The 9th European Golf Business Conference hosted by the European Golf Course Owners Association last week in Barcelona has been hailed as ‘the best to date’’ with over 500 golf courses represented from 27 countries, writes John King.
The EGCOA’S VISION 2020 project which was developed to provide a roadmap for the sustainable development of the European golf industry was unveiled at the event and was received with open arms by the industry. The message from the USA, from China, from all over Europe was the same: yes, there are problems but there are also answers. The project provided the platform for what was truly 3 days of inspirational solutions for the European golf business.
Day one opened at Real Club de Golf El Prat, with the 6th edition of the European Multi Course Owners meeting. The meeting played host to representatives of the Europe’s leading multi course owning organisations who gathered to discuss and collaborate on solutions to run more profitable & sustainable golf facilities.
Day two was opened by EGCOA president Alexander Baron von Spoercken who gave delegates and insight into the latest developments in the European golf industry laying the foundation for the unveiling of the VISION 2020 project results.
Revealing VISION 2020
Sander Allegro, the projects lead consultant opened the session with an animation video developed by the EGCOA which summarises the results into the key opportunities for the future of European Golf. With communication being an essential factor in sharing the projects outcomes, the EGCOA along with their national owners associations launched www.thefutureofgolf.eu to provide and interactive platform for the industry to get inspired and interact. The site is full of useful tools, best practices, initiatives & statistics.
People are loyal to people and the basic human need to connect & be part of a peer group or tribe is one that will be fundamental not only in attracting new players to the game but also to keep them in the game. Printed in large text on the conference book was a quote from Simon Sinek that summed up the importance of Friendship & human connection: ‘When people are financially invested the want to return, when people are emotionally invested the want to contribute’ Lodewijk Klootwijk, EGCOA director, shared real life examples of tribal marketing from leading organisations around the world highlighting the power of this basic human need & the immense power it has to engage.
The message delivered in this session was clear, golf needs to spice up the game, lose some of the entry hurdles and focus on the promotion of the many existing and possibly new fun factors that golf can offer. While in Europe there are quiet a few initiatives to make the game more fun & appealing, the USA is without a doubt leading the way. Mike Hughes, CEO of the NGCOA (USA) shared with delegates some of the perception changing, fun initiatives and programmes developed by the NGCOA and its partners to drive participation and engage youth golfers and families.
Steve Mona, CEO of the World Golf Foundation outlined how they are changing the perception of the game in the USA from one that is often perceived to be slow, boring expensive and difficult. He shared with delegates the importance of engaging the participation of the media in refining the message of golf to promote the social, health and fun factors that can be enjoyed by all ages.
With loyalty on the decline and the speed of change on the increase the modern consumer wants to keep their options open. Membership packages, playing formats, dress codes, etc., should all be adapted to players’ needs and expectations. Tenniel Chu Vice Chairman of Mission Hills China, gave some vibrant illustrations of how this parameter had helped his father succeed where so many had forecasted failure. He insists that golf needs to be less exclusive and more inclusive. Mission Hills have been so successful with this approach in China that they forecast 26 million golfers by 20/20, The day was closed with the conference dinner reception and EGCOA Awards Ceremony.
Day 3 opened with the big discussion on family and females in golf. Scilla Hokholt, EGCOA board member and Chairman of the Norwegian Golf Course Owners associations opened a panel session with the question ‘Is golf really female & family friendly?’ A leading panel of golf course owners & industry partners agreed that special attention needs to be paid to the female sector. When consulted, the ladies say their prime concern, especially for newcomers, is to “feel comfortable”. In general, they are less competitive than the men and control the vast majority of budgetary decision making in the household making them a key market to focus on.
A Sustainable Future for Golf
Now, as sustainability concerns and expectations rise across all aspects of life, the golf community is well positioned to proved environmental and social benefits. Golf course owners are the gatekeepers to millions of acres of land and view this responsibility as one that should be managed with care and respect. Kelli Jerome, Director of Operations for the Golf Environment Organisation summed up where sustainability can fit into all 4 key opportunities of the VISION 2020 project.
Geoff Russell, of www.golfbusinessnews.com closed the conference with an insightful and humorous summary of the week’s events. The day finished in the Barcelona sunshine at the Greg Norman designed, Real Club de Golf El Prat.