In the last decade, the number of recreational golfers in the United States has slipped from 30 million to 26 million, according to the National Golf Foundation. So we posed a challenging question to the No. 1 executives at four of the leading equipment manufacturers: "How can the industry attract more golfers?"
\nMark King: "When bowling alleys started to resemble ghost towns, the industry attracted new players by making the game easier. They installed automatic scoring systems, put guards up along the gutters, and provided light balls that kids could roll. Today, bowling alleys are packed. We can do the same in golf by encouraging beginners to play the forward tees, to tee the ball in the fairway, and to call gimmes within five feet of the cup. We could even increase the size of the cup for beginners' leagues."
Mark King, president and CEO, TaylorMade-adidas Golf Company
\nGreg Hopkins: "You grow golf at the grassroots level, course by course. If a golf course or community feels they want or need more golfers, there are many ways to accomplish the task, but this happens at a local level, not a national level. If you promote your course to community organizations, local businesses and schools, and you offer and maintain a learning and playing experience for new golfers, it doesn't take long for the golf lifestyle to 'stick,' and you have a new golfer."
Greg Hopkins, president and CEO, Cleveland Golf
\nCindy Davis: "Our world, the demographics and the expectations of sport and entertainment are changing. If the golf industry wants to stay in step with those ongoing changes, it must be willing to truly listen to the consumer and, in turn, be open to adapt the golf experience in order to grow. That means offering alternatives to the conventional round of golf, to the products golfers play, and to the game itself. As an industry, we need to evolve as our consumers evolve."
Cindy Davis, president, Nike Golf
\nGeorge Fellows: "The industry must address the fact that the game is inaccessible, unaffordable, or too difficult for many beginners. All stakeholders own a piece of this problem, including the rulemaking bodies, course operators and equipment manufacturers. While there are grassroots programs that provide access to courses, equipment and instruction, they don't have the reach or support necessary to make a lasting impact. It's time for the industry to work out mutually acceptable solutions."
George Fellows, president and CEO, Callaway Golf