Can Golf Turn a Lemon into Lemonade?

In some very disappointing news, a golf course in York, PA expelled 5 women from the premises as described in the Washington Post and numerous other media outlets around the country and around the world recently.

Since I wasn’t there, didn’t see what happened and can’t pass judgement, I’ll refrain from doing so.  However, our grand old game most definitely has an image and culture problem.  Earlier in April, Augusta National Golf Club made great progress in establishing the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, signaling progress in what I call golf’s “culture war” by recognizing women in a positive way.  Unfortunately, in York last week 2 segments of the “3 M’s” (Minorities and “Moms”) weren’t so fortunate and have claimed racial discrimination.

If, as the women in York claim, racial (or gender) discrimination occurred it is reprehensible and should be prosecuted.  There’s no place for that in our society (or our game), and even though we all know it occurs, those in the golf industry need to be extra sensitive and promote inclusion to change the game’s image as a bastion of white, male dominance.  This is not only a social statement, but one of economics.  The “3 M’s” are significant and growing segments of our society.  If golf doesn’t embrace them, it’s not only socially irresponsible, but economically limiting.

According to another article in the Washington Post, the course in York is already feeling the economic claws of social conscience.  As stated by Pennsylvania Golf Course Owners (PGO) Executive Director, Gregg Acri, “This is a situation that none of us, on any side of the golf industry, would want to be a part. However, the incident presents an opportunity to provide insight to all of us on customer service and customer loyalty.”   I have maintained in this space and elsewhere that golf’s culture can be its own worst enemy.  Recognizing this incident as an opportunity is a must for our industry and our game to ensure a healthy future in an increasingly diverse society.

While golf has made some progress in diversifying its culture, there is much left to do which can bring financial profit to a sometimes struggling golf industry, including clubs, courses, equipment, apparel and any ancillary segments of the industry.  Young people, including those normally considered part of the golf demographic are choosing other activities because of golf’s lack of diversity which isn’t “cool” with the younger generation.  This needs to be reversed.

Golf Datatech recently reported a drop of 2.7% in rounds played in 2017 from 2016.  Let’s hope that the unfortunate occurrence in York and the national and international publicity it is receiving becomes a catalyst for positive change and golf facilities everywhere recognize both the social and economic benefits of encouraging diversity in golf and society in general.