Chapter 2000: Millennials – A New Generation of Golfers

Quick, how many “facts” about millennial golfers can you list from memory? Well there’s a good chance those are myths. There’s no denying that the demographic of golf attendance has changed drastically over the past 20 years, but what is really going on? Deer Creek Golf Club explores the affect that millennial golfers have had on the sport.

How Many New Golfers are Millennials?

Over the past 20 years, participation from 18 to 43-year-olds has declined; even while Tiger Woods was bringing massive attention to golf in the late 90’s and early 00’s. It seems that Generation X and Millennials are not buying as many golf club memberships as their parents.

However, a study of the millennial golfers found:

– Millennials golfers make up 26% of all golfers and spend $5 billion a year in the industry.

– Of those 26%, most millennials agree that golf is a fun and worthwhile endeavor.

– Over 60% of millennial golfers consider themselves “active”. They have full social lives, travel more frequently, and visit the gym consistently.

– 52% of millennial golfers perceive golf much the same as boomers. 

Although the statistics regarding millennial golfers may seem somewhat promising, the issue is that they are not meeting the expectations of the elder generations, and the industry is beginning to think of ways to market to millennial golfers to help compensate for it.

Common Misconceptions about Millennial Golfers and Boomers

Golf is an interesting example of the gap between baby boomers and millennials. There is probably no sport that encompasses all differences between both generations much like that of golf, and the poignancy of each difference says a lot about the values of each generation, respectively.

Both generations of golfers seem to see the other completely in the wrong light.

Boomers believe: 

  • Most millennials prefer to interact digitally. An entire day walking a course with someone? No thank you.
  • Millennials don’t want to spend the time getting good at something like golf.
  • There are no participation trophies in golf.
  • Millennials would rather stay inside on their phones or playing video games.

Millennials believe:

  • It’s expensive and it takes too long.
  • Golf is exclusionary. Golf club memberships? Legacies? Green fees? It’s clear they don’t want us to play, so we won’t.
  • It’s a stuffy, boring sport that my grandfather plays.

Both generations don’t see the commonality between each other, and the different attitudes and perceptions are affecting the golf industry as a brand.

So Why Won’t Millennials Play Golf?

The real reason millennials don’t play golf can be summed up into three simple things: perception, time and money, and demographics.

  1. Perception

Millennials who play golf, and those who don’t, complain that golf rules and dress codes are too restrictive. They also believe that it’s a game for old, well-to-do people with free time and money. This is the opposite of what millennials represent.

  1. Time and Money

Millennials have less luxury time and less money than boomers did at their age. Millennials work longer hours, spend more time at the gym, and are inundated with social invitations all the time. Plus, you cannot just pick up golf, you pay for clubs, golf lessons, golf club memberships and then you pay for each round – a luxury that most millennials simply cannot afford.

  1. Demographics

Millennials represent a cross-section of cultures and demographics. Historically, golf has not appealed to some of these demographics. Is it too late?

 How Can Golf Recover?

  • The “share economy” of things like Uber and Airbnb has also influenced how much millennials are willing to pay for fun. The traditional golf club membership might have to change to accommodate.
  • Ease-up on restrictions and appeal to the style sense of a millennial golfer.
  • Change the way golf is perceived.