As the golf season begins for many around the country, now is the perfect time to consider how to grow the game in 2013. One of the largest, if not the largest, growth opportunities exists among those people who express an interest in playing golf, but have not yet started. This group represents potential or “latent” demand.
We might debate the size of latent demand, but its existence is certain. In a study conducted by NGF in 2011, a segment of non-golfers over the age of six was asked, “How interested are you in playing golf now?” The results yielded about 25 million non-golfers who told us they were “very” (2.4%) or “somewhat” (7.4%) interested in playing golf NOW. If we add in those who said they were “a little” interested in playing that number jumps to 72 million!
Let’s look closer at the 25 million people who are ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ interested in playing golf now. About half of this latent demand comprises people who have never played golf before. They are fresh, optimistic prospects who, if welcomed to the game properly, can become committed golfers on some level. More than a third have at least a little experience with the game, and the small remaining percentage of latent demand is from previous golfers who have left the game. These latter two groups of lapsed golfers probably had a negative experience that prevented them from playing again. However, they do want to get back on the course, and it is up to the industry to facilitate their re-entry into the game.
What is it about golf that attracts these non-golfers to the game? The things about golf that seem to drive non-golfer’s interest are the same things that current golfers like about the game. (See graph below) This is great because golf can deliver against these expectations.
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If we know that golf can deliver on their expectations, what’s stopping these folks from playing? The perennial objections of time and money are cited most frequently as a barrier to starting. Those who have never played are more concerned about the cost than the time. If we overcome the cost/time objections, the other reasons that top the list are:
- Not really sure how to get started
- Nothing – just haven’t gotten around to it
- No one to play with
- Nobody has suggested it or invited me
The good news is that the issues that are preventing this group from playing golf can be addressed with instruction and encouragement. The better news? That’s what these latent golfers want! About 85% of them were ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ interested in an affordable, local, beginning golf program.