Mark NessmithThis Week at November 15, 2005

Will Wie one-up Woods with
effect on the business of golf?

I recently came across an article by T.R. Reinman of Golf Magazine about the "Tiger Effect." Reinman was writing about how the Tiger Woods phenomenon fueled "explosive reaction from the galleries that stretch from U.S. Amateur ropes in small markets to the big stages, Augusta National and the PGA Championship."

He went on and on about Tiger's effect on the pro game before tossing in a thought or two about the other 99 percent of golf: amateur participation. "Junior programs have burgeoned across the country," he wrote, later closing with this cheery capper: "The Tiger Effect is big...and it's only getting bigger."


Well, the truth is that, for the golf industry, the Tiger Effect hasn't been all it had hoped for. Tiger indeed has changed the face of pro golf. But at the same time, the buzz on the floor at the PGA Merchandise Show in 1999, the first of many I have attended, was how rounds were slumping and product sales were stagnant. And ever since then, there hasn't been a ton of great news for the folks who track rounds and other industry indicators. Is that the Tiger effect?

Actually, what happened is that, much like tech investors horny to get rich during the dot-com boom of the late '90s, the golf industry (course ownership groups, clubmakers, apparel cos.) all overspent, thinking Woods would have everybody in the U.S. golfing by 2001. Lots of newbies tried the game, sure, and some stuck with it. But the overall customer base and demographics didn't change that much, did they? If the Tiger Effect was big and getting bigger, why would the industry then scramble to create growth-of-the-game campaigns like Play Golf America and Link Up 2 Golf? These are good, valuable programs that affect both the industry and individuals in a very positive way. But they were not created because golf courses were turning people away.

You may not have ever heard of GOLF 20/20. It is an organization of high-powered golf industry leaders working together to bring more people to golf. Founded in 1999, it's a safe bet that GOLF 20/20 insiders long ago gave up hope that Tiger alone would lead them to the Promi$ed Land. No, a quick glance at one of GOLF 20/20's most recent industry reports is rather telling. Titled "WHAT WOMEN WANT FROM GOLF," it reports that "according to research by a number of golf organizations, women make a significant contribution to the economics of golf, and ... could spend more."

The Tiger Effect is yesterday's news, folks. Somewhere along the line, he lost the burden of having to save the golf industry from itself and now women are in. Count on this: Golf honchos everywhere have begun banking on the Michelle Wie Effect. She's going to be big big big, I tell you! This 16-year-old Hawaiian kid with no wins is going to bring women to golf in droves! Bank on it!

Or not.

As always, welcomes your comments.

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