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The Next Decade in Golf

July 27, 2020

Golf in the 2020s

The first known record of golf was written in 1467, when James II of Scotland banned the game. In 1502, his grandson James IV lifted the ban because he had become an avid golfer. Through the centuries golf has been a game that we love despite its challenges, a game with highs and lows that keep us coming back.

Golf may be the greatest game every played, but it didn’t become so popular by standing still. Golf has evolved continuously since it was invented—early golfers played with wooden clubs, and the Old Course at St. Andrews, the ‘home of golf’, once had 22 holes.

Change is critical to golf’s success as a new generation picks up golf clubs for the first time.

As we enter the 2020s we are looking forward to extraordinary changes golfers can expect, and leaning on the industry experts to give us a preview.

‘A tectonic shift’

“Golf, as a business, is changing. Entertainment is the growth machine. Enterprises such as TopGolf and smaller competitor Drive Shack are just the beginning. Even Fort Myers is getting an upscale putting, playground and dining concept by TGR (Tiger Woods Ventures) called PopStroke.

What does it mean?

It means that the tectonic plates of this industry are shifting. The core of modern strategies for growth are not “if you build it they will come”, it is “let’s build it and show them why they need to come”. And, those golf entertainment concepts have a lot of reasons people want to go.

In the next decade, and thereafter, we will see golf clubs investing in development that includes entertainment concepts such as indoor hitting bays or activity centers. Golf courses are expanding their playing options by adding Golf Boards, scooters and motorbikes so golfers have a creative and different way to play the game.

So what is the big shift, or change that is happening you ask?

In my personal opinion, golf is evolving. The days of being in the business as a recreational facility are slowly fading away. We are now in the service industry and the fundamentals of hospitality are paramount. At Cape Royal Golf Club we treat every golfer that comes to our facility as our guest. And, hopefully, they receive a little entertainment while they are here.”

– Sean Biggs, PGA, Cape Royal Golf Club

A focus on entertainment has resulted in a greater range of options for golfers. There is no one size fits all golfer, and there definitely isn’t a one size fits all golf club.

Southwest Florida has some extraordinary championship golf courses, many of which have hosted professional events. These stadium courses tend to be much longer and more challenging.

However, that’s not what every golfer is looking for—

“Bigger may not mean Better. Our culture has become extremely fast paced. Playing 18 holes of golf has changed. Golfers are looking to play a round of golf in 3.5 hours or less, not 5 hours!

Golfers are finding clubs like Quail Run Golf Club more enjoyable, a shorter course with par of 70, offering 18 holes of golf on 65 acres. It not only allows quick rounds but an opportunity to maintain the expected golf experience at a fraction of the price.”

– Doug Burnham, PGA, Quail Run Golf Club

While golf course design is affecting how players enjoy the game, technology has been playing an incredible role in expanding the game of golf.

The PGA Merchandise Show, held every year in Orlando, is a tremendous place to take the pulse of the industry and learn about what golfers can look forward to next.

One of the most exciting categories this year was golf simulators. Golf simulators have long been present in the industry, but they are becoming much more common due to their success at driving ranges and technological advances.

This year the Rapsodo R-Motion Golf Club Simulator and Swing Analyzer (see it: golfcoastmagazine.com/simulator) received a lot of attention because golfers can use it to simulate 15 of the world’s top courses from home—for just $200 (though some stores have it on sale for as little as $100 at the time of this writing). The system plugs into any PC and clips onto your golf clubs. So with a net and a mat, players can practice on some of the most extraordinary courses in the world all while receiving valuable swing insights.

“Golf Simulators have been transformational at Quail Village Golf Club. Our members use them every day to warm up for their rounds, and most prefer it to a full range. Golf Simulators will tell you precisely how far you are hitting the ball with each club and give PGA Professionals valuable data points that make it easier for us to improve your swing.

At Quail Village, we’re always trying to make golf more approachable and fun. Golf Simulators, along with an exceptionally designed course, help us offer members the best possible experience.”

– Chuch Lange, PGA, Quail Village Golf Club

Hospitality has always been the defining feature of the golf industry, especially here in Southwest Florida. Golf clubs are among the most welcoming places in our communities, and they are expanding their offerings to reach an even wider audience.

Country clubs have been adding expanded fitness facilities, tennis, resort-style pools, pickleball, and a wide range of amenities to attract people with more diverse interests. While golf is still the main attraction, more non-golfers are getting drawn to the country club amenities.

Greater off-course features can be credited, in large part, to the growing participation of women in golf. While only 23% of golfers are women, that number has been growing every year and women make up a disproportionate number of new entrants to the golf market.

Women have been demanding more from golf courses, and local clubs are delivering.

“The Country Club lifestyle has become more than just golf with a vast array of amenities and social options becoming a must have…And where the women play…the men typically follow.”

– Mary Jane (MJ) Chappy, MBA, The Club at Gateway

We can expect that more women on the golf course will mean more great opportunities, events, and amenities for all golfers!

What can players expect in the next decade?

Fast Paced Entertainment: Expect options that are catered towards professionals and people who don’t have enough time to play a full round of golf. Driving ranges and golf facilities will be tailored to deliver entertainment options both during the day and night.

Greater Use of Technology: Driving ranges will be enhanced with simulators and other technology that transform them into entertainment hubs. Technology will also open the door to new ways to enjoy golf, such as giving players the option to replace Golf Carts with Golf Boards.

A Complete Lifestyle: Golf clubs are going to stay at the center of our communities by offering a wide array of amenities targeted at people with diverse interests. Clubhouses will do more to attract women and, in turn, offer a better experience to everyone.

There’s a lot to be excited about in the next decade. Golf will continue to adapt to a new generation of golfers, and the game will be better for it.

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