New Innovations as Technology
Having just returned from the annual pilgrimage to Orlando for the PGA Merchandise Show, I am now going through the stack of business cards/brochures/promotional pieces and trying to prioritize (using my unique pile method) which things to follow up on and which things I needlessly carried a few thousand miles just to throw away. As usual the PGA Show was fantastic! It is always exciting to see the new innovations as technology continues its relentless progress throughout our industry.
Demo Day seemed a little more subdued this year compared to last. There was the noticeable absence of Nike from the equipment segment leaving Ping, Taylor-Made, and Callaway a little more room to spread out on the huge circular range at Orange County National. There was also a noticeable drop in the number of small independent equipment companies… probably just an indication of how hard it is to penetrate the golf market going up against the established brands. Tiger Woods image was once again on display with his recent signing to new ball (Bridgestone) and club (Taylor-Made) contracts proving he can still move the needle even though he hasn’t made a cut in almost 2 years at the time of this writing. Of course everyone claims that their new driver will hit the ball further than the other guys by a magnitude of X, even though the USGA regulations for conforming say otherwise, that didn’t stop the marketing campaigns from making the claim. One of them using the tag line “Jail Break Technology”… whatever that means.
“Real” Technological Advances
There were some “real” technological advances that I saw at the PGA Show. One of the most innovative was from Arccos Golf. Their equipment attaches to your golf club and gathers data as you play which is then fed through an app which produces shot tracking and analytics. Millennials will like this because it allows for competing against peers virtually anywhere plus can provide real time feedback. The teacher in me loves the ability to analyze a student’s performance on the course during a round to see where problems arise so we can target those areas during the next lesson. The analytics feature is interesting as a comparative tool to spot trends in your game or see how you stack up against a tour player. After enough data is gathered about your game the app can actually predict what you might shoot at a particular course. Now that is really cool.
Growing the Game
One of the recurring themes at the PGA Show is about growing the game. The industry continues to struggle against some real and some imagined headwinds when it comes to moving the needle in regards to participation. Depending on which source you use the game is either recovering or continuing to decline. I prefer to think it as the industry trying to find its new supply/demand equilibrium. The grand old game is certainly going through shifts in the way game is experienced generationally. Look at the phenomenon of Topgolf. The company is projected to host over 15 million visitors in 2017 and when you compare that to the approximately 25 million total rounds of golf played in the U.S. during 2016 you can see evidence of the demographic shift in how people engage in the game.
The Importance of Golf to the Business Community
With the release of our new book, Back on Course: Drive Business Performance Through Golf, my co-author and I sat in on several roundtables and panel discussions around the topic of the connection of business and golf. My take on moving the needle is to re-establish the importance of golf to the business community. When you get large organizations to embrace the game as part of their culture it’s pretty easy to see that translating to higher participation numbers. I cited a recent post by Kristi Dosh, a contributor to Forbes; titled Golfers make more successful business executives. Some of the take aways from the piece… 90% of Fortune 500 CEO’s play golf. 21% of U.S. golfers are black, Asian, or Hispanic. 22% of U.S. golfers are female. Although a bit dated stats showed women with handicaps under 10 had an average income of $146,900 compared to men with the same handicap who made $118,400. 93% agree that playing golf is a good way to establish a closer relationship.
I really hope that in 2017 we can get some wind in the sails of the business golf movement. Business golf has languished in the shadows for too long. I know that I will be trying to shine a light on it every opportunity I get. Until next time.
By Dave Bisbee, iMapGolf
Dave Bisbee, Dmitri Zagar and Kelly Dunagan-Johnson