Can technology actually improve your golf game? NO

If you’re one of 2 million individuals employed in the struggling $7 billion United States golf industry, you have one desperate mission this year – create and keep more customers. Although that golden rule applies to every successful business, the golf industry’s dirty little secret is that the future is bleak because the sport is having a major problem connecting to millennials. All the new technology in the world is not bringing in more players, and, although it’s a simple online process to book a tee time, technology is not helping anyone play better golf.

According to the National Golf Foundation, which turns 80 this year, golf participation in New England is down almost 7 percent through June. Despite a strong presence on television and sports magazines, which has a cause-and-effect on golfer’s spending habits on technology, every golf manufacturer is showing signs of stagnation. Last month sports conglomerate NIKE announced it is getting out of the golf equipment business, and GOLFSMITH, the largest U.S. golf retailer, has filed for Chapter 11. Taylor Made, which has a huge market share, is “for sale” because it is losing millions every month.

The over-all health of the golf industry is as questionable as the condition of Tiger’s Woods back. Yet, every year we are bombed with advertising that the newest driver, set of irons, or electronic gadgets and gizmos will guarantee to improve your game. It’s total BS! Yes, I want to improve but I don’t want to spend $900 on a set of Taylor Made M-2 irons with graphite shafts. Furthermore, I don’t think those clubs will help me, because it’s my putting that sucks and in need of rehab.

golfI hate to be the bearer of bad news but Jim Koppenhaver, president of Pellucid Corp, a long-time recognized golf industry analyst, predicts that golf participation will decline dramatically through 2020, and warns golf course operators and manufacturer’s to adjust accordingly to the diminishing changes in the market, or in the alternative, they will go bankrupt. Not a happy scenario!

As I see it the-powers-that- be in the golf industry still don’t get it. The two major problems with the game today is, one, it’s too damn expensive and two; there are way too many sandbaggers/ cheaters. One they can control, and one they can’t.

Golf and wealth are closely linked. A recent report from YouGov, a market research firm on affluent consumers, concludes that as income increases, so do golf participation rates. The participation rate for individuals in the $150,000+ income bracket is about double those in the $50K – $75K range, and about five times greater than the rate of those in the $30K or less group. It’s no surprise that this group of affluent golfers earning over $150K account for one third of spending on greens fees and an even higher market share of purchasing the latest in golf club technology. A new players to the industry, Parson’s Golf Company, sells a set of irons for $5000, called PXG. Money talks but it doesn’t guarantee you break 80 every time out!

It’s a reach for me to conclude that a new Golf Buddy range finder or that a new 915 Titleist driver or the latest high-tech Foot Joy Hyperflex shoe or Bridgestone’s B330RX Tour golf ball will turn my game around and knock off three or four strokes off my handicap. An exception is Trackman, which is a universally acknowledged beneficial product.

In sum, I don’t need wearable technology measuring everything from heartbeats to swing speed or any other hi-tech tools when firing a small white ball across a lush countryside and into 18 small holes. To improve my game I need a lesson from a certified professional and practice! AMEN!

(Tom Gorman, a Boston-based golf writer since 1992, tends to be pessimistic and see things from the glass half-empty perspective.)