Golf industry seeks ways to increase number of golfers. What about SNAG?
Having just returned from Florida, it is evident hotels and resorts are not full while championship courses have open tee times. Good news for golfers, not so good for the golf and travel industry. Ever since the downturn in the economy, typically named culprit for this sad state of affairs, golf gurus have been searching for ways to turn things around.
At the recent PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, a high profile panel including Jack Nicklaus, PGA of American CEO Joe Steranka, USGA Executive Director Mike Davis and others, addressed a large audience with yet another new plan designed to build the game: Golf 2.0 (which might better be called something like “Golf 4 Future"). The lofty goal: to have 40 million players by 2020 up from today’s 26 million.
Sure you can blame the economy but Nicklaus struck a note when he said, “Since 2006 we have lost 23 percent of women and 36 percent of kids, an astonishing number. How do we get them back? My kids don’t play golf any more. They’re going to parks, soccer, lacrosse, flag football, baseball – everything but golf. Why can’t we go to parks on a Saturday morning and play in a golf league?”
Like an old saw, there were a lot of initiatives thrown out there, good common sense ideas. Darrell Crall, PGA Senior Director of Golf 2.0, had put together key ways to increase rounds like making the game more fun, more affordable, less time consuming and building easier or “bunny slope” golf courses for beginners.
Problem was, missing were actual plans of action pros could practically grasp and implement, plans that would really work.
To be fair, there are a few flurries in the works like a grant project to pay architects for their travel expenses when they voluntarily consult with existing courses to make them more user-friendly like adding a few short holes and expanding the driving ranges.
Like Nicklaus said, “When I’m asked when a kid should take up golf, I tell them when he (or she) can play three holes without chasing a frog.”
But you’ve got to wonder, is this where financially stressed clubs will put their money in light of other capital improvements on the drawing boards like a new bar or pro shop?
There is also a new partnership with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America to bring in pros or instructors to teach youngsters to play the fun way but with initial funding for just 50 clubs, it seems like a drop in the proverbial bucket.
As Steranka said, “If families are going to spend time and money, they are just looking for some good old fashioned fun.”
He suggested, setting aside times and places for families and beginners to play as well as making instruction more accessible and affordable.
The only solid product I saw at the show with hopes to turn around the game is SNAG (Starting New at Golf) which is already huge in Japan. Since SNAG can be set up anywhere – in parks, backyards, gyms – parks & rec departments are lining up to add SNAG to their programs.
“Our parks sign up 1000s of kids for various programs every year. Up to now, they could participate in every sport except golf,” said Nancy Logan, Sr. Manager National Partnerships at National Recreation & Park Association. “For the first time, golf can be part of the P&Rs program and there is a huge demand for it. When we announced $180,000 in grants would be available for SNAG, more than 200 P&Rs wanted it, but initially we only had money for just 15 P&Rs. We hope to increase that.”
Every element SNAGsters (golfers) need to learn the game is included in the SNAG system from the colorful modified score card to two clubs (Launcher and Roller), three SNAG Balls, Flagsticky and cloth bag. SNAGsters hit the ball to a target or Flagsticky where a hook fabric causes the balls to stick on impact. How fun is that!
Developing a proper grip is easy with the five-sided grip and color-coded clues telling you where to place your hands. Other SNAG training tools help develop additional skills like pitching and swing path. Snaggolf.com
So there is hope but first you have to “snag” a lot of new golfers including kids, women and beginners. Pros can think about adding SNAG to their corporate events and like parks & recs, schools can add it to their programs. Once new golfers understand how much fun it is, they can move on to play on local munis and eventually join a public league or private course. That’s looking ahead.
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