Golf’s Organic Growth

Green Golf aims to grow the game’s reach to millions more golfers across the region, all with the touch of an app

It’s no secret that golf has been in decline for almost two decades. On a global scale playing numbers have dwindled, club memberships have diminished, equipment sales have fallen and even golf course design and development has been curbed in a number of countries.

In 2013 alone, 160 of the existing 14,600 golf facilities in the USA closed, the eighth consecutive year of net closures. The number of players also fell to around 25 million. In this part of the world, there are over US$940 million in unsold weekday tee times across the South East Asian region, while Japan, which had a high number of golfers in the 1990s, has seen its golf bubble burst with participation down more than 40%.

While these statistics may have painted a depressing image of the golf industry, at the same time it does offer an opportunity over the next decade or so to rebuild its position with the rapid emergence of the growing middle class across the globe.

Historically, golf, particularly in Asia, has been seen as an elite sport and has attracted those in a different wealth bracket who can afford memberships, golf lessons, the latest equipment and so on. Yet it’s a different ball game now, and while it may require some investment – time and money – on the part of the golfer, to survive the game has to broaden its appeal to the masses.

There have been some inroads by clubs to ‘modernize’ the game, by appealing to different segments of the market such as women and children, reducing membership prices, building facilities a la resort-style to appeal to families and, to some extent, speeding up the game.

The success of the likes of Tiger Woods went a long way in the late 1990s to attract a new generation of golfers – these days it’s the 20-something brigade with Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day and Rory McIlroy drawing in younger golfers. In the women’s game, teenage world number one Lydia Ko has certainly done her bit as has Michelle Wie, Lexi Thompson and a host of young Korean stars.

However, many believe that the game has to go much further to attract the next generation of golfers. The idea of being a member of an elite club has lost its lure particularly among the more socially aware Gen Y population. In addition, time is a very precious commodity in the modern world. Can people realistically afford the time to play 18 holes?

At Green Golf, we want to break down those seemingly insurmountable barriers for people who think, for whatever reason, they can’t take it up. In fact, we believe this is the right time for the golf industry to make the game easier for people to get access to and also to engage with the next generation of golfers to highlight the benefits, of which there are many, of playing this beautiful game.

First there are the health (fitness and mental) benefits. Golf encourages people to have a break from a sedentary lifestyle, enjoy the outdoors, breathe in fresh air and appreciate the beauty of their environment. From a mental health point of view, it lets them switch off for four and half hours and leave any work or social issues behind. Golf is also a sport which can be enjoyed well into their twilight years and there are a number of countries that have senior golf associations with many members well into their 80s and 90s playing at least once a week. On the pro front, golfers such as Gary Player (80) and Arnold Palmer (86) still find time to tee it up for exhibition matches.

Golf is also an excellent tool for networking – where else can you spend almost five hours with a potential client or friend talking about business or personal pursuits? Again, it’s a great ‘outdoor office’ to do business in and can also lead to long-lasting friendships.

Golf also provides a great platform for children to develop life skills such as honesty, focus, problem solving, respect and graciousness. Whether through creating opportunities to interact with new people, it also provides them with an outdoor pursuit that requires mental aptitude as well as a sense of perseverance.

While cost continues to rear its head when it comes to playing golf, Green Golf removes the need for golfers to have a golf membership and provides highly affordable green fees for all.

Over the course of the next few weeks we will explore in more detail the advantages of playing golf and publish write-ups which we hope will showcase the many benefits that the game provides. We, of course, hope you enjoy reading them.

Have fun on the greens!