The world’s ever-changing demographics provide ongoing opportunities and threats to all industries, including golf. While it might seem counterintuitive, at least to the thinking of yesteryear, the golf industry is poised to grow among the world’s women and youth, two groups who continue to show interest in the game at an increasing rate.
It’s an exciting trend that has implications for all corners of the golf world, from courses to equipment makers and everyone in between. Nearly a third of all US golfers are millennials, and the website Linchpinseo.com cites a 2019 survey that found more than 14 million millennials said they would be interested in playing a round of golf in the coming year.
There’s momentum building behind women’s interest in golf, too. Various rankings and surveys consistently show women make up about a quarter of all golfers, and the growth of young women playing the game is significant. A 2019 report from the National Golf Foundation (NFG) points out that young women make up about a third of all youth golfers today, compared to just 15 percent in 2000.
Those numbers represent golf’s future, a fact that has not been lost on the industry. Golf has come to understand that if it wants to continue to grow and remain viable as both a business and an entertainment option, it must appeal to these two demographics.
We can expect to see more resources devoted to youth programs like Drive, Chip and Putt. Designed to teach young golfers between the ages of 7 and 15 these basic skills, Drive, Chip and Putt was founded in 2013 through a joint effort between the USGA, The PGA of America, and the Masters Tournament. GolfCritique.com’s Club League USA, launching in 2021, will offer a competitive travel league for youth golfers based in a private club setting. Club League USA will offer a structured tournament schedule, so families don’t have to choose which events to attend. Kids will compete based on skill and ability, not arbitrary things like age and gender. Club League USA will employ a team-based format, allowing youth to compete as part of a team, something we believe is vitally important to keeping young players engaged and interested in the game. Look for the continued growth of various programs and playing formats that appeal to youth, involve parents, and promote a lifelong love of the game.
Women make up roughly half the world’s population, a number expected to grow in the future. Structured programs for girls, like Girls Golf, a combined venture between the LPGA and USGA aimed at girls between 6 and 17, are growing in popularity. Girls Golf has more than 500 sites across the US that make the game fun in girl-friendly environments, teach the basic skills of the game, and build self-esteem and confidence.
Social media platforms and websites, such as the LPGA’s Women’s Network (lpgawomensnetwork.com), have become effective online communities that bring women to the game, provide practical skills to enjoy it more, and help promote the LPGA’s Amateur Golf Association, with more than 100 chapters across the country. Apparel and equipment companies continue to develop and expand whole product lines that market specifically to women and their enjoyment of golf.
As their involvement in the game grows, women will continue to find an ever-expanding list of possibilities to make their mark on the business of golf. There are high profile examples like Suzy Whaley, who just completed her term as the first woman to serve as president of the PGA of America, but the influence of women is growing in every sector of the game. Ladies Leading Turf, founded in 2019, is a networking group of women who work as course superintendents and in other turf management positions traditionally held by men. As more women land roles as commentators, announcers, writers and media contributors, their voices grow in influence and will help shape the future course of the game.
Golf will have a variety of growth opportunities in the future, but there is no doubt that women and youth are among the most promising groups to build the game’s popularity. Successful clubs will cater to women and youth through programs and playing opportunities that are uniquely designed to attract new players and retain experienced players. Apparel and equipment companies whose marketing to these two groups sets them apart will move to the head of the line. Keep an eye on these trends, not just in 2021, but throughout the decade and beyond.