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August 2019

Letter to the Editor: Women’s impact story falls short

Dear Editor,
 
I'm an industry analyst and read with great anticipation what new, quantitative proof was going to be offered to back up the cover headline of "Women are now significant players in revenue stream". [Golf Business, June 2019] Our analysis over history (going back to '85) tells the storyline that women's contribution to golf in participation and rounds (we don't track revenue but we'll assume that they're average spenders relative to their male counterparts) has remained stubbornly stuck at low levels relative to females' percent of the population and spending power. Some facts to back that up:

· Since '00, females as a percent of total golfers has ranged from 23 percent ('02-'05) to 29 percent ('15) and currently sits at 26 percent ('18). Your article asserts that "Today, that number (percent of golfers) is a conservative 38 percent".  If that's conservative I'd hate to know what the liberals are pegging that number at.  We've never crossed the 30 percent threshold and it's traded in a relatively narrow range with no clear momentum to the upside (or the downside for that matter, we've not threatened 20 percent on the lowside either in all fairness)

· You make the statement "It should surprise no one that women are the primary purchasers in all households".  I can name one that is not, so I think that blows a hole in the argument of "all households." This doesn't suggest that my wife has a lesser role, it's just that we've divided the responsibilities in a more traditional way than many (not all) of today's US HHs. What we've not been able to crack the code on as an industry is, "If all those women control all that spending, why can't we convince more of them to spend (or spend more) on golf?"

·  You make the point that a disproportionate number of Jrs. and beginners are female.  While we don't track that particular statistic, I'll give you that one, but it does beg an interesting question, "If a disproportionate amount of our "seed programs" are women, why hasn't the contribution of female golfers inched up steadily, annually?"  The answer is that we have a much higher attrition rate among females than male golfers.  Said another way, golf's participation "leaky bucket" leaks females at a higher rate than males (reason unknown at this time, at least by any quantitative research by us, the NGF etc.)

· "The Great Recession changed all that".  In this section you propose that pay-by-hole was some watershed event in bringing women into the game post the Great Recession (circa '08 I'm assuming). The penetration of pay-by-hole (Quick.golf etc.) is currently miniscule and the platforms weren't even in the marketplace until post '16 so how this could have engendered a women's "awakening" in golf is hard to square chronologically or in the magnitude of its impact

There are several other points made throughout the article that are interesting opinions and prognostications (i.e. that TopGolf is drawing females into the green grass sport by making the on-ramp less intimidating; we've not seen quantitative evidence that TopGolf is being accretive to producing golfers as a whole, let alone the female gender) but I think you get my point. In a reputable publication like Golf Business, you've got to do better research, source it and connect the dots better; particularly if you're going to make it your cover story and titillate by asserting that women's economic impact on golf has changed substantially for the better now vs. before. Final point to poke a pin in that balloon, in rounds contribution females have contributed from 21-25 percent of the total from '08 to today (the '18 figure is 20 percent) which means they play at a lower frequency than men and, all other things being equal, that means their spending on rounds of golf is actually currently in decline.
 
The real storyline of female golf in my professional opinion, supported by studying the figures over the past 18 years, is that women still represent a tremendous upside opportunity for golf in players, rounds and spending, but we have not been able to solve the puzzle over the past 15+ years and there is scant evidence that there are any proven, scalable programs currently underway that will change that near-term. When and if we can figure out and execute against "what women want" (apologies to Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt), we'll receive the dividend that your cover story headline professes to have arrived. You're just ahead of your time on this one...
 
James Koppenhaver
President, Pellucid Corp.
Buffalo Grove IL  60089
pellucidcorp.com

Editor’s Note: Letters to the Editor can be sent to Boots Gifford, editor in chief, at bgifford@ngcoa.org.

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