According to the National Golf Federation (NGF), 3.7 million people took up playing golf last year. That’s a promising number, isn’t it? Well, not really, because in the same time period, 4.1 million golfers actually gave up and stopped playing, resulting in a net loss of 400,000 players. Although 260,000 women started playing, that was counterbalanced by 600,000 men deciding to discontinue. By comparison, around 15 years ago, almost 30 million Americans played golf regularly.
In his annual state of the industry speech at the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, FL, Jim Koppenhaver of Pellucid Corporation pointed out that in terms of age group, the biggest loss came from younger players aged 18-34. Koppenhaver suggested that these players had decided that there were better ways to spend their time and money.
Another disturbing NGF statistic tallies newly built U.S. golf courses at only 14 for this year. Meanwhile, 157 courses have closed. What’s more, last year was the eighth year in succession that saw more courses close than open. These findings would have been inconceivable only a few years ago, as golf had become accustomed to steady growth for decades.
Last January, John Reitman of Turfnet.com commented that some people felt golf did not deserve a boost unless – or until – there was a seismic shift in its popularity. Well aware of the problem, The Professional Golfers’ Association of America (PGA) created a scheme known as the Golf 2.0 player-development initiative in an effort to boost the sport’s dwindling popularity. Unfortunately, the campaign has fallen short of its target of 27 million players, achieving only around 24 million, according to Koppenhaver.
It is obvious that there needs to be a radical new approach to prevent these figures from dropping further. Fortunately, help is at hand – and it utilizes the latest technology.
Time to Play Golf is a mobile phone app that functions to revitalize the golfing industry. Working in conjunction with the PGA and others, this app is endeavoring to rebuild the game from the ground up. It will particularly appeal to the 18 to 34-year-old demographic – the very age group that gave up playing golf in such large numbers.
Time to Play Golf, available on both iOS and Android devices, makes it possible for individuals of all skill sets to find a golf partner quickly and easily. Given the constantly diminishing number of available golf courses, the app not only links up golf partners of equivalent skill levels, but also shows members the location of their nearest course, and the golfers that play that course.
We asked Doug Hilgenberg, CEO and Founder of Time to Play Golf, to tell us more about how this app will benefit the game of golf.
“My personal belief is that the big golf brands, try as they may, cannot grow the game of golf in the same way that golfers can,” Hilgenberg explained. “The growth has to come from the players who are interested in playing and learning the game. Many players, however, are having a hard time finding golf partners and are resorting to playing solo. This is unfortunate because they’re just not getting the most from the game, and much of their invested time and effort is going to waste.”
Given the fact that virtually everyone has a smartphone nowadays, people have become accustomed to using their devices to connect with others via shared interests. People want the content that interests them, and they want it immediately.
Time to Play Golf fulfills that function exactly, while simultaneously building increased awareness that will hopefully lead golf toward a much-needed comeback. Thanks to the combined efforts of advocates like the PGA, and tech innovations like Time to Play Golf, the game of golf may soon experience a powerful resurgence.