Get Golf Ready revamps growth strategy

Steve Mona, CEO of the World Golf Foundation speaks at a press conference during the first annual National Golf Day held at the National Press Club on April 16, 2008 in Washington, DC.

When Get Golf Ready launched a few years ago, organizers envisioned a grassroots movement sweeping across the nation, recruiting new golfers to the game at as many as 5,000 courses.

But with fully engaged facilities far fewer than projected, Get Golf Ready leaders are preaching a new mantra for their initiative: Quality over quantity.

Golfweek has learned that Get Golf Ready will unveil today – during the first day of the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, Fla. – a revamped plan of attack focusing on markets with the greatest pool of potential golfers and affordable courses that can best serve them.

Get Golf Ready hadn't struggled to enroll courses in the initiative, but discovered that many weren't committed, or lacked resources, to deliver the program that teaches beginners not only swing instruction, but etiquette and helps them transition from the practice range on to the golf course. "Secret shopper" calls to participating facilities revealed that 62 percent were "unengaged."

"Many told us that there had been staff cutbacks, and staffing levels was the biggest reason" for limited involvement, according to Cathy Harbin, the Golf 20/20 director who manages Get Golf Ready.

But program leaders insist that courses committed to the initiative are producing impressive results: 91 percent of 2010 Get Golf Ready graduates played golf, averaging 11.7 rounds per player. They also spent an average of $808 on the game, including paying green fees, and purchasing equipment and apparel.

Cumulatively, Get Golf Ready in its first two years (2009-10) has created 18,054 golfers. Their collective spending thus far has generated $19.9 million of revenue for the golf industry.

Steve Mona, CEO of the World Golf Foundation that oversees Get Golf Ready, said such results spurred organizers to focus on "quality (facilities) rather then get a lot of artificial numbers."

In addition, Get Golf Ready is turning its attention to the 27 million non-golfers in the U.S. who are "very interested" or "somewhat interested" in playing the game, according to industry research.

Program leaders "drilled" further into this data and identified specific markets with the greatest concentration of potential golfers. In these communities, Get Golf Ready plans to recruit courses that charge green fees of $40 or less and offer 8 or more tee stations to accommodate players of varying skill level. Get Golf Ready has identified 1,671 facilities that meet these criteria. According to Harbin, 183 of them already are participating members; signing up the balance is now a top priority.

Though Get Golf Ready may not have met its initial objectives, Mona said the program is producing a sizable return on investment, especially in a difficult economy. The industry-funded program thus far has invested $1.4 million, meaning Get Golf Ready has generated $14 of revenue for every dollar spent.

Said Mona: "We've accomplished a lot playing into a 3-club headwind."

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