19th Hole

Ryan Eckroat
General Manager
Poston Butte Golf Club Anthem at Merrill Ranch
Florence, AZ

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Attracting the Next Generation of Golfers

For the last few years, we have talked a lot about how we can attract kids to the game. The most common challenges given have been competition with other sports, the cool factor, and the cost to play. I believe the first two are not challenges and the latter can be overcome.

It’s been said that junior golfer numbers are declining because there are more activities available to kids beyond golf. I disagree. Growing up, I played every sport possible, in addition to playing golf. As a parent, I see that my kids have the same number of choices today as I did. Furthermore, with significant growth in the number of courses since just the 1980’s, there is more opportunity for kids to play golf.

Is golf cool? Ok, I’ll admit for a while, golf was a bit lacking in this area. Bad fashion decisions and comparatively bland TV coverage didn’t help much. Now, golf fashion is more mainstream and there is nothing more exciting than watching the 16th hole during the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Players are cooler now, too. No disrespect to the greats of the 60’s and 70’s, but with the advent of social media and change in marketing strategies, players’ personalities are better displayed as they connect with fans.

In my opinion, the true challenge that we face is the cost to play golf. Families want to do things together. Golf can be a pricey choice for family considering green fees and equipment costs. After all, it doesn’t cost much to play basketball, soccer, or other sports at a local park. Golf, however, is a business with participation costs. We have to get the most we can for every round to stay in business. We also have inventory in the afternoons that goes unused. That is why we as a Company, introduced the Troon Family Golf program last year. At more than 60 Troon Facilities, juniors 15 and under can play for free, after 3 pm, when accompanied by a paid adult. We also offer free Callaway junior sets for them to use while playing. This gives parents an opportunity to introduce and share the game they enjoy with their children more affordably.

A program such as this may or may not work at your facility. Each facility has to do what is right for them, but as an industry we need to make it easy for kids to take the game up now so we can have them as guests in the future.