What Millennials Want

Earlier this year Global Golf Advisors, in conjunction with Nextgengolf, released a follow up report to its ground-breaking 2017 study entitled ‘The Truth About Millennial Golfers’. GGA’s Michael Gregory, backed by the findings of the research, gives a Millennial’s take on what clubs need to do next to realize the clear opportunity this group presents…

We run the risk of a two-tier club membership model emerging. One where the long-held expectations and perceptions of existing, ageing members are at odds with the entirely different needs and expectations of a new wave of younger, more casual members.

The challenge for clubs? To create an environment which not only appeals to the new wave, but where members, of all types, can co-exist. For some club decision-makers this may be a source of discomfort, because enacting a change that leans one way or the other could potentially upset or alienate the other group.

From my experience, however, it’s clubs who resist change entirely that do themselves a disservice; sub-consciously siding with a diminishing number of older members, which, over time, makes their membership product less appealing to younger prospects.

Now, being a Millennial, it would be natural or somewhat biased having conducted this research to declare that clubs need to change their value proposition for a younger audience, and that their survival depends on it. But while there is truth in this, clubs can and should choose to see this as an opportunity – it’s real, it’s there to be seized, and at some point (whether now or in the future) everyone will need to appeal to this new wave.

Seeing things from a Millennial’s perspective

To help you on this journey, I’d like you to see the following as an insight into what Millennials think and feel about the prospect of joining your club. Each of the findings can provide the fuel for you to create a genuinely appealing product to this (potentially) lucrative group.

Millennials want flexible, scalable membership aligned to how they will utilize the club

Think about what’s important in the life of a Millennial: work, health and fitness, family, friends – all of which impact on free leisure time.

With such time and (in some cases) financial commitments already in place, a high-ticket membership subscription and entrance fee will not only be unappealing, it won’t even be on the radar.

51% of Millennial survey respondents stated their preference is a flexible membership with a low social fee that provides full access, with golf on a pay-per-use basis. Understandable when you look outside the four walls and find other leisure amenities and gyms offering ‘Build Your Membership’ options.

So, rightly or wrongly, Millennials prefer to customize and take an ‘á la carte’ approach, experience the product first (do you offer a membership trial?) and have confidence in the commitment they are about to make.

While this might sound like a ‘cake and eat it’ mentality, think about the lifetime value of these customers; if you can be flexible and deliver an outstanding experience from the outset, the likelihood is they will stay with you for years to come.

Millennials would prefer to pay a higher annual fee over an entrance fee

Not only is the financial impact of an entrance fee off-putting, no matter how many years it can be spaced over, but Millennials also aren’t keen to commit or have a sense of being ‘tied-in’. Especially in cases where they are uncertain how much they will get to access the club (because of time constraints and family/work commitments).

This doesn’t mean to say Millennials will be looking to leave or switch clubs shortly after they join. They would simply rather not outlay a large financial sum at a time of life when, away from the golf course, they often have other life events and variable expenses (home-buying, weddings, children) to keep in mind.

The upshot – Millennials are receptive to a higher subscription fee, appreciating that greater flexibility should come at some cost to them.

Millennials want more than just golf

From the research, we learned that 33 was the mostly likely age for Millennials to join – the ‘sweetspot’. A time at which Millennials, when considering membership, are also looking for fitness (71% of respondents), family access (65%) and a swimming pool (62%). Whether these facilities carry an additional, pay-per-use fee is at a club’s discretion, but simply the provision of such amenities can be a significant draw for a Millennial audience.

Something to bear in mind here: the provision of these amenities will help to boost the dwell time of Millennial members. So, when paired with our other findings in relation to how new Millennials join a club (83% through recommendations from friends, family or colleagues) it stands to reason that the more a club becomes a part of someone’s routine or lifestyle, the more chance of them recommending membership to others.

A watershed moment

When we embarked on this research with Nextgengolf, we did so with the ambition to grow the game and give the gift of golf. What’s clear from working with club managers globally is that, actually, this is an ambition we all share.

Whether this is a watershed moment which helps you to rethink and act on how to connect with a Millennial audience is up to you. But from my, perhaps somewhat biased opinion, the ability for your club to shift gear and develop a genuinely compelling product offering to this group could help unlock those long-term members you are looking for – the ones who will form the future nucleus of your club.

Read the 2018 ‘Truth About Millennial Golfers’ Report

Note: The survey sample for the Truth About Millennial Golfers study focused exclusively on a sample audience of active, avid Millennial golfers with prior golf interest and experience in tournaments of golf events.

This article was authored by GGA Senior Manager and Market Intelligence expert Michael Gregory.

Manager Views on Innovation

Generating growth through culture change is the goal of the Innovation Labs initiative.

Discussions about business, society, the economy or technology invariably include the word “innovation,” which implies a pursuit of inventiveness or change. The word also appears in conversations about golf culture or the club industry, though typically in a negative context or when referring to a lack of change.

By nature, clubs embrace and value tradition. That’s one of the things that defines them as clubs. They are organizations dedicated to a particular interest, activity or lifestyle. However, a culture of tradition does not prevent a club from pursuing change.

Investigating innovation

In recent years, club managers, club members, developers and businesses that serve the industry have used the word “innovation” more frequently. But it’s unclear what innovation looks like for clubs. We see various industries targeting clubs with innovations: Manufacturers are making equipment stronger, lighter and more powerful; agronomic experts are growing turf that is cleaner, greener and more sustainable; technology focused fi rms are developing ways to make golf more accessible and less time-consuming.

As part of its commitment to continually provide forward-looking ideas and advanced education to club managers, CMAA identified innovation as a key research topic for 2018. At Global Golf Advisors (GGA), the goal is to leverage adaptation, transformation, growth and efficiency to maximize the performance of clubs — and innovation is always on the table.

Key objectives for both CMAA and GGA have always been to help clubs optimize their performance and maximize financial, operational and lifestyle related results for club leaders and their members. Earlier this year, CMAA announced the renewal of its business partnership with GGA, a multiyear commitment of cooperation to enhance CMAA’s research initiative using GGA’s business intelligence services and to co-create Innovation Labs to promote and inspire innovation by clubs. The Innovation Labs will explore new ways to help clubs move ahead faster.

Typical research projects analyze past results and projected outcomes. Research on innovation, however, is forward-looking and requires new ideas, new methods and change. Still, successful innovations are difficult to quantify and involve significant risk.

To minimize risk and create reliable, replicable and successful methodologies, GGA and CMAA have established a joint task force that will identify, measure and field-test ideas that have the greatest potential for innovation in club management.

Establishing baselines

This case-based approach to innovation began with a yearlong research project involving clubs that are reimagining the way they operate. The first phase of the three-phase project was to study the relationship between clubs and innovation by talking to the individuals who know clubs better than anyone: club managers.

This effort was launched in advance of the 91st CMAA World Conference on Club Management and Club Business Expo in San Francisco. CMAA members took a 10-minute survey designed to gather managers’ thoughts on innovation, identify research opportunities and assess latent demand for innovation within clubs. The nearly 400 CMAA members who participated represented more than eight types of clubs, and more than 150 individuals volunteered their clubs to contribute to additional research.

Results from the preliminary survey confirmed that innovation is crucial for the future of club management. According to the survey, approximately 95 percent of club managers regard innovation as “important” or “very important” to the long-term success and sustainability of clubs.

Club managers also believe clubs need to improve when it comes to innovation. Managers do not necessarily regard their clubs as innovative. Less than two-thirds (63 percent) described their club in that way. And when asked to quantify the extent of their innovativeness, only 40 percent of managers rated their club as “innovative” or “extremely innovative.”

Participants also rated the extent to which they believe clubs are keeping pace with innovative practices in other industries. Ninety-two percent rated that pace as being between “slightly below average” and “slightly above average.”

The top three challenges that inhibit innovation were determined to be: (1) limited resources such as money, time, space and people; (2) social or cultural opposition to change; and (3) a lack of structured innovation processes or procedures.

Using the right tools

What fuels the engine of innovation? What is required to innovate? Survey feedback identified three keys to innovation: (1) a culture that fosters and supports innovation; (2) willingness to change norms and take risks; and (3) strong visionary business leadership.

Club managers said one of the most important ingredients for innovation is a culture of strategic thinking. This encourages new ideas, supports experimentation, solicits group input and is characterized by fearless, resourceful leaders willing to take calculated risks.

While managers are divided on whether innovation is a priority for their clubs (55 percent said yes; 45 percent said no), it is clear that those who focus on innovation are seeing results. Among managers who indicated that innovation is a primary focus, 91 percent said their clubs seek opportunities to innovate and 90 percent said their focus on innovation gives them a competitive advantage. One caveat: Only 27 percent of clubs that focus on innovation have a clear, well-defined innovation strategy.

Even managers who believe innovation is essential to the long-term success of their clubs do not regard themselves as particularly innovative. They believe the club industry lags behind other sectors when it comes to change. They say they would like to catch up in the areas of marketing, communications, technology, food & beverage and strategy, but they say they are hampered by resource constraints, cultural opposition and a lack of effective infrastructure. Even many clubs that do prioritize and pursue innovation are operating without a deliberate plan of action.

To translate ingenuity into business strategy, managers believe that a broader cultural endorsement is needed within their clubs to support, enable and nurture innovation. Affecting cultural change from the top down, with reliable bottom-up support, is not easy. Clear policies and programs are essential.

The results of this preliminary survey have helped guide the development of GGA/CMAA research and the new Innovation Labs initiative. They will be circulated in a detailed, full report later this year. Stay tuned for more details on ideas, insights and experiments to be generated by the Innovation Labs during the coming year.

GGA’s Bennett DeLozier penned this article for Club Management Magazine, published by the Club Management Association of America.

Make Grit a Habit

In the 2010 remake of True Grit, Arkansas farm girl Mattie Ross sets out on a quest to track down her father’s murderer. Knowing her journey will take her over tough terrain and across the paths of some ornery dudes, the feisty 14-year-old enlists the help of a boozy, trigger-happy lawman named Rooster Cogburn.

“They tell me you’re a man with true grit,” Mattie says to Cogburn, whom she somehow figures is just the man for the job, despite outward appearances. Later joined by a Texas Ranger on the trail of the same outlaw, Mattie, Cogburn and the Ranger each has his or her grit tested in different ways.

Similarly, our own grit (call it perseverance, resolve or steadfastness, if you like) is tested on a regular basis. Dr. Angela Duckworth, professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and the founder and CEO of Character Lab, is well-respected on the topic of grit and how to build more of it. In her book “Grit: The Power and Passion of Perseverance,” she writes: “Where talent counts once, effort counts twice.” In fact, she has reduced her research findings to the following formula:

Talent x Effort = Skill

Skill x Effort = Achievement

So, how do superintendents and other managers of golf courses and clubs develop more grit to achieve more of their goals? Here are seven suggestions:

  1. Start by doing what interests you. If grit is a result of passionate commitment, it is wise to choose a field or projects that matter to you. Choose a field and pursue accomplishments worthy of your best efforts. You know the old saying: Make your job your hobby, and you’ll never work a day in your life.
  2. Surround yourself with gritty, determined people. In his story of incredible survival against the ravages of the Antarctic sea, Earnest Shackleton noted that it was the dogged determination of key crew members that made the difference in living and surviving. Likewise, acclaimed management guru Jim Collins advises managers to get the right people on the bus with you and see that they are in the right seats.
  3. Establish a clear-cut plan of action. Managing others requires that all involved fully understand and support the plan. Educate, inform and paint the picture of the successful outcome. Reiterate goals and objectives continually. Commit the plan to writing and support it with visual cues wherever appropriate and possible. One finds his or her way home when remembering clearly what “home” means to them.
  4. Dare to succeed. Fear of failure is called atychiphobia in the scientific community. The antidote is courage, which can be learned and developed. Push beyond your comfort zone. Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Do something that scares you every day.” Some managers are afraid of failing or appearing to be a “failure.” Be brave and strive for higher, bigger and better goals. These goals should be a core part of your plan.
  5. Be conscientious. Pursue goals in a consistent and resolute manner. Do the right things right and help those around you to do the same. Learn from small losses along the way; celebrate wins in their time. Revisit your goals daily and remind people why they’re important to the bigger picture.
  6. Prepare for and embrace difficulty. Peyton Manning practiced throwing wet footballs, knowing there would be rainy Sundays. Golfers at Oklahoma State University are taught to relish bad weather with the certainty that they will be better prepared than their competition. Bad weather or poor conditions become a competitive advantage to that mindset. OSU’s longtime golf coach, Labron Harris, taught his players that one must put his hands close to the fire if you want to get warm.
  7. Pursue excellence. Perfection is often unattainable, while excellence is an attitude that rewards the determined few. Faithfully pursuing excellence enables successful results and an emboldened team. It was Aristotle who wrote, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”

Similarly, grit is not an act as much as it is a habit, an attribute that can be more fully developed with careful thought and advance planning. About you, would they say: “They tell me you’re someone with true grit?”

GGA’s Henry DeLozier penned this article for Golf Course Industry Magazine.