All Hail, But Stop Milking Tiger & Start Building Golf

All Hail, But Stop Milking Tiger & Start Building Golf

Ok, I'm as excited as anyone to see the world's greatest golfer return this week. But my concern is that we in the golf business continue to milk this Tiger asset rather than building it to further develop the game and business of golf. 

All aspects of the game, from TV ratings to tournament attendance boom when Tiger plays. And driving ranges can swell with players, and rounds increase a bit. But we know that the Tiger effect might not last beyond the next 10 years, unless he stays motivated, doesn't break Jack Nicklaus' records soon or decides to spend more time with his growing family and foundation. Ten years comes fast these days.

What can we do about this? Ok, let's ride the Tiger wave in one hand, but let's concentrate on these ideas in the other hand that might ensure we are using all our tools to build the whole golf asset:

  1. Continue to promote the new, up and coming and resurging established players, many of whom have distinctive personalities and bring their own brand of excitement to the game. We saw how great they can play and what they add to the game in Tiger's absence. Anthony Kim with his stellar game and Camillo Villegas with his debonair persona can lift the game. And Rocco Mediate, Woody Austin and Kenny Perry bring that everyman aspect (like Arnie?) that appeals to a broader audience, who play golf anywhere, anytime. Padraig Harrington showed us some impressive "Tigerlike" playing in winning his majors too.
  2. Photo Paula CreamerSupport local tournaments and make them golf heroes. As you know, some tournaments are on life support, and others have found new life in new surroundings. These events bring the game to people in Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri and Louisiana, smaller populations but with strong regional following and plenty of golfers and aspiring players. And when the game is in their hometown, the golf fans embrace it. The BMW Championship enjoyed the benefits of this local "hometown" enthusiasm in St. Louis, when the Tour returned there for the first time in 2008. Despite a rainout on day one, the event had record attendance and renewed interest in its beneficiary, the Evans Scholarship Foundation (fyi, I am an Evans Scholar alum).
  3. Invest in golf's future. We all talk about when and from where the next Tiger will come. Irishman Rory Mcilroy has teased us about the future. And pro/player development is important, but we will benefit from positive efforts to grow the game on the grassroots level, where private and public courses are struggling in this recession. You get it, no courses, no golf, and no fans. A strong, positive new initiative called Get Golf Ready is a joint venture by golf associations, media and  businesses. It has been developed based on "real" successes in local tennis and golf growth programs. Let's help activate this.
  4. Collaborate with and promote all Tours. Michelle Wie's first year with her LPGA card will be very exciting and offers another reason to watch and sponsor women's golf. You ask any business person and they will tell you how much they enjoyed playing in an LPGA pro-am. Try it, you'll like it. And while Annika is gone, don't forget the accomplished and talented Lorena Ochoa, who has been tearing up the Tour in recent years. Or Paula Creamer, the number two player, who is aiming to restore America's claim to golf's leadership. And kudos to Annika and Lorena for using their time, talent and treasure to grow the game through their own programs.
  5. Position the health and welfare benefits of game. Forget Mark Twain, and the golf fitness naysayers, international and US studies including Harvard medical school study, have proven that golf and walking (four miles per round) can have genuine benefits for your physical and mental health. And if we played one more round a month with our wives, girlfriends or kids, we'd see a measurable boost in rounds, and survival and success of local courses and clubs.

Again, I love Tiger Woods. He is a "once in a lifetime" phenom who is incredible to watch. And I will be tuning into the Accenture Match Play on NBC, Golf Channel and XM radio this week.

But I remind you that NBA basketball, while nurturing young stars like LeBron and Kobe now, suffered a setback when Tiger mentor and NBA SuperLegend Michael Jordan retired both times in his career. That bears serious consideration when talking about the value of building versus milking an asset.

Let's not waste this incredible momentum, by milking instead of using Tiger and all our assets to build this great game. Let's put ideas in place like those above to take golf to another level. It can be done, agreed?   

User Comments ( 4 )

  • Bob Combs

    I certainly agree with your perspective about this being the time to both enjoy the present while working to build a strong future for golf. Thanks for the comments about Get Golf Ready. It’s exciting to see the support the program is getting from the industry and individual facilities. Our 2009 goal was 700 participating facilities, and we’re already past 800 sign-ups….in not quite a month since launch! That’s a sure sign that the industry is ready to work together to create some new golfers.

  • Harvey Silverman

    I have a couple comments on what Kevin Donnellon writes. First, there is no correlation between Tiger’s popularity and more rounds of golf being played. Rounds and participation have been flat for a few years and may in fact be declining. While there was a mild Tiger bump in the late 90’s, this has disappeared. The PGA Tour loves to tout that they have a fan base of 100MM people and that helps to grow the game, but that’s like Nascar saying they have 100MM fans and that helps to get more people to drive 180 mph while making left turns. It can be argued that the PGA Tour has little interest in the growth of rounds, that all they care about are eyeballs tuning into televised events. It’s about the ad dollars, not the rounds played.
    Also, Get Ready Golf has one major design flaw. It does not include equipment for the program participants. Where are the equipment manufacturers in this program? How likely is it to get beginners interested if first they need to go out and buy equipment? Will courses provide their rental sets at no charge? Will they use the $1000 stipend to purchase some “beginner” equipment? Or might one or a consortium of manufacturers come up with a basic beginner set to be provided at no charge to program participants?

  • Harvey,
    Thanks for your comments. You missed my point. We need to go beyond Tiger to build golf. And let’s give GGR ready a chance. Sure it has some kinks to work out. But it’s just in its infancy and based on successes in other areas. So when it’s up and running, golf manufacturers will support. Know some are evaluating it now. Thanks again,
    Kevin

  • I agree that having participation from equipment makers will help GGR’s cause, and this idea should be aggressively pursued. However, your point on the PGA Tour having little interest in the growth of rounds seems off. Ultimately, I believe golf is less like football – its popularity is more correlated with participation. so less players will mean TV viewer erosion as well.

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