Golf was shown a vision of a bright future today – for those prepared to grasp change and try new ideas which put the customer first.
England Golf’s first innovation conference, #MoreThanGolf, highlighted the way forward for clubs and golf centres which want to grow the game.
It turned the spotlight on new formats of golf, such as GolfSixes and Speedgolf, which offer shorter, faster – and fitter – ways to experience the game.
It looked at the importance of collecting and using data effectively, to understand customers and the best ways to appeal to them. It stressed the need to connect with customers in the online world. Fact: 16-24-year-olds are online 30 hours a week; 37% of their waking hours.
Clubs were urged to respond to the drive to encourage more people to become more active and to show that golf is a fun, healthy and sociable game for all. They were also challenged to grow by becoming hubs for their communities, benefitting both the club and the local area.
England Golf Chief Executive Nick Pink (pictured left) welcomed delegates from across the golf industry to Villa Park and urged them to consider and share new ways to put customers' needs first.
Customer-focus is the most important of the priorities in England Golf’s refreshed strategy for 2017-21 and Nick commented: “If we don’t consider the needs of the customer we won’t grow the game.
“We need new ideas, creativity and innovation to drive this game on and one of the aims of this conference is to hear different ideas and approaches. Please do open your minds to some of the possibilities and ideas that we need to generate growth in golf.”
The conference struck a chord with Ryan Grumbridge, head professional at Oldham Golf Club in Lancashire, who is particularly interested in different formats of the game "It's been great," he said. "We are open to new ideas and this is all about thinking outside the box while still trying to keep traditional values. I've also picked up several business cards from people I need to speak to."
Delegates also shared ideas on an innovation comment wall, with suggestions ranging from running a takeaway service to encouraging health professionals to prescribe golf.
The first focus of the conference was on new formats of the game with Fredrik Lindgren of the European Tour outlining the success of the recent GolfSixes tournament with players, fans and commercial partners.
The theme is being taken out to a young audience by the Golf Foundation, which has a proud record for innovation to encourage children and young people to get into golf. It is now running GolfSixes Academies in 32 clubs, offering team competition for boys and girls in leagues, with the all-important opportunity to track progress via mobile phones. “We’re embracing technology and change to keep golf inspiring to young people!” said Development Manager Martin Crowder.
The impact of the digital world was explored by Chris Hurst of Nielsen Sports, who looked at the changing media consumption habits of the UK population and gave an overview of social networks and digital trends in sport, with a specific focus on golf.
Golf’s contribution to good health and wellbeing has been highly publicised over recent months and was discussed by Dr Steve Mann of ukactive and Jamie Blair, England Golf's Disability manager. Pam Painter of British Speedgolf also highlighted the fitness and fun benefits of the athletic format which appeals to golfers and runners.
The opportunities for golf clubs to be at the heart of their communities were considered by Svend Elkjaer of Sports Marketing Network and Maria Nolan from Mytime Active, whose Hollingbury Park course in Sussex won England Golf’s 2017 Strongest Community Engagement Award.
Svend cited examples which promoted: “A new kind of partnership, in which both the club and the community contribute directly to the strengthening and development of each other.” He urged clubs to be open to all possibilities and to make innovation happen.
Delegates also heard case studies from Boomers and Swingers, Top Golf and Community Golf CIC.
What next? For the immediate future a #MoreThanGolf LinkedIn group has started to create a network of golf innovators and entrepreneurs.
Caption: Fredrik Lindgren is pictured top adding his suggestion to the innovation comment wall (images copyright Leaderboard Photography).
The presentations made at the conference can be viewed by clicking here