What are we doing to attract new people to the game?
If your answer is, “great greens and a sub-four hour round” or “Pan-Asian night”, then please stop reading now.
Do you remember when you first fell in love with the game? I do. I was a twenty-year old sophomore at East Tennessee State University, having just transferred from a small, private college with the dream to play collegiate baseball. I grew up living and breathing the game. Baseball that is, not golf. Growing up in the 1970’s, golf (and soccer) was considered a “sissy” sport played by those that didn’t have the coordination or aggression to play baseball, football, or basketball...but I digress.
My tryout for the ETSU baseball team lasted three days, and I bombed! A few days later (dejected), I got a job at a brand new Play It Again Sports franchise in Johnson City, TN. As it turned out, golf turned out to be our biggest department, taking up some 35% of the floor space. I was fascinated by the same people, who week over week would come in looking for something new, which seemed strange to me having played with the same mitt and bat for years? I often wondered aloud...”what were these people looking for”.
A month later, I got my first set of clubs. A nice Dunlop fourteen club set with matching everything. After work I hit the range a few days per week and for three months couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn with a bazooka. I was terrible! Three months into my “golf career”, a local golf pro, Earl Fennel came into the store. He reminded me of Ben Hogan, although at the time, I only knew of who Ben Hogan was by the number of Apex sets we sold. He had a firm handshake and spoke in crisp absolutes about the game. I told him how bad I was, but said “I am determined to improve”. He gave me his card and said, “Meet me at 2 pm SHARP this Friday”.
Friday comes. I’m excited. Finally, I will learn how to hit it like the pros. I shook Mr. Fennel’s hand and he told me, “grab your seven iron son”. I took my time...and proceeded to hit five worm-burners down the range. He said, “that’s terrible. Let me see your hands”. He changed my grip, worked on my path a little and explained how hitting down would make the ball rise. I was skeptical. I still remember to this day him saying, “Joe, you have to open the door then close the door on the downswing”. My second swing was the one! A high towering seven iron that went a little left instead of right! I was hooked. I stayed and hit balls for two hours that day. And the rest...is history.
I tell you this story to (hopefully) remind you of when and why you fell in love with the game. You could probably tell a similar story about your introduction to the game.
Guess what? There are hundreds of kids in your town that if given the chance would fall in love with the game much the same as we did...but they won’t because we collectively are doing little to attract them. Why?
You want the cold, hard truth?
The tennis pro, at every club I read about has more programs and is more engaging than the golf pro. PERIOD!
I can’t begin to tell you the number of clubs that take a full page to explain all of their monthly tennis programs for beginners to advanced players, whether it be in Johnson City, TN or New York City, while the golf calendar has...Mens league, nine hole ladies, and a weekly dog fight. Zzzzzzzzz.
Why is the financial loser of the club the engaging superstar?
Why do I (almost) always see the tennis pro giving lessons or playing with members while the golf pro is stuck behind a desk?
Take a look at the picture below and ask yourself, “would we really have that much trouble attracting new people to the game if our calendar half-way resembled the tennis pros”?