Golfer Retention is Job 1 in ‘23
As promised last month, we continue our summary of our 20th annual State of the Industry discussion which Stuart and I hosted during the Golf Business Conference/PGA Merchandise Show back in now-distant January. I’ve borrowed (stolen?) Stuart’s primary observation during his qualitative assessment portion of the presentation which was that COVID brought us a lot of new golfers and more diversity (primarily gender & generations vs. race; we’re still failing the DEI litmus test/trifecta) but now our challenge is maintaining their interest and involvement in our sport as life gets back to normal.
In spite of the combined time, energy and money devoted to player development over the past 20 years, the elephant in the room has persistently been not that we can’t attract golfers, it’s that we’ve never had much success in keeping them. In this issue I’ll channel Stuart (we’re both old white guys with gray hair) in recapping what we can and should be doing about retention in 2023 to help ourselves and stop sabotaging whatever success we’re having in player development:
• Can we make a more concerted effort to proactively “fix” the primary causes of golfers abandoning the sport?
• The only way to attack golfer defection is to determine root causes (consumer survey) and remedial actions (PGA pros are positioned to be part of the solution)
• Facility operators are (could be?) uniquely positioned to help their own cause by attacking customer defections if they can identify and connect with those who have strayed
Stuart has studied the annual “churn” figures and his fact-based assertion is that we pretty steadily attract 2-3M new players to the game annually. Where our fortunes rise (during COVID) and fall (the 18 years since ’00 pre-COVID) is how many players we lose annually out the “back door” who abandon the game (defined as not playing a single round in the current year after having played 1+ rounds the previous year; the bar is not high). If we could figure out a way to close the back door, even halfway, in one or more successive years, the steady inbound participant flow would propel us to higher numbers of golfers and, not assuredly but most likely, more rounds (and revenue). Great theory, but how do we actually do that as an industry? Unlike player development, there’s no magic, universal player retention bullet; it will be the cumulative efforts of individual facility owner/operators to close their back door which will result in moving the national needle. I’ve always said, “the last entity to see a departing golfer is the last facility he/she played at.” Let’s see what Stuart and my solution to the challenge looks like.
For our subscribers, keep scrolling down to get the supporting facts and insights. For everyone else, you can get the rest of the story one of three ways:
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