Everyone knows what happened on Masters Sunday in 1986. I was in my home watching the man I worked with win his sixth green jacket in spectacular fashion. The most significant effect of 1986 was the several hundred thousand MacGregor Response putters that were sold after the tournament. Tiger’s Sunday play was more surgical than spectacular but the impact should be more wide spread than Jack’s win. Hopefully, Tiger’s performance on the Masters stage will have a similar response to his 1997 win.
The ten years post 1997 saw a steady rise in golf play, equipment sales and new golf course construction. The retraction and sluggishness in the business of golf the last ten years has, not surprisingly, coincided with Tiger’s struggles. From a high of 30.6 million American golfers in 2003, the National Golf Foundation says that the participation level has remained around 24 million for the past five years. Part economy related and part the lack of a competitive Tiger.
Golf telecasts are seeing a 30% increase in ratings for a televised tournament in which he appears. In Aug of 2018, Toni Fitzgerald posed the question, “Does Tiger Woods still boost TV Ratings?” This is before he proceeded to capture the Tour Championships in Atlanta boosting CBS’s final round coverage of the PGA Championships to their highest Sunday final round ratings of the Championship, EVER. Now… he has returned to recapture the hearts and mind of the golf universe winning the 2019 Masters!
The Future of Golf
Tiger is influencing a new generation of golfers that weren’t alive when he won his first 14 majors. We know he had a profound effect on JT, Jordan, Ricky…what about the next wave of future players?
All of us are now more motivated to tee it up than we were before The Masters. Tiger’s influence on golf play is arguably more significant than anything other than a healthy economy and good weather. With any luck at all, golf play should be on the uptick the remainder of this year. That is a good thing for golf, but how can we harness the Tiger affect for the long-term benefit to the game that we love. Certainly, it could provide another wave of Justin, Jordan and Ricky. But we need more youth, women and non-Caucasians to play golf. The road blocks to beginner golf play include the following:
· Club procurement and fitting is complicated
· Expense of getting started
· Is the golf environment fun?
· Where do they play?
Amazingly, even with the difficulty, the National Golf Foundation says that a near record 2.6 million beginners played golf for the first time in 2018. Making the road blocks less intimidating has got to be a focus or we will continue to struggle keeping these first timers involved. And when we do get them interested and they attend a couple of clinics and begin to learn how to play and enjoy the game, where are they going to play? Golf is one of the few sports that does not have “little league” or beginner venues. Junior tees are great, but it is still the “adult” course and kids/beginners access time is limited. We must develop more short courses and small par three courses. These venues need to be inexpensive, easily accessible and fun to play. A five-hole short course can be placed on two acres of land. Synthetic tees and greens can reduce maintenance. Let’s use this latest Tiger affect to significantly increase the accessibility to the game of golf for everyone. It’s the game of a lifetime!
Golf Insights are written by Steve Wolfard. Steve is the chief principal designer and partner at W Golf Design. He focuses on architecture, routing, construction, agronomics and how these elements impact both the playability of the game he has loved his entire life and the business of the golf courses he has worked or collaborated on. Wolfard brings a personal and balanced approach to his clients that is built on trust as their project partner. To learn how Steve can help your next project contact him directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org