New golfers find entertainment venues are more welcoming than clubs

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir March 19, 2024 12:22

Golf clubs and courses can drive new business by learning from the ‘seismic shift’ and growth in the golf entertainment sector, new research from Syngenta and Ipsos has found.

Golf & Social Media: Golf Entertainment reveals customers new to golf perceive golf entertainment venues to offer ‘more engaging’ and ‘more welcoming’ experiences.

The report analysed 16.1 million social media posts, shares and comments in the United States and United Kingdom. Syngenta global head of marketing, Mark Birchmore, said: “The emergence of golf entertainment has been one of the most seismic shifts we’ve witnessed in the industry in recent years.

“According to the National Golf Foundation (NGF), off-course play has skyrocketed by 55 percent since 2017, now totalling 32.9 million participants, compared with a more modest eight percent growth in green grass players.

“It begs the question, have green grass clubs and facilities missed out on new customers by not creating the right offer? Nearly a decade ago we carried out market research to look at youth participation and asked ‘what would encourage young people to start golf?’. This revealed a number of pull factors, including the desire for casual dress, an enjoyable, fun, social environment and golf games and new formats: all areas golf entertainment venues excel at.”

The research found that ranges and putting venues are seen to be more engaging and have a better image and reputation among customers than traditional green grass golf courses. Golf entertainment venues are perceived as open to all, offering informal, inclusive experiences for groups of friends with food and drink on tap.

Social media posts also revealed customers thought golf entertainment venues were more welcoming and less intimidating than green grass clubs and courses, with a relaxed atmosphere and no dress code making it the ideal place to sample golf.

The new report is part of a wider study, Golf & Social Media: The Great Divide, which found that there is a clear division between customers who perceive they are a golfer (Insiders) and those who do not (Outsiders).

Many visitors to entertainment outlets such as Topgolf, where technology, gaming and hospitality combine, fall into the Outsiders camp.

“Golf entertainment venues and their success at attracting a huge, new diverse audience presents a massive opportunity for golf course businesses,” continued Mark Birchmore.

“Creating inclusive, welcoming experiences characterized by fun and informality, promoted online with viral content, is something green grass golf venues can take and adapt. In this way, golf’s image and reputation can also be improved, helping attract and engage new waves of customers.”

The report also shines a light on the people around the world shaping golf entertainment’s growth, such as 3s, the 12-hole floodlit concept backed by Justin Timberlake, and a college student posting viral mini-golf videos on TikTok.

Data for the report was provided by Ipsos, with 16.1 million mentions of golf on social media in the United States and UK analyzed over a three-year period (2019-2022).


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir March 19, 2024 12:22
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  1. Boxer1 March 21, 09:33

    Surely the message here is that one size doesn’t fit all. It’s great that there are driving ranges offering top golf experiences with a burger and a coke with mates. In addition we have golf clubs with dress down rules, open competitions etc. others are more formal. The point is that the golfing audience in the UK is diverse and we have choice. The title of the article is misleading, most clubs offer a warm welcome to visitors, it’s important for their business, and sometimes driving ranges are lonely places where you turn up enter the top golf competition and bash away at a bucket of balls on your own. However, all of us in golf should be pleased that we have choice whether on grass, mats, competitions or dress. The waiting lists to join clubs seems to suggest that golf is in a healthy place at the moment. Pity we can’t say the same about professional golf which it’s in fighting will have an impact on the game across the board unless it is sorted.

    Reply to this comment
    • Rob March 22, 12:14

      Playing on a real course is intimidating at first. The sight of your ball going two yards is not something easy to deal with.

      But hitting balls into a screen or on a driving range simply doesnt compare.

      As for being welcoming, many clubs simply arent. My club ((Hythe in Kent) is incredibly welcoming to new members and guests. So come along and play!!

      Reply to this comment
      • rabby March 24, 21:39

        tried top golf, no comparison to real golf if you are a golfer. Feel clubs don’t do enough different type competitions, like Texas scramble,and few mixed events, always felt golf clubs could really step it up, by rotating competitions at other golf clubs within their region, swapping courses for that day. This would stop people from getting bored at their own clubs.

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