JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – Two hundred representatives from various aspects of the golf industry turned out to participate in the “Grow the Game” luncheon hosted July 9 at the Atlanta Athletic Club.
The event featured presentations from four national golf leaders: Steve Mona, chief executive officer of the World Golf Foundation; Darrell Crall, chief operating officer of the PGA of America; Hunki Yun, director of strategic projects for the USGA; and Rhett Evans, chief operating officer of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America.
The quartet spent time sharing ways to increase participation in the sport and support the $68.8 billion golf industry, which is responsible for nearly 2 million jobs.
Mona spoke about the collaborative efforts to grow the game. Over the last three years, participation in golf has increased among juniors, women and diverse populations. He said the game continues to be increasingly available, with 10,000 of the nation’s 15,500 courses open to the public and affordable. Players on public courses pay a median green fee of $26.
Mona also pointed out golf’s strong charitable impact, too. More than $3.9 billion was raised for charity. That’s more than the amount raised by the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB combined.
Crall talked about some of the programs created by the PGA of America that are designed to grow the game. They include “Get Golf Ready,” which offers inexpensive group lessons for beginners and reached 86,000 participants in 2013.
The low-pressure PGA Junior League and the Drive, Chip and Putt competition, which concludes at the Masters, have sparked interest among young players.
Yun discussed the USGA’s efforts to improve the pace of play. A study by the National Golf Foundation found that 91 percent of serious golfers were bothered by slow play. So the USGA created a “While We’re Young” campaign to raise awareness of the problem.
The USGA is also working with courses on setup issues to improve the speed of play.
Evans talked about sustainability and environmental issues, as well as the Environmental Institute for Golf that raises money for research grants, education programs and scholarships.
“I don’t think we’ve ever seen the degree of collaboration that we see in the industry today,” said Kevin Holleran, president of E-Z GO, the presenting sponsor of the event.
The growth and development of the game continues to be a theme at the Atlanta Athletic Club, which will host the U.S. Amateur Championship Aug. 9-17.