Despite the advice of market pundits to spend this weekend relaxing we’ve been working on an update on open source software adoption.Â At the same time we have been back at the links after a multi-year hiatus.Â We started to think about why we got back into golf after the gap and the answer illustrates what I think is a fundamental structural shift that could help revive the sport.
Golf is a special sport for many reasons but athletically it is one of the few if not the only one when the implement that is used to hit the ball doesn’t stay constant as does a tennis racquet or baseball bat. A golfer may have to use 14 different clubs to get the job done. For all the attraction about the same number of people quit playing golf each year as take the sport up. It’s stagnant.
We know that clubs like Winged Foot are not going to change and we wouldn’t want them to.Â Playing there is a religious experience that shouldn’t be tampered with.Â However the notion of suspending our other obligations and connectivity for a half a day is getting harder and harder to do.
This summer we stumbled into a new model that was an epiphany for us.Â We stopped thinking about playing a full round of 18 holes.Â Our goal was always to squeeze in 9 and not even feel that we needed to commit to that if we were pressed for time.Â So all of a sudden we were playing three or four times a week but for much shorter duration. We could begin to incorporate golf into the normal, busy life tempo that most people have.
We have seen some "executive courses" with only short par-3 holes but many of them are more driven by space constraints rather than good ideas about changing how people relate to the club and the game.
Playing 9 is a great start but maybe more forward-thinking courses need to start thinking in 3’s instead of 9’s.Â Why not lay things out based on 6 out and in at least?Â That would make playing 6, 12, or 18 all easy to do.Â Six holes gets the round into the sub-90 minute range of a typical movie, tennis match or bike ride.Â
The shorter options would also open up better pricing without having to spend $100 on a full round it becomes easy to pay $20-$25 for 6.Â They economics could be better than expected because golfers would certainly make more visits to the course and I suspect would actually spend more time there.
In short by reengineering their approach to allow the sport to be integrated more easily into the typical lifestyle, golf could start to grow again.