Golf's Five Families Call For A (Scaleable) Truce!

The head of the Corleones, Tattaglias, Barzinis, Cuneos and the Stracci’s gathered at TPC Sawgrass to announce they were entering "a new era of collaboration." Billy Payne was the only no-show, instead hosting Augusta National's "year-end party" according to Don Finchem.

Now, some might think this is all a result of rumors of The Don having Bruno Bevacqua's deputy Larry taken out while zooming through an Interstate 95 EZ-Pass booth, but actually they are just going to consolidate the number of olive oils they sell. To put this in pure Sicilian terms.

In golf terms, this means fewer and more focused grow the game initiatives. They won't be retiring the grow the game mantra that annoys many at this point, but I actually took the diappointingly-attended press conference as a sign that (A) the leaders of the game realize their messages were muddled by too many intiatives, and (B) they intend to grow the game no matter what. They may not always go about it the way some of us would, but you can't fault their determination. There was also a clear effort to refute the near-weekly stories about the game's eminent demise.

Before the press release, some highlights. And for those of you tracking at home, we have a new, multi-platform B-speak term du jour.  Final count for scale, scaleable, scaled and scaling: 12. If you took the over, you won!

Opening the proceeding was the World Golf Foundation's Steve Mona with some numbers.

Last year was the ninth consecutive year of more closures than openings, and we view that as a natural market correction that frankly needs to take place in the golf industry. So to be specific, in 2014 there were 175 closures, there were 11 openings, and that leaves us as of the end of 2014 with a total of 15,372 courses, and importantly, 75 percent of those courses are open to the public, and we think that's a fact that's often overlooked. And just to give you some context, because these are broad numbers, obviously, if you look at the period of time between 1986 and 2005, i.e., a 20-year period of time, golf supply in the United States increased by 40 percent, a substantial number.

And yet so few of them are any good!

Finally, nontraditional participation. There are 25 million non-golfers, so the same size as our current golf franchise, if you will, who are interested or who participate, pardon me, in the game exclusively through either driving ranges, Top Golf, screen golf, otherwise known as simulators, or miniature golf. And we believe that this is a fertile ground for us in terms of a procession from the nontraditional game into the traditional game of golf as we all know it.

I'm not sure procession paints quite the mental image I was hoping for. No, The Don with the giveaway that this was a consolidation announcement (again, a good thing

TIM FINCHEM: Well, so the five programs that have been identified that we agreed upon and we started off with the list of like 16 initiatives that have been ongoing for how many was it?

PETE BEVACQUA: More than 16. Multiple pages.

TIM FINCHEM: Right. Some of them are programs that were in and of themselves of interest, but they just didn't seem to be programs that could scale to have a significant impact.

No-a scaling, no-a program!

The recent, in the last couple of years, Drive, Chip & Putt competition at the Masters, which has given the strength of the Masters brand, has really reached out into communities all over the country, thousands of kids signing up for the ability to compete, and clearly everybody involved in that program believes it can really scale going forward;

I could swear he said that DCP has given strength to the Masters brand because I do remember stuffing a clenched fist in my mouth to prevent an embarrassingly loud laugh.

Now, Mike Davis of the Far Hills, New Jersey syndicate...

We're fixated with getting greens too fast in this country, which is costly to do, which hurts pace of play, which in some cases compromises the architectural integrity of the golf course. Looking for golf balls and having high rough, and I know you probably smirk about this, hard is not good coming from the guy who sets up the U.S. Open (laughter), but I do mean it. So, anyway, and in closing here, I guess the thing I really or we want to get across is that the game is not fundamentally broken. Yes, it has its challenges, but we're excited about this collaboration, and it's collaboration on both growing the game as well as making sure we grow it into a very healthy game, and it indeed is a game for the lifetime, and awareness really is one of the first steps. So thanks to all of you for your help in that regard, and I'll turn it over to Tim.

TIM FINCHEM: Thanks, Mike. So, I guess you're getting the sense of the level of collaboration that's going on here.

Hint, hint...we really, really all get along!


For Immediate Release
May 6, 2015

Ponte Vedra Beach, FL -- The leaders of five major golf organizations in the United States shared a refocused, collaborative approach to grow, protect and perpetuate the health of the game during a press conference today at THE PLAYERS Championship in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL.

The LPGA, Masters Tournament, PGA of America, PGA TOUR and the United States Golf Association, as well as the World Golf Foundation and their allied golf industry leaders, are working together on a number of initiatives aimed at bringing the game to young people and new golfers, as well as to tell the story of the positive impact of the sport.

In the spirit of collaboration, these organizations are working with each other to focus on four major areas of developing the game – bringing the game to young people; improving player development on an adult level; accessibility to the game and retaining golfers; and sustainability.

To help support a healthy game, the industry has committed to supporting the following initiatives:

Sustainability is a commitment shared industry-wide to support the long-term health of the game by delivering solutions to address key barriers to participation. It is focused on four key factors; the costs associated with the game, the time it takes to play the game, the overall quality of the golfer experience, and resource management, particularly water.
Drive, Chip and Putt is a joint initiative founded in 2013 by the Masters Tournament, United States Golf Association and The PGA of America. The Drive, Chip and Putt Championship is a free nationwide junior golf development competition aimed at growing the game by focusing on the three fundamental skills employed in golf. By tapping the creative and competitive spirit of girls and boys ages 7-15, the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship provides aspiring junior golfers an opportunity to play with their peers in qualifiers around the country. Participants who advance through local, sub-regional and regional qualifying in each age/gender category earn a place in the National Finals, which is conducted at Augusta National Golf Club the Sunday before the Masters Tournament and is broadcast live by Golf Channel.
Get Golf Ready, which offers golfers five lessons for $99, had nearly 99,000 participants in 2014, a 15% increase over 2013. Over the six-year history of this program, Get Golf Ready has attracted 358,000 students through the more than 4,400 GGR certified facilities across the country. 62% of students attending the program in 2014 were female, triple golf’s overall female participation rate of 20%.  In their first year following participation in GGR, students are being retained as players at a rate of 82%.
LPGA-USGA Girls Golf, which introduces the game to girls up to 14 years old, has continued to get more girls involved in the game. LPGA-USGA Girls Golf has grown from 4,500 girls per year in 2010 to an estimated 50,000 girls per year in 2015.
PGA Junior League Golf, for boys and girls ages 7-13 playing a 9-hole Scramble in three-hole segments, saw a 500% growth from 2012 (1,500 kids) to 2013 (9,000 kids). In 2014 the numbers nearly doubled (1,425 teams and 17,500 kids) compared to 2013 (740 teams and 9,000 kids). Estimates are that 100,000 girls and boys will participate by 2020.
The First Tee, which introduces young people to the game and the values inherent to it, reached more than 4.1 million young people in 2014, the most since its inception in 1997. It also has doubled its participants in the past eight years compared to its first eight years of existence. Since the program’s inception in 1997 through 2014, more than 10.5 million young people have participated in The First Tee programs. Programs are delivered at golf courses, in elementary schools and at youth centers. In 2013, Scott Langley became the first participant of The First Tee to become a PGA TOUR member.

To share this message of collaboration, the golf industry worked together to create a PSA which will begin airing in this week’s PLAYERS Championship telecast. To view the PSA, please click on the following link: