgrounds. That’s why he hosted a 12-hole club tournament at his Muirfield Village course last year with 8-inch holes speeding up play. It’s why he is in favor of “outside the box” thinking to spark interest in the game.
That’s also why Nicklaus is throwing his support behind the PGA of America’s Golf 2.0 initiative. He appeared with Ken Griffey Jr. in the annual PGA Industry Roundtable Thursday at the PGA Merchandise Show to talk about ways the industry can grow the game.
“I’ve seen what’s happened over the last few years,” Nicklaus said. “We’ve lost 23 percent of the women in the game since 2006, and we’ve lost 36 percent of the kids in the game since 2006. That’s not a good stat.”
So Nicklaus is backing the Golf 2.0 initiative to attract new players, including women and children, and to re-engage players whose interest has lapsed.
“I've got 22 grand kids, and they all play a little bit, I mean a little bit, really a little bit,” Nicklaus said. “They play less than I do, and that's not very much. Other sports are grabbing their attention.
“We need to introduce our kids to the game of golf. We need to introduce it to them in a way that is friendly, and a way that they can have some early success and stay with the game. The same with women.”
In an effort to do that, the PGA announced the Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs of America will become its official youth developmental partner. The PGA will team with the clubs to design programs to bring the game to youth. The PGA’s also looking at innovative programs, like youth team golf, where children wear jerseys and play scramble formats.
Griffey, a Boys’ and Girls’ Club board member, spoke about the magical connection golf can become for parents who play with their children. He believes the game helps forge special bonds.
The U.S. Golf Association is also behind the new Golf 2.0 initiatives.
“There's a reason it's Golf 2.0, not PGA 2.0,” PGA CEO Joe Steranka said. “This is very much an alliance of the industry.”