Here’s a few reminders of what happened in golf in 2015.
1. Australia’s players shined on the world stage
Jason Day winning the US PGA and having a stellar run of US PGA tour wins to becoming world number 1 was pretty impressive. (The forth Australian to do so after Greg Norman, Adam Scott and Karrie Webb) Mingie Lee, after turning professional in late 2014 became Australia’s top women’s golfer (replacing Karrie web after 20 years) in late 2015 at number 18 in the world.
2. Governance issues continued to plague clubs
Stories continued to surface of clubs in turmoil over dysfunctional boards and fall outs with managers. GMA reported that 40% of GM’s weren’t in the job after 5 years. The lack of training in governance is one of the big issues with clubs. Members should expect their club boards and managers receive training. Analysis of the Club Health Check in the industry revealed, when asked how often does your club provide professional development opportunities in governance, 73% said rarely or never with the remainder occasionally doing it. Bringing training options to boards and managers is the big opportunity for the industry in 2016!
3. Courses saw change in ownership, location and size
Courses were sold to private buyers, others remain looking for a buyer, some rezoned and moved, some cashed in their spare land, one even shrunk by converting to 18 holes of par 3’s. Most public golf courses struggled along with some doing exceptionally well. The long term tenure of golf some courses came in the spotlight with reports in the media of future alternative uses of courses such as the land at Eastlake Golf Club in Sydney. These are important public facilities for golf and the industry supports the large array of benefits of golf over short walks in the park. With a number of mergers underway involving land sales, the continued rise of the super clubs is clearly on the motion.
4. GOLF MONTH took over from Golf Week
The development of the concept saw 265 active GOLFMONTH facilities around the country in 2015 and nearly 20,000 participants. “Rediscover your drive” was the national marketing campaign and clubs used the free resources on-line to compliment the campaign with their own localised promotions. This was a taster for many clubs in 2015. Now, in early 2016, is the time to plan October and make the most of 2016’s GOLF MONTH.
5. Swing Fit was launched
The new SwingFit program breaks the mould on what people thought women wanted from golf. Research suggests women are actually quite interested but it has to be designed differently. SwingFit has done this and now clubs need to pit their skills into practice in the application.
6. Record numbers of kids got into MyGolf
Clubs and their PGA Professionals have been promoting the MyGolf program to kids with numbers reaching 4,842 in 2015.
7. Community Instructors was created
The PGA of Australia and Golf Australia launched the Community Instructor program to allow non PGA members to be trained in golf instruction, allowing for the spread of golf tuition to wider parts of Australia.
8. Golf took off in schools
More kids than ever before got a taste of golf at school with the launch of the Sporting Schools program. This has seen over 500 schools participate in MyGolf Sporting Schools programs, strengthening the connections between clubs and schools with the help of PGA professionals.
9. Social golf clubs continued to grow and grow
People continued to join social golf clubs and golf facilities got their heads around the power of social golfers, allowing more access than ever before. This is a shift in the way people wish to engage with the sport. These golfers are organised in their groups and have their own GA handicap. The Qantas Golf Club was launched in Dec 2014 as means of budding golfers to get in the game and expanding the reach of golf through Qantas’ database. Clubs are encouraged to make tee times available for Qantas Golf Club bookings. When a social golfer visits your club, there’s an opportunity to promote the benefits of your club membership, something that is welcomed by Qantas Golf Club.
10. Golf Australia united with Footgolf
At the start of 2015 Golf Australia signed an MOU with Football Federation Australia and FootGolf Australia to work together to promote FootGolf. FootGolf has become big overseas with the UK having 150 clubs offering the sport in only three years. Australia has a small handful of venues offering the sport. They see the benefits of the extra revenues and more people being associated with their golf course.
11. Gregg Patterson was back and in form
The symbol of The Good and self-proclaimed “dancing monkey”, Gregg Patterson was in top form at the GMA Conference along with Greg DeRosa, both from the USA. They covered a lot of topics with passion and injected new enthusiasm into club managers.
12. Paul Rak - A GM legend passed away
A friend and advisor to many in the golf industry, Paul Rak passed away in August after his private illness and will be sorely missed. Paul’s legacy will be his accessibility and helpfulness to all people.
13. The industry worked more closely together
The workings between Golf Australia, state bodies, PGA, GMA, AGCSA continue to improve with greater sharing of information for the benefit of golf. The future governance of Australian golf was discussed in more detail at many forums. One Golf would see Golf Australia and the Member Associations join together in the one organisation.
14. More club support people appointed
Around Australia, the state bodies continued to visit clubs and put more resources into supporting clubs, big and small. Interestingly, over half the clubs in Australia have less than 100 members and many are in remote areas. Connecting with clubs and finding out how assistance can be provided is one of the keys to club support. Clubs are encouraged to use the Club Support resources and to complete the Health Check tool.
15. More golf rounds were played
Despite the gloom and doom, more rounds continued to be played in 2015 than previous recorded years. Though the latest 6 month figures aren’t out, there’s an estimate in the order of 14.5 million rounds recorded by Golf Link in 2015 with around 56% in regional areas and 44% in cities. The trend has been evident for years, a slow decline in members and a steady or slight increase in rounds played. People want value for their memberships and don’t stay if they don’t play.
16. More forward tees were used
Course operators took the benefit of creating shorter courses for juniors, seniors and people learning the game to make the game friendlier and more enjoyable.
17. More clubs collaborating with clubs
Smart clubs are reaping the benefits of collaborating with other clubs in the same proximity to offer their members extra value though reciprocity or sharing in joint branding and promotions. The simple theory is that together, we’re greater than the sum of our parts.
18. Rules of Golf update
A number of things change in the 2016 Rules of Golf brought to us from the R&A and the USGA. Some changes were to make a draconian rule or two, less so. Other rules were restructured to make it easier to understand. The most visible rule (thanks to Adam Scott and others) relates to the prohibition on anchoring. As Dominic Wall advised at the GMA Conference in 2015, there is significant work going on to simplify the rules and clarifying the language used. Stay tuned.
19. Robert Allenby was a walking headline
Whether it was a chewing through another caddie or a night with a sore head, stories were aplenty in 2015.
20. King Island golf opened up
Cape Wickham’s 18 holes opened late in 2015 and Ocean Dunes opened 9 holes with another 9 now expected to be delayed until April due to dry weather. King Island is expected to be a serious tourist destination to complement that of Barnbougle’s courses in Tasmania.