Growing The Game of Golf

When it comes to attracting the next generations of golfers, the game has a lot of competition from other sports as well as nonsporting activities. There are a lot of recreational options, and clubs need to, and are, working harder than ever to attract juniors and millennials. The good news is that there is already a lot of interest in golf among both groups.


For instance, the efforts by the golf industry to attract junior golfers is bearing fruit, with more than half a million junior golfers taking up the game over the past five years. And accord-ing to the National Golf Foundation, since 1995 the number of junior golfers under the age of 12 has risen by 50 percent. Likewise, millennials are also beginning to play golf. About 28 percent of millennials play the sport, which accounts for just over a quarter of all golfers.

Eight Ways To Appeal To Next Generation Golfers

Millennials play approximately 90 million rounds a year and generate about $5 billion annually for the industry. These numbers are impressive, but clubs can’t afford to rest on their laurels if they hope to continue to attract younger golfers. Here are some ways, offered by the National Golf Foundation study, “Golf and the Millennial Generation,” that clubs can appeal to the next generations of golfers:

  • Golf could stand to chill a little. The golf world is rightly proud of its traditions, but the game is also about having fun. Clubs may benefit from relaxing tradition and aligning more with today’s more casual young players. That doesn’t mean letting members play chicken with carts on the fairways, though. Small changes can make the game seem more appealing though. Why not let players listen to music on the course or sport more relaxed fashions. Heck, Rickie Fowler has been know to wear high-tops in tour events!

Fowler’s Puma High Tops

  • Let your millennial customers and friends help. Don’t assume that you know what younger members (or prospective members) want from your course. Listen to your current millennials and find ways to enhance the game for them and their friends. Too often, clubs take the attitude that “this is how it is, and your going to like it.” Not listening to customers is bad business, and it’s important to remember that clubs are just that—small businesses.
  • Give perks for personal info. It’s a proven strategy. More than half of millennials will give their personal info for something in return. Use this data to offer creative perks and to market directly to them. This is a great way to build up your membership rolls!
  • Embrace millennial social culture. Millennials are very social and value interactions in a physical space over a digital medium. As a social game, golf has a significant opportunity to appeal to latent millennial golfers.
  • Golf alone is not enough for many millennials—they want GOLF+. GOLF+ incorporates music, technology, and other fun aspects to the game. For young people, spicing up the game makes it more exciting and a little less antiquated.


  • Change the perception that golf is an elitist activity. Forty-four percent of millennial golfers think the game is elitist or exclusionary. For many millennials, who as a group tend to value inclusion more than their parents, this is a deal-breaker. While serving many demo-graphics, reshaping golf’s brand to become more welcoming would improve millennial attitudes toward the game. Look outside of golf for solutions. Fun competitions like the obstacle course, Tough Mudder, have capitalized on millennial interest in running. Many millennials focus on fun more than scores and handicaps, opening a new door for golf to create more entertaining opportunities for them to enjoy.

Obstacle Course

  • Embrace the four key pillars of millennial brand love. Innovation, authenticity, meaningfulness, and uniqueness cater to current Gen. Y values, which allow this generation to enjoy experiences tailored to their needs. “Co-opetition” is good (cooperation and competition). Golf’s leaders, such as the PGA and USGA, are teaming up to promote a positive, unified message to attract golfers. Locally, courses can do the same, building support at the grassroots level. Improve the on boarding process to make a better first impression.
  • Golf training programs ease new golfers into the game. By reaching out to people who aren’t currently golfers and introducing them to the game, clubs can make the game—and their clubs—more accessible and attractive to newcomers. Even though the private club industry is healthy today, clubs still need to be marketing to the game’s next generation if they want to continue to enjoy success. By following a few basic practices, clubs can appeal to the next generations of potential golfers and assure that the success they are enjoying today will continue well into the future.

Henry Wallmeyer is the president and CEO of the National Club Association, the national organization that represents private clubs. He can be reached at wallmeyer@nationalclub.org.