Last week, like many other golf industry folks, I made the trek Orlando for the annual PGA Merchandise Show. The show is typically a good place and time to take the temperature of the golf industry. In addition to presenting an educational seminar (click for Power Point), I cruised the show like any other golf enthusiast, met old friends for meals and drinks and networked like most other attendees.
On the equipment side, it didn’t appear to me that there was much new that was earth-shattering. A few new drivers, an improved (presumably) Pro-V1 ball and more grips, shafts, shoes and apparel. What struck me was who wasn’t there. Major companies like Mizuno, Bridgestone and Nike (who still make golf apparel) chose not to exhibit, along with some smaller, but well known brands like Sun Mountain and SDI Sportswear, long staples of the show and golf retailers and pro shops. Whether this is an indication of trouble or not is unknown, but certainly with Ben Hogan recently declaring reorganization and Golfsmith closing its stores, the equipment/apparel business is consolidating.
Some of the golf pros I spoke with mentioned that they’ve experienced an uptick in scheduled events, which combined with a good season weather wise might indicate increased revenues for golf courses. That being said, there is still the lingering issue of how the game can grow participation, and from our perspective at Golf Property Analysts grow value in golf course and club properties.
My seminar was entitled “The Evolution of the Golf Course Industry – How to Compete and Win”. Starting out with both long term and recent history, there’s clear evidence that golf is evolving. Participation has declined, and compared to many years ago more golf is played on public courses than private.
We also discussed understanding a club’s market and the property specifics in order to properly position for success and the need for every course and club to objectively evaluate their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Commission a SWOT analysis.
I wouldn’t say that the mood in Orlando was either overly pessimistic or optimistic. Still, the challenge of growing participation is to make the game more friendly at both levels to encourage participation and most importantly to attract and keep millenials, minorities and women. This has proven to be difficult and during my seminar, I asked my son Jack, a scratch golfer, and Penn State freshman about it. He said:
“All the ‘jackets’ upstairs,” referencing all of the golf pros, sales reps, and other people on the show floor upstairs. “The elitism that is displayed by the standard “country club attire” is one of the things that drives my friends away from golf.”
As a journalism major, Jack writes about this at the following blog: Whats-really-wrong-with-golf
If we’re going to attract millenials, maybe we should listen to them. Their cell phones are an extension to their being and their attire (not necessarily objectionable) is an expression of their personality.
Sometimes we don’t have to go far from home to learn something.