Steve Mona, CEO of the World Golf Foundation, offers his insights on the current state of the golf industry and the World Golf Foundation.
What is the mission of the World Golf Foundation?
The mission of the World Golf Foundation is to “develop and support initiatives that positively impact lives through the game of golf and its traditional values.” Our goal is to grow the game through The First Tee and celebrate the history of golf at the World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine, Florida. GOLF 20/20 is an industry coalition that supports the game in a variety of roles, such as acting as a centralized vehicle for communicating the industry’s initiatives to media and initiating research projects to demonstrate the game’s scope and impact. Ultimately, we want to grow participation in youth, women and minorities, while also fostering diversity within the industry.
In your opinion, what is the current state of the golf industry?
The golf industry is stable and healthy. Although participation in the game does not match its all-time high from 2005 (pre-recession), many industry segments are experiencing much success. Adult and junior growth-of-the-game programs are more unified and have seen significant growth in the past few years. The First Tee has more than 180 chapters and 900 golf locations and is also available in 6,600 elementary schools. Get Golf Ready has more than 4,000 certified facilities and reached 86,000 participants last year. PGA Junior League Golf experienced 490 percent growth and has 18,000 participants this year.
How is the industry adapting to keep people in the game?
There are a few reasons why people leave the game, including time commitment, difficulty and cost of the sport. Golf today is enjoyed by 25 million Americans who play 465 million rounds annually at the nation’s 15,500 facilities. The industry is adapting to provide shorter golf experiences, with the United State Golf Association now allowing for nine-hole scores towards your handicap. Non-traditional forms of the game like, FootGolf or 15-inch holes, are gaining popularity while still upholding the integrity of the game. Contrary to belief, golf is young, cool and fun. The industry is embracing the 6.3 million millennials (ages 18-35) playing more than 100 million rounds of golf. They represent 25 percent of the golf population.
Why are fewer golf courses opening?
Compression in the U.S. golf industry is positive as supply and demand reach equilibrium. We are working toward an inventory of courses that supports the current level of participation in the game. We became overbuilt from a facility perspective and are recalibrating to respond to current needs. In the last seven years, golf course closures represent 500 of 15,500 total facilities. That’s less than one percent of all courses.
What can golf enthusiasts do to help grow the game?
Invite a friend to play. Encourage them to participate in Get Golf Ready. Show them the excitement you have been experiencing since you first starting playing. Golf should not be intimidating to new players. It is an opportunity to experience the outdoors, create new friendships and embrace a game that lasts a lifetime. Additionally, share your love for the game through social media by tagging @wearegolf and using #GrowGolf.
About Steve Mona
Steve Mona became the World Golf Foundation’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) in March 2008. Mona served as tournament director of the Northern California Golf Association from September 1980 to January 1982. He moved to assistant manager of press relations for the United States Golf Association from January 1982 to June 1983, at which time he became Executive Director of the Georgia State Golf Association. In November 1993, he became CEO of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America.
In 2014, Steve was named to Golf Inc.‘s “Most Powerful People in Golf” for the 14th consecutive year.
World Golf Foundation develops and supports initiatives that positively impact lives through the game of golf and its traditional values. Founded in 1993, The Foundation is supported by major international golf organizations and professional Tours, and provides oversight to World Golf Hall of Fame, The First Tee, GOLF 20/20 and other industry initiatives in support of its mission.
For more information, visit http://www.worldgolffoundation.org/.