Youth Movement: Paul Lawrie should look to the U.S. for inspiring millennial golfers

Likely the toughest question in the golf industry right now is how to market this ‘boring game’ to millennials. Topgolf has sort of captured the attention of that generation by creating a glorified-driving range.

The experience brings together all of the essentials to a night out on the town: drinks, friends, food, and something to be competitive about. Now usually the only competitive thing you can do at a college party is play beer pong, so Topgolf decided to give people a more sophisticated thing to do while they drink…and guess what: they love it.

1999 Open Champion Paul Lawrie has witnessed a shift in how the youth of today (specifically in Europe) are shying away from the sport that helped him make a living. And he believes he knows why kids – and families – don’t want to play golf.

“If two of your family want to take up golf, it’s not cheap,” Lawrie told BBC Scotland.”It’s not like buying a football and a pair of boots.

“It’s up to everyone to try to get together and make it more affordable and grow the game. We need to grow the game and get people involved.”

According to KPMG, Europe has seen a significant drop in registered players – 6,711 between 2015-2016. This was the largest downward shift Europe has ever seen in the sport.

That effect has trickled down to Lawrie’s golf foundation which supports kids taking up golf.

“We have seen a little drop off with the kids.

“There are less numbers now than there were even three or four years ago.”

Perhaps the industry in Europe should take a look at what the United States is doing to usher millennials into the golf industry – aside from adopting the Topgolf concept explained earlier.

According to a study done in 2015 by the National Golf Foundation, 6.4 million millennials play golf, which is the second only to Generation X (ages 40-50). They also find themselves ahead of the baby boomers which have 5.4 million golfers.

Americans can thank the ‘Tiger Effect’ for making the game so popular. If you haven’t heard of this theory, it’s the idea that a young player like Tiger Woods – back in the 1990s and early 2000s – inspired more young people to get into the game because he was making it interesting to watch.

That effect has trickled down as we see a plethora of young players like Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, and Rory McIlroy take the torch from Woods.

The only question remains: will these guys be able to reach Woods’ level of entertainment and inspire the next generation?

There have been other various changes that make the game more inviting to millennials, for starters we have seen courses in the U.S. become less strict in terms of attire and what is acceptable on the course. Lawrie did mention in his interview that people need to be less “stuffy” about the game, and this could improve that.

Golf could become more player-friendly if the rules the USGA proposed get approved for 2019. Also, can’t forget that some golf courses are allowing players to play for just five holes – since millennials can’t handle 18 holes over the span of four hours.

It’s uncertain what happens to the state of golf in Europe and the U.S., but hopefully, these changes do not damage the integrity of the storied game.

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