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Millennials and Golf; What they EXPECT


Are Millennials the holy grail of golf course customers?

I recently read a list of ways that golf courses can get millennials out to the golf course. From a marketing perspective, it was a great effort. Good marketing is all about getting the right message to the right person at the right time to get the best chance of converting the target into a customer.

A list of how to get millennials to come to the golf course deserves some page views because it’s one of the hot topics in the golf course business.

It was written by a great company with a solid product and it appealed to a fear that a lot of their (and our) customers and prospective customers have; they’re about to experience another year of golfers getting older without younger, millennials taking up the game.

So they put together a list of suggestions.

There are two items on the list that really stood out to me, not because they are qualified or unqualified ideas for getting younger people to enjoy golfing. They stood out because they are tools that, without a strategy, don’t achieve an objective. As part of a broader strategy, however, they are an absolute necessity.

The two tools are:
An app for your golf course
Craft beer at your golf course

To be clear… and I mean to be very clear… these are two excellent ideas. So much so that if you don’t implement them today while there is a distinct advantage in doing so, you’ll be forced to do so when they become the industry standard, which will be sooner than later.

Let’s examine these two ideas; craft beer and golf apps. Let’s break down why they are necessary tools that are part of a winning strategy, particularly as it pertains to getting millennials out to play golf.

But first…

In order to understand what millennials expect, we have to understand who they are. Beloit College publishes a list every year about the incoming class of students and what professors and faculty should expect of them. They point out things that might be completely foreign concepts to the older set. A student using his phone in class, for example, might be recording the lecture or reading the coursework… or texting the person beside him.

Here’s a sample of the Mindset of the Class of 2017 list:

The Mindset List for the Class of 2017
For this generation of entering college students, born in 1995, Dean Martin, Mickey Mantle, and Jerry Garcia have always been dead.
1. Eminem and LL Cool J could show up at parents’ weekend.
2. They are the sharing generation, having shown tendencies to share everything, including possessions, no matter how personal.
3. GM means food that is Genetically Modified.
4. As they started to crawl, so did the news across the bottom of the television screen.
5. “Dude” has never had a negative tone.
6. As their parents held them as infants, they may have wondered whether it was the baby or Windows 95 that had them more excited.
7. As kids, they may well have seen Chicken Run but probably never got chicken pox.
8. Having a chat has seldom involved talking.
9. Gaga has never been baby talk.
10. They could always get rid of their outdated toys on eBay.
11. They have known only two presidents.

Those of us who love golf and devote ourselves to the game are the professors. Millennials are the class of 2017.

The game of golf and all of its rules and quirks is steeped in a tradition that those of us in the business love and respect.

When we think of the Masters, we see that rich green color and we fantasize about Jim Nantz whispering our life’s story as we walk up the 18th green on Sunday waving to the patrons.

Then there are those who find that level of pomp and pretentiousness unapproachable. They prefer the 16th at the Phoenix Open!

Granted, Augusta National and the Masters don’t have to worry about catering to millennials (though CBS does). But the golf industry, in general, requires newcomers.

The best strategy isn’t to bring millennials to golf but to bring golf to millennials.

Tiger proved a similar rule

When Tiger Woods broke onto the scene, he redefined professional golf. His PGA debut corresponded with a sea change in the advancement of golf technology. The three-piece ball, the graphite shaft, titanium drivers, ballcaps instead of visors (ok, that last one was just for me) all changed the game.

This combination sent a shockwave through the sports world. Tiger’s unparalleled skill and state-of-the-art equipment had him accomplishing nearly inhuman feats on the golf course. He left the field behind at the ’97 Masters, winning by 12 strokes and again at the 2000 US Open where he won by 15 strokes.

And Tiger didn’t look like a golfer, either. He looked more like dominant athletes of other sports; Michael Jordan, Ronaldo, Roger Federer, Tom Brady. He was good looking and played “above the rim,” so to speak.

Put it all together and you’ve got a guy who made non-golfers all over the world take notice. HE brought the game of golf to THEM.

That’s the challenge we all have in the golf business when it comes to millennials; we have to bring golf to them.

Who’s bringing golf to millennials?

The first answer that comes to mind for a lot of us will be Top Golf. Without getting into too much detail, Top Golf has successfully packaged golf in a way that appeals to millennials on a different level. (This is not to say that their only customers are millennials.)

Top Golf has reframed golf. It’s more like bowling than golf. It’s more like a nightclub than a driving range. It’s more like a rockin’ party than a demure recreation activity.

“Want to drink beer, listen to music, wear jeans and runners, and get instant gratification almost every time you hit the ball?” Come to Top Golf.

I don’t believe for a second that this is the only way to get millennials into the game. But I do believe that the people who reimagined the game of golf for a new audience have enjoyed some success and that golf course owners and operators who can reimagine their properties and align them with the desires of millennials can enjoy success on their own terms.

About Apps and Craft Beer

The advice from the aforementioned company is good advice. Put craft beer on tap and get an app for your golf course. Naturally, this advice comes with a sales pitch as they offer an app and food and beverage POS software.

Here’s the real truth about both golf apps and craft beer in the minds of millennials.

Golf Apps

Millennials don’t want golf apps, they expect them. Imagine not having a computer in your pro shop with some sort of tee time management software. Or imagine not having a way for customers to book tee times online.

How would that impact your bottom line?

How many golfers begin their tee time booking process on the internet? It used to be the Yellow Pages, right? Just open up to ‘golf courses’ and then start calling around until you found a tee time that worked.

Obviously, online search has shifted from the Yellow Pages to online.

It’s shifting again.

This time, it’s shifting from browser to app because apps are easier, faster, and dedicated to the task the user is trying to accomplish.

Apps are also mobile and for a connected and convenience-oriented generation, mobile is everything.

This is why banks, retailers, coffee shops, sports teams, social media networks, and on and on and on all have apps. Because it’s soon becoming the case where if you don’t have an app, you don’t exist.

What do I mean by “don’t exist?”

Once again, imagine not having a website for your golf course. If somebody Googled “golf in (YOUR CITY HERE),” that person would have no idea your golf course existed giving you precisely 0% chance at getting a booking as a result of that search.

Do millennials want a golf app for your course? No. They expect it.

But wait, there’s more

The beauty of an app is that it allows you to extend the experience you offer your customers to a mobile platform.

Push notifications allow you to make special offers to your customers individually or by selected groups.

GPS is a cool feature that helps players on the course.

And you can promote special events and offers through your app.

What about that Craft Beer?

We don’t like to give advice without having some research to back it up, and we don’t have much research that suggests that serving craft beer will get people to take up golf.

Maybe that’s not the point, though.

Serving craft beer is a great way to sell more beer to millennials who do come to your course and want to drink craft beer, which, research shows, many do. (Though if you really want to appeal more broadly to millennials, perhaps cocktails are the way to go.)

Will craft beer get millennials in the door? Probably not.

Will craft beer increase beer sales among millennial customers, possibly.

Should you put local craft beer on tap? Absolutely. Craft beer is everywhere now, it’s become very common for customers of all generations to explore what local craft beer choices a place has on tap. It’s expected that there will be one or two options.

Here’s a better idea

If you have a craft brewer or two in your area, get in touch with them about doing an event at your course. Set-up the event on Eventbrite or network through a local meet-up group. Promote the event on Facebook with ads that target millennials. Then, when they show up at your golf course, introduce yourself and talk to them about coming out to play some golf.

Why is this a better idea?

Everything we’re learning about millennials is that they are more interested in experiencing things than owning things.

Neighbourhoods are designed to be walkable for a generation that doesn’t value car ownership.

Music services like Spotify have found success with a generation that wants to listen to music without needing to own a single record or song.

Millennials want experiences. And they reward businesses that provide them.

Create an experience that opens up your golf course to them and you just might find that you’ve tapped into an entirely new customer segment.

Wrapping up…

Millennials aren’t going to start showing up to golf courses just because they have apps and craft beer on tap. For that matter, stocking Rickie Fowler’s Puma high-tops in the pro shop won’t going to do the trick either.

For millennials, it’s not about the product. It’s about the experience.

You should absolutely get a custom app for your golf club and you should absolutely put craft beer on tap, but these are just tactics.

You still need a strategy.

“Tactics without strategy is the slowest path to victory.” Sun Tzu – The Art of War.

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About Offcourse Golf

We're Josh & Roger. We started Offcourse Golf to combine our expertise in custom app & web development and digital marketing with our passion for golf. If you're looking to grow your golf business and earn more money, we have the tools and expertise to help.

"We've seen first hand the impact of using the app to fill our tee sheet."

Shawn Lavoie - The Winston Golf Club

"I use the app every day."

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