By Trish Joyce, EWGA Managing Director of Strategic Initiatives
As a woman who loves the sport of golf and who has worked in the golf industry for nearly a quarter of a century, it is gratifying to see the golf industry set a clearer course of action to reverse the fall in U.S. golf participation.
As Gene Yasuda wrote in his May 20th “Inside the Ropes” Golf week column, this “segue into action” comes “after years of talking (and little else)”. To be fair, there have been efforts and programs over the years aimed at juniors, women, new golfers, etc. I concur that by understanding it is going to take more than introducing people to the game, the golf industry is off to a good re-start.
Since Golf 20/20, I’ve been reading and hearing a lot of good things that give me hope. There is one thing, however, that concerns me so I wish to offer a word of caution. It has to do with the topic “how to market to women” (or any specific group) which is often spoken about.
When I hear people speak of the “women’s market”, it sounds to me as if it is believed that all women could be neatly fitted into one group or target market. One definition of a target market is: Group of persons for whom a firm creates and maintains product(s) that specifically fits the needs and preferences of that group.
Whether you look at the women in your own family, or expand your view to your place of work, school, or community, can anyone possible say any product is going to fit the needs and preferences of all women?
Anne Wilson Schaef is credited with saying, “Differences challenge assumptions.”
As the golf industry embarks on rolling up their sleeves to turn the tide, it would be wise to challenge assumptions. Keep in mind that a “one size all” approach will never work with women … or with men or youth for that matter.
Some golfers and would-be golfers seek solitude on the course. Others wish to be a part of a group. Some seek to challenge themselves to improve their skills. Others wish to develop a respectable game and leave it at that. Some enjoy a leisurely round including time at the 19th hole. Others are so time starved they seek to play less than 18 holes. Some will seek out the latest innovations in equipment or the latest fashions. Others don’t choose to spend their money in that way or simply don’t care.
My point is each individual is different. That sure seems like an obvious statement, doesn’t it? Also consider that each unique individual will change again and again throughout their lives. When young and unencumbered by family responsibilities, time and cost may not be a key driver … or it may be a critical factor as they are building their careers.
People in the prime of their working and child rearing years likely have a new set of motivators but again it’s likely different within that group. Age may change the game they once knew and their relationship with golf may change again. Empty nesters may seek companionship to fill the void. And the possible differences within age group, gender and lifestyle go on and on.
I believe that to attract and keep golfers in the game, it behooves us all to know who that particular customer is; why do they play golf; what is it they enjoy most, what experience are they needing that day? Maybe the answer lays in “going back to a time” to the era when business operators had time for that personal touch and knew who walked through their doors. Something along the lines of the “Cheers” model - where everyone knew your name.
Most everyone I know laments the diminished customer service in all sectors. Perhaps at the core of its renaissance, the golf industry should seek to become the pinnacle of customer service; the friendly industry, the place one can go where individual needs matter. So much is lost and put at risk when attempting to neatly lump people together. It’s a diverse world we live in, and golf, thankfully, has embraced diversity which ups the ante on needing to look at the individual – not a faceless, nameless target market.
I fear that doing anything less will derail the best intentions of those working on player development. There are so many choices to be made every day and if we want people to choose game of golf, we need to know more about their needs than what can be assumed by the overly broad customer market descriptions of gender and age.
Not all 30 year olds are alike. Not all 50 year olds are alike. Not all men are alike. And most certainly, not all women are alike.
Trish Joyce joined the Executive Women’s Golf Association (EWGA) staff in 1999 after spending 12 years with the not-for-profit, membership association, the National Golf Foundation (NGF). Along with golf industry expertise, she brought to the EWGA membership services management and media relations/communications experience. She joined the EWGA staff as the Director of Chapter & Member Services, later became the Director of Chapter Development, and from 2006-2010 she served as the Chief Operating Officer for the organization. In May of 2010, she was reassigned to focus her energies on varied strategic initiatives aimed to create mutually beneficial partnerships, expand exposure for the EWGA, and broaden the type and scope of benefits offered to EWGA members. Trish has been a EWGA member and EWGA Advisory Board member since the EWGA was formed in 1991.
The EWGA has welcomed more than 100,000 women to the game of golf -- connecting them to learn, play, and enjoy golf for business and fun. This tax-exempt association delivers a wide range of golf, social and relationship building activities for both new and experienced golfers. The EWGA is headquartered in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. For more information about the association and its membership, visit www.ewga.com