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September 2018

There’s a Much Better Story to be Told Here

Vantage Point‭

By Jay Karen, CEO, NGCOA

The Charleston Post & Courier recently ran an article about issues in the golf industry, and the role NGCOA plays in telling the story of golf, especially to our friends in Washington. Shortly after the article appeared online, someone Tweeted a reply that golf should do a better job telling our story. I couldn’t disagree. But then again, who is “golf” in this context?

When speaking to the press or those outside of golf about the issues we face in the industry and the opportunities we have to grow the sport, I often use this same comparison. When describing the range of experiences we have in golf, I like to say how golf is like dining out at restaurants. If someone asked you, “Tell me about eating out? What’s it like?” It would be hard to pigeonhole the dining out experience with one, quick description. Likely, you would reply with something like, “Well, what are you in the mood for? What do you want?”

You can really get just about anything at a restaurant. Do you want a casual, greasy spoon or a white-glove, fine-dining experience? Fast food or attentive service? Family-style and boisterous or intimate and quiet? As you can see, the “image” of dining out is polychromatic, and that is a very good thing if you want to appeal to all types of people with the widest range of budgets.

Now, if we look at the image of golf, many of the fence-sitters, latent-demanders and skeptics alike think of golf as relatively monochromatic. I won’t belabor the point, because all of us inside golf know about those perceptions, and we also know how polychromatic golf truly is, and how it’s getting more so by the season. We know the golf experience truly runs the gamut: from the casual, cheap-beer, no dress code, push-up-green operation (which is awesome, by the way) to the highest-end resorts and clubs, with the longest list of rules and restrictions (which are awesome, by the way), and everything in between. If you believe “playing golf” also incorporates what millions are doing at TopGolf and in simulator bays (and I do, by the way), then the color palate is getting even more diverse. [See the cover story on page 36.]

We have serious work to do in golf to become better storytellers about what we have in our industry; that we are as egalitarian as dining out. That’s not the story many like to lead with, and we need to flip the script. People come to golf on so many different pathways — from being inspired by what they see on television to being introduced to the game through a family member or friend, and that’s great. But if we are going to curate the value proposition and message for the highest level of latent demand, the story has to be compelling, real and reflect the product we have today.
 
Most of us in the industry are decent at selling our golf courses, at offering lessons, at pushing discounted play, but not enough of us are adept at really selling what causes people to fall in love with our game. We can all be storytellers about golf and do more in that respect. This certainly has me thinking about NGCOA’s role in all this. Should we become the Storyteller in Chief, or can we make you the Storytellers in Chief?

What story are you telling about golf?  Find me on LinkedIn, Accelerate or my blog to chime in. 

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