Grow The Game? Go To Vegas!
by Jeff Beier
How Can We Get More People Involved?
The golf industry is screaming, ‘grow the game’!!! There is a monumental problem in the golf business which has operators asking this question, “how can we get more people involved in golf?” Specifically, the younger generation. Initiatives have been put in place from the PGA, USGA, R&A, all recognizing the problem with the younger people not playing golf. The statistics are underwhelming and definitely threatens the future of golf. Golf courses are turning to themselves to try and get more people involved…. A good approach, but the golf business is inherently slow in evolving. Don’t believe me? Look around at the strict dress codes not allowing shorts or denim. How about the ‘Men Only’ clubs that still exist??
The Vegas Model
Instead of golf courses trying to find industry solutions, why not look outside of golf to see what has worked in other businesses and markets? I recommend taking a look how Vegas has evolved since the recession. In 2008 LVCVA (Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority) survey showed that 46% of visitors were less than 50 years old. Conversely in 2012, 64% of visitors were less than 50 years old, an 18% increase in younger visitors! Additionally, the average age of a visitor in 2008 is slightly higher older than 50. 2012 shows a drastic reduction to 44 years old (12% younger). Staggering?! Or Smart? Let’s compare Vegas’ success with the Golf Business’s sluggish attempt.
Theory #1 – Sex Appeal
My first theory is Vegas figured out how to capture the imagination of the younger generation. No mistake the catch phrase, “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” is so popular. Couple that catch phrase with extremely popular movies like, “The Hangover” and today’s Generation X/Y are going to be enamored with the glamor. (Sex appeal, check)
Theory #2 – Pace of Play
Second theory is something golfers can’t figure out… SPEED. Pace of play seems to be brought up more often than any other aspect in golf. How did Vegas make this better? Check-In to any Vegas hotel on the strip and you will notice kiosks in the lobby. These kiosks allow people to check-in without going to the counter, wait in line, or speak with a person. Fast, efficient and no phony upsell tactics. (Pace of play, snooty golf courses, check)
Theory #3 – Cheap and Fun
My last theory has to do with how well Vegas captures those dollars while you’re there. Penny slots and five-dollar black jack proves that casinos have figured out the best way to get a person hooked to spending money is to start small. In addition to gambling, bars and theaters are trying to advertise their product, everywhere. But they’re not doing it with “12,000 square foot restaurant, 500 seat auditorium” we so commonly see golf courses advertise. They do it with the biggest gimmick. Mechanical bull rides, free drinks, elitism for cheap, wildly entertaining shows. What’s so bad about that? It’s fun, cheap and most importantly: connecting with the younger generation. (cheap offerings, fun, check)
If the golf business wants to know how to connect to today’s younger generation, I suggest look outside the green grass to see what’s succeeding in the world today. How would a golf course look as a Vegas equivalent? Try This: curb side check-in at arrival to the golf course, 5 hole option (1 hour round) that costs $10, and a fun themed happy hour. #golf #vegas #growthegame
Jeff Beier is the Director, Sales & Marketing at The Gallery Golf Club in Marana, AZ. He has been with Troon Golf since 2007 and during that timehe has been at 4 Troon-managed properties including: Poston Butte, Dismal River, & The Westin Mission Hills.