Even with all the supporting documentation out there about the decline in golf I tend to disagree with a vast majority of it. What many of the articles fail to address is the fact that during the golf boom of the mid to late 1990s most markets were overbuilt creating crazy golf hole per capita ratios. It seems that what is happening now is more of a market correction. That is not to say that golf is not on a decline but I do not believe it is as desperate of a situation as many "experts" make it out to be. I can only speak specifically for the one golf course I work at, but this year our total rounds, revenue, and merchandise sales all increased significantly over the previous 5 years. All of this leads into one of the major focal points of next week's PGA Annual Meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana.
|New PGA President Derek Sprague, PGA, offering swing advice at Ranken Jordan|
At that annual meeting there will be a wide variety of topics discussed with many of them focusing on the growth of the game and industry. One of the candidates for PGA Secretary, Russ Libby, PGA, has created multiple videos about his ideas for growing the game around the country. This allows me to finally get to my point of this blog post and one that I have discussed in the past. Sometimes growing the game of golf needs to be looked at with a fresh set of eyes and a very wide open mind. In recent years we have had programs rolled out that include encouraging players to play 9 holes instead of 18, courses to cut larger cups on the greens, or offering affordable small group instruction designed to get new players interested in the game. All of these are important in the overall growth of golf and keeping new players coming into the game. However I will offer up a different idea for growing the game and I am certain everyone reading this knows what that is.
It is time for people involved with golf to really think outside the box and find new avenues to travel down to locate new golfers. We cannot sit back and wait for people to come to the game; sometimes we have to take the game to them. At Ranken Jordan Pediatric Bridge Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri, we do that on a weekly basis. While kids are at this unique hospital making the transition from hospital to home, they are introduced to golf and shown that they can play the game regardless of the medical situation they are facing. In any other setting, even at many other hospitals, these kids would be told they had no chance of ever playing golf. We prove that thought process completely wrong. Kids restricted to their hospital beds, in wheelchairs, using walkers, or with limited use of extremities are all hitting golf balls, sinking putts, smiling, and enjoying the game every week. Since May 10, 2011, over 2,200 kids have been introduced to golf in this way with many of them continuing to play after leaving the hospital. Not only have the kids kept playing, but family members, doctors, nurses, therapists, staff, board members, etc., have also learned to play or started playing more golf. Each week we are simultaneously improving the lives of these junior golfers and growing the game. I am slightly (ok, highly) biased but I feel that this is a "win-win" situation for everyone involved.
Golf programs like the one I started at Ranken Jordan do many things. From a golf perspective it introduces the game to a group of people who otherwise would not have had the opportunity to learn how to play. It also shows those who already play how the game can be used for a much greater benefit than the recreational, social, or competitive benefits they receive from their regular games. In the setting at Ranken Jordan golf is improving the lives of these amazing kids. This is where the "win-win" situation I previously mentioned comes into play and the simultaneous benefit of brightening lives and growing the game. As PGA Professionals, any time we have the opportunity to grow the game and improve someone's life we have to do it. With great conviction I will tell anyone who asks that there is nothing I do regularly on a weekly basis that means more to me than spending time with the kids at Ranken Jordan showing them how golf can be a part of their lives. I encourage (and challenge) anyone, inside or outside of golf, who would like to get involved with improving lives and growing the game to contact me. I guarantee you will never regret it.