A columnist in Golf Magazine mocks the experience of watching golf on TV… all those commercials directed at sexual failure, urinary problems and other cringe-producing ailments. They project an image of decrepitude!
It’s a good point. A golf match interrupted by such commercials leaves the impression that golf fans are old guys worried about their, er, shafts when not focusing on their putters. BusinessWeek (5.26.08) notes that participation among casual golfers fell more than 7 percent between 2003 and ‘07. Companies in the BusinessWeek/Golf Digest golf-stock index declined 15.5% over seven years vs. the nearly 11% gain in S&P 500 stocks.
Golf may be in decline – and its image of stodginess cannot be ignored as a factor. Improvements in any sport’s image must cut across, and permeate, the entire experience – from playing the game to seeing the ads.
For golf, I would recommend the following three-pronged approach:
1 Make the game easier and more beginner-friendly. Expand the hole from a few inches to three feet in diameter. There would be more hole-in-ones, fewer three putts and faster play. The ball should be bigger too – more like a tennis ball – so that it’s easier to find in tall grass.
2 Introduce Disney-style themes. Why should every course be the same 18 fairways of green grass and yellow flags? An eco-park would have deer and windmills. An urban nightmare would resemble Grand Theft Auto, with thugs lurking behind twisted cars to steal your balls. Let Hooters sponsor and design a course – and Hanna Montana – and Martha Stewart.
3 Exclude sponsors and advertisers who taint the sport’s image. To grow, golf should be about youth, not retirement options. Any company marketing products for sexual dysfunction and urinary pressures would still be able to reach their buyers during the CBS Evening News.