Seniors Golf: The New Wave?
In the 1990's, many "experts" warned us in the golf business of the tidal wave of retiring baby boomers that would flood our golf courses, "They're coming," we heard. "Educated, disposable income, generally fit, and lots of time on their hands. THEY WILL WANT TO GOLF!"
The industry reacted. Golf course construction was rampant, especially in the Sun Belt states. Equipment manufacturers and retailers also ramped-up.
Now we're halfway through the second decade of the third millennium, and seriously reflecting on what happened to this elusive group. Where did they go? Or, to be slightly optimistic, what are they waiting for?
Here at Victoria Park East, the trend did not go as forecast. Our Weekday membership category - the one that we imagined would be overwhelmingly senior - has declined steadily since the early 2000's. Our Full Membership category has remained strong; but here, the median age has risen, and is touching the 60+ level. Since introducing two Intermediate Full categories in 2008, we have seen a marginal increase in younger golfers, which has certainly helped.
One factor may be economic: the disposable income is there, but people are just being more careful with how they spend it. In terms of affordability of golf, I sincerely believe nobody can complain: in our market, green fee rates have not increased in seven years. In fact, golf deals are getting better all the time, with the proliferation of online tee time marketers like GolfNow, WagJags, coupon books, etc., there are a lot of money-saving opportunities for the casual and frequent golfer (although a membership still offers the best value for the frequent golfer).
An unexpected trend that, in my observation, seems to be more popular in the last few years are "golf-around" groups of senior players - groups of 12 or more that go around to different golf courses in their region and negotiate a group rate. More choice for the consumer.
The golf industry in North America is now experiencing a correction (for lack of a better word). News of golf closures - again predominantly in the U.S.'s Sun Belt, but also here in Canada - is now no big deal, To be fair, this cannot be blamed on the perceived lack of seniors playing the game. They're playing... maybe not joining, but playing.