'Get Golf Ready' Special for New Golfers &PGA Professionals

By: Nancy Berkley

In a one-hour special program that aired nationally on Sunday on CBS TV, the golf industry launched a new program for new golfers. Built on a platform of five affordable golf lessons, Get Golf Ready is the industry's latest answer to sluggish growth.

The GGR program is an attempt to rebrand golf as "fun" and "entertaining". Whether this new brand image is believable and attractive to non-golfers remains an open question. What was most newsworthy about the one hour program in my view, however, is that it aired nationally and was not just an ad during a televised golf tournament.

So, "bravo" to The PGA for thinking a little bit outside the box in this one hour program. I haven't seen an ad for Get Golf Ready in a major newspaper or non-golf national magazine , but this CBS special is definitely a step in the right direction in reaching potential golfers.

The one-hour program had some major flaws. It tried to do too much. It was a promotion for Get Golf Ready, it was a rebranding of golf's traditional image, it balanced that new image with a segment on traditional golf even with Masters-type music, and it was a promotion for the PGA of America and it's professionals along with the Play Golf America program. Each one of those elements could have stood on its own for a one-hour special. With so many goals, the focus on Get Golf Ready was weakened.

The best parts of the program were actually the Get Golf Ready sections where five PGA Professionals and seasoned instructors provided lessons to six non-golfers. I was a little surprised that the opening lesson talked about the USGA book of rules since the preceding intro was about how much fun golf can be. I would have left the rules to a later lesson segment. Generally, The editing was pretty good and the footage did capture the excitement of taking up the game and succeeding.

The special was also short on details about how to find and signup for Get Golf Ready. The Play Golf America banner was frequently mentioned, but the industry continues to forget that "play golf America" is not yet a house-hold word. Most viewers don't know how to find it on the internet. The writers of the special had many chances to put "go to www.playgolfamerican" on the screen, but backed away from the direct marketing that the one hour program could have used to be more successful.

In many ways, the special was basically an infomercial for The PGA and its learning center in Port St. Lucie, Florida. Of course, my guess is that the PGA drove the project and footed much of the bill, so that could be an explanation. I was troubled by this because I happened to attend the industry meeting back in November that explained the new initiative. It was not driven by the PGA of America but by new leadership in the World Golf Foundation. That's another story for another time.

Back to the PGA of America: I firmly believe that the key to golf's growth is really with the 27,000 PGA Professionals.

Golf is a game managed by gatekeepers. You just can't go to a park and play golf. You must be let in to the course and even a practice range. And most of the time it's the PGA Professional that opens the door and takes your money.

For the last fifteen years, PGA pros spent their time managing customers that walked through those doors and rode the wave of studying muscle moves and fitness. Now, they need to know how to get the golfers to their doors in the first place.

For years, I have written about marketing golf to women - how to make it fun and social and non-intimidating. But the same marketing savvy applies to men as well as women and certainly to families. In today's world where time is short and sports and fitness choices continue to grow, marketing skills are even more important for the golf industry. A golf professional can be an expert at golf-cart contracts, but the bottom line is that they won't need as many golf carts if he or she can't attract more golfers.

About 1000 golf facilities have signed up so far to offer the Get Golf Ready program. (see www.playgolfamerica.com and search by zip code). If the golf professionals that are going to offer the Get Golf Ready program learn how to teach ordinary golfers in the way they want to learn, the new golf program will serve the industry well over the next decades.

In fact, it may be more important to measure the skills learned by the "Get Golf Ready" participating PGA Professionals than those learned by the golfer-participants in the program. Teaching the teachers is a golden rule.