What are the biggest challenges facing golf in the 21st century?
The time, cost and water it takes to play a round, according to researchers who announced a new partnership between the University of Minnesota and the USGA today.
But they plan to tackle those issues and others.
“We know what golfers tell us,” said Rand Jerris, senior managing director of public services for the USGA. “Their concern is that golf is too expensive, and it takes too long to play.”
During this five-year master research partnership, researchers will use Les Bolstad Golf Course on the university’s grounds to conduct experiments, and the school will look at new ways to package and sell time on the golf course.
Would golfers prefer to play by the hour or the hole? Brian Horgan, a professor at the U of M who is leading the partnership, thinks that answering questions like this will help attract more millennials to the game, as younger people may not have as much free time or cash to spend on the course as their boomer parents do.
As for the owners of golf facilities, water consumption is a growing concern they need to address.
Golf courses in California face stringent water restrictions because of the ongoing drought there. Jerris thinks that conserving water will continue to be an important issue in the future — not just in California, but across the country — and merits efforts to find data-based solutions.
Sometimes these problems intersect, as in the relationship between green speeds and pace of play. To keep green speeds down the grass needs to be cut, but frequently cutting grass puts the plants under stress, which means they will need more water. So researchers will study precisely how green speed affects how fast the game is played. This information could help golf courses to better serve their customers and save water at the same time.
The USGA hopes that the work being done at Minnesota will serve as a model and inspiration to other universities that might replicate the research and help test it in other environments.