Beef with the "Grow the Game" Movement


Could someone clarify the gripe with the grow the game movement. I think it’s a term that can mean something different to whoever you talk to (encouraging junior programs vs. 15 inch cups) so maybe a I’m just looking for a clearer definition of what it means and maybe a rebrand of the positive movements in golf that are actually building excitement around the game (who’s got the digits for the “Live Under Par” creator?).


Do you really want the people responsible for “Live Under Par” to take a crack at a rebrand of “Grow the Game”? LOL. I think the biggest complaint about “Grow the Game” is that it is all talk or superficial activities without a lasting impact (e.g., walk-up music).

If you take a look at NLU’s video of Winter Park - a municipal golf course that makes golf accessible to newbies and challenging/fun for advanced golfers - and their idea of making golf more approachable, you will see one way of growing the game that has a longer lasting impact.


The eye-roll inducing “grow the game” initiatives include, but are not limited to: walk-up music (esp. when performed by Kelley James), foot golf, 15" cups, night golf, etc.

This stuff reeks of a consulting firm or marketing agency trying to think outside the box and address golf’s perceived issues while missing the point entirely. I don’t think anyone disputes that golf is expensive, difficult to learn and takes a large amount of time. Thinking that more #millenials will play golf because the cup is bigger is dumb.

I don’t know of another sport that tries to grow participation rates by dumbing down their product to an unrecognizable version of itself.


Like many issues important to look at the root cause, which in this case was a blatant over-development of golf courses. That, and the fact that Tigert Mania provided a small blip rather than a sustained spike in golfers.


I don’t always agree with your takes, Laz. However, I do on this one. Golf became a very hot topic when Tiger joined the Tour. And, a number of people were pumping millions of dollars into the idea that he was going to drive golf numbers through the roof. How do you capitalize on this new growth (i.e., demand)? You build golf courses - quickly. This was often at the expense of architectural principles - suddenly, every Joe Bob was an aspiring golf architect - and locating a piece of land in a populated area that could sustain the costs of operating a course.

As many of the “Tiger-golfers” began to filter out, courses began competing against only a slightly larger pool of people. This is when you saw country clubs slash initiation fees, turn to semi-private/public, or fold altogether. This is also when the generic golf courses, or those in the extremities of suburban sprawl, slowly died.

So, how do you appease golf course owners, developers, etc. that are paying fees to organizations like the USGA? You concoct a Band-Aid fix of “Grow the Game.” It does not cost local course owners anything, but it appears that the USGA cares. Now, don’t get me wrong, groups like the USGA care. However, I think that they know if you let the weaker courses die on their own, it strengthens the overall herd. If USGA-type organizations thought they could save these distressed courses, they would spend money on free instruction, course improvements, etc.


Also much of the development was tied to the real estate craze of the late 90s/early 00s. We all know how that story ended.

Golf is a niche sport and (probably) always will be. What the PGA did when Grow The Game started was baiscally take a product that had a very limited market to beign with and tried to bastardize it in ways to get more people to blow discretionary dollars.


Too expensive, too exclusive, and too frustrating/intimidating. We knew it when Wronowski released PGA 2.0. So WTF we talking about? Can’t the woo kids play TopGolf?