Monday, November 24, 2008

One of my favorite aspects of my job as a teaching pro is that I provide a service to customers who are looking to have fun on their day off. People are usually in a good mood, and it makes my work environment very casual. The golf course is the place they want to be, not somewhere they have to be.
But in today’s economy, that’s a double–edged sword. Golf is a leisure activity, so it’s one of the first activities to go when times get tight. All across the economic spectrum, people have seen their net worth slashed--sometimes in half--over the last few months. These financial hits come on the heels of $4.50 per gallon gas here in California, which was when many weekend players started tightening their belts.
Sure, some areas of the industry have a slight buffer. The salaried employee who has a contract will be insulated for a time. Private clubs will still receive dues, though many will likely have members who will not be able to maintain their memberships.
Many areas of the industry have already seen a significant drop in revenue. The high-end daily-fee courses have seen their customer base dwindle, so the pro-shop owner is faced with fewer customers and the players who still come have less money to spend. Suppliers, food concessions and equipment manufacturers all have less demand for their products. Teaching professionals are not immune either. When people have less disposable income that means they have less to spend on something nonessential, like a golf lesson.
Less demand for products will, in theory, bring lower prices. We haven’t seen this in golf before. Until now, prices in golf have constantly moved upward, from equipment to green fees and everything in-between. Like those in the real-estate market, people in the game thought this upward trend would continue forever. I doubt that now. Golf must inevitably succumb to the market forces that govern every other industry.
Where do we go from here? Simply adding value and/or lowering prices will be the thing to do in order to save the game as we know it. If we in the golf industry dig in our heels, steadfastly clinging to the current pricing, then our fate is sealed. The playing field has changed, and it is our responsibility to recognize this and act accordingly. Lower prices will increase demand, and more people will come to the course, the pro shop, and, yes, the lesson tee. Until then, we’ll probably see the tee sheets a little emptier than usual. Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher Roger Gunn is director of instruction at Tierra Rejada Golf Club in Moorpark, Calif.

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