Guess what year the powers-that-be at GM finally decided to retire the legendary Oldsmobile? If you guessed 2004, you’d be correct. And, the reason they did so was bleak, if direct: their aging target market was dying off in droves. So, there was no one left to buy an Olds.
Now, wager a guess what year golf will follow Oldsmobile’s tracks and disappear as a mainstream hobby? (Please note I did NOT use the word ‘sport’ to describe what is, in effect, nothing more strenuous than a walk in the park).
If you guessed 2050 to the second question, you may not be far off. That’s because, as the New York Times reported yesterday, and I confirmed with an informal, internal Peppercomm survey, Millennials are bored silly by golf. And, most Boomers will be gone by 2050.
The Times feature says all of the obvious things about golf and Millennials:
– Golf eats up far too much time (make that far too much precious free time.)
– Golf is a slow-moving game with few, if any, thrills (“Gee Thurston, what an interesting sand dune!”)
– Golf is a hobby that requires constant practice in order to master (think: backgammon.)
– Millennials do NOT want to devote their free time to walking around a park on Saturday and Sunday mornings and afternoons hitting a tiny white ball and waiting for a group of Boomers on the next green to sink their putts.
– Millennials grew up in a completely wired world and, in order to play golf, one needs to be off the grid. That’s been known to cause severe allergic reactions in many a Millennial.
And, sure as a boring golf tournament being aired on a Sunday afternoon network, my informal survey of Peppercomm Millennials confirmed ALL of my suspicions (as well as those of the Old Gray Lady):
– Of the 33 people in our New York office under the age of 30, who replied to my query, only five played golf! Five! That’s 18 percent, and that spells trouble with a capital T, and that most certainly does not stand for tee (as in golf tee).
Like other embattled sports such as the NFL and NHL, in which parents are refusing to let their kids play those uber violent pastimes, the PGA and leading golf courses ARE doing their best to modernize.
Some, for example, are actually providing Wi-Fi on the back nine (“Um, like, just wait on taking your putt, Buffy, OK? I’m, like, getting a text from Curt about where we’ll be hooking up on the 18th hole.”).
Others are encouraging night golf for Millennial corporate outings in which the golf balls are lighted up. Wow! Still others are holding Frisbee-tossing contests on fabled courses.
And, others are dramatically lowering fees and introducing 3-D imaging for the few Millennials actually interested in improving their backswings.
None of it will work of course. And, that’s because golf is a SLOW-AS-MOLASSES game and the younger generation is replete with adrenaline junkies looking for the next, new shiny object to fill their next nanosecond (confession time: I’ve always hated golf, have likened it to watching grass grow AND have always been attracted to faster-paced, physically challenging sports).
I’m guessing it won’t be too long before spying a golf course along the Garden State Parkway will be just as rare as spotting a vintage Oldsmobile rumbling along in the right-hand lane. And, I can just imagine the conversation in the car:
– Gen Z’er in back seat: “Mommy, why is there a big, back yard over there with nobody living in it and full of weeds.”
– Gen X mom: “That’s a golf course, Wyoming Cheyenne. Your great grandfather, Thom, and his friends, used to play a game on those fields called golf.”
– Gen Z’er: “Mommy, Did golf have all sorts of dragons and knights and princesses and animals like my games?”
– Gen X mom: “Nope. Just a bunch of middle-aged, overweight white guys who eventually died off like Bambi and dear old grandpa Thom. That’s why the courses are now empty, honey.”
I cannot wait to see what else professional golf has up its sleeve as it defends what was once a big-time business.
It strikes me that, like so many other vestiges of the past, golf will soon fall prey to the 24×7, social media world in which we live.
So, who’s up for a 6am tee-time this Saturday? Anyone? Anyone at all? Bueller? Bueller, Jr,. Bueller, III?