Study: What’s holding people back from playing more golf?

Sports and Leisure Research group finds that time and money aren’t the real inhibitors to greater engagement in golf.

One of my most poignant recollections from a career of conducting golfer research came from moderating a one-on-one interview about 15 years ago. Sports and Leisure Research Group was working on a project for a number of golf’s governing bodies to gauge inhibitors of greater participation.

In initiating the conversation, I learned that this golfer also had season tickets for one of the area sports teams and a vacation home. When I later asked why he didn’t play more golf, his push-button response was one that I had heard thousands of times: “Golf is expensive and takes too much time,” he said.

For years, before and after this interview, time and money have consistently been mentioned as major inhibitors for increased commitment to the game. And these reasons have consistently missed the real insight.

Probing further, I then asked the interviewee why, if he made the time and invested the money to purchase his tickets and maintain his vacation home, he wouldn’t do the same to play more golf?

His answer has resonated through the years. “There are no guarantees in golf,” he said.

Sports And Leisure Research Group — Golfer Insights

(Graphic: Sports and Leisure Research Group)

Drilling down to what this meant, the respondent detailed inconsistency of experience and lack of return on his investment of time and money on golf, relative to these other activities.

Today, a global pandemic has left many leisure activities inaccessible or less desirous in which to engage. Our Back to Normal Barometer research shows that many people are not comfortable with getting on an airplane or attending an event with a big crowd. Upwards of 30 percent will not re-engage with these activities until there is a proven or effective COVID-19 treatment or vaccine. Meanwhile, golf is enjoying a surge in participation.

It’s incumbent that the industry doesn’t forget about offering these guarantees once other activities become more viable.