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Volume 6, Issue 4 – April 2016

It is a unique and intimidating challenge to write a tribute to one of my personal heroes who just happens to be one of golf’s all-time greatest writers, George Peper.

Of course, George is much more than a writer, he’s a living and very active legend of the golf editorial business (“content” in 2016 nomenclature) and a person who has had a profound impact on my life, personally and professionally.

George taught me how to play golf and appreciate its depth. I will never be able to repay him for that gift and I won’t even try. On behalf of a generation of golfers, this is my attempt to thank him.

I apologize in advance for the long blog… I guess I didn’t have time to write a shorter one.

Without George, I may have still become the Mayor of Crazy Town (an easy supposition since it’s not an elected office), but perhaps the citizens would have bounced me out of office if not for the learnings I borrowed from the man.

During Masters week, I was honored to attend the Golf Writers Association of America (GWAA) dinner where George was presented the Lifetime Achievement Award in Journalism from the PGA of America. In my ten consecutive annual trips to Augusta, GA, I never attended the writer’s dinner, but the 2016 edition was an easy “yes” for the RSVP card. This event was my opportunity to stand up and salute the individual who served as the golf mentor I didn’t have in my family. In the absence of the Internet (the horrors!), my golf education showed up in a mailbox once-a-month, courtesy of gifted people named Peper, Tarde and Purcell on top of the magazine mastheads.

Of course I’m one of millions of fortunate souls whose appetite for the game was fed via George’s 25-year body of work at GOLF Magazine and through books he authored covering golf’s history, it’s most meaningful players, events, greatest courses and instruction.

Growing up in White Plains, NY, I played baseball, soccer and rose early for 5:30am ice hockey practices beginning at age 11. Competitive tennis received most of my attention in my teens, and eventually I learned enough about the mechanics of the game to become a tennis pro at two Westchester County country clubs: Wykagyl and Brae Burn.

There were no golf influences in my household during my formative years, though I was told that the family golf passion may have simply skipped a generation. Paternal grandparents Helene and Jerry had been active members at Hillcrest in Los Angeles and I was told that my mom’s mother Elsa occasionally shot in the high 70s in her prime.

My window to the game of golf came courtesy of my friend Steve Monteverdi whose father played. Beginning sometime around 5th grade (in between video game battles on his Atari 2600), we would venture out to the hilly grounds at the North Street School. We ignored a metal sign affixed to the building that included several prohibited activities including “No Golfing.” I don’t think we ever knocked out a window… maybe one at the most.

We’d take a few clubs and balls out to an “elevated tee” on the edge of a hill and take turns creating holes. “Okay…stay left of the big tree and then cut back to the right and finish at the big rock.” We’d alternate the selection of imaginary holes and just play for hours. I was hooked by the experience…though it would be several years before I played on an actual course.

I wanted to learn all the shots. From tennis, I understood how freedom of motion, body positions and kinetics could create certain results. However, as it related to building a repertoire of golf shots (on purpose, not via crappy technique and poor contact), I needed guidance. Grandma Helene came through with a decade of annual subscriptions to GOLF Magazine, and I devoured every article, reading each issue several times. The magazine pages fed my personal beast that was hungry to learn how to hit draws and fades, wedge it close, lob it high, drive it long, spin it back, and rap in some putts. I kept noticing the name “George Peper” in the magazine and on the covers of the books I was buying at Barnes & Noble. Heck, I even put a few bucks in GP’s pockets!

Through my teens and early 20s, I taught myself how to play, experimenting, practicing and internalizing the instruction articles from the magazine to the point where I could shoot in the 80s without ever having taken a live lesson. My early knowledge of the places I wanted to play got to the point where I could rattle off the top 20 courses on GOLF’s list of America’s Greatest Courses including the architect, city (if you can call Ardmore, Southampton and Mamaroneck cities) and the year it opened. Saying I loved the game would be a gross understatement.

My golf dreams included becoming a single-digit handicapper, playing all of the Top 100 in America and the World, developing an encyclopedic knowledge of course design and that was just for starters. George Peper was my guide.

Making a career in golf became an objective of mine beginning around age 22 (1991) and I was highly motivated. More on that story can be found in this MofCT issue, but to cut-to-the-chase, the dream became real after nine years in the New York advertising agency business. In May of 2000 (age 30), I showed up for my first day in the marketing department at GOLF Magazine and was led to my cubicle (with a window out to Park Avenue, baby!). Already on a huge high from making my professional vision a reality (nine years seemed like an eternity), there was a special bonus waiting for me at the end of a row of offices.

As it turned out, the big corner offices were occupied by publishing/sales/accounting “suits.” I mention that label somewhat ironically, since it was one of those Brooks Bros.-clad executives I aspired to be. Note to George: of course I wanted to be an uncommonly good one with a deep respect for the editorial process!

Regardless of the “cats and dogs living together” world of publishers and editors…the point is that every time I walked down the narrow cube-land corridor from my spot on the GOLF Magazine floor at 2 Park Ave., my route walked directly toward the windowed fishbowl office occupied by you-guessed-it… George Peper.

I was really delighted that I was working so closely (by physical proximity and certainly not professional interaction) to somebody who I respected so immensely and introduced me to the finer points of the game to which I was now hoping to dedicate my professional life. Here I was, on my first day in the golf business…a dream come true…and I’m introducing myself to the guy who taught me how to play the game. It was a really cool and moving moment for this golf lunatic.

Years before the GOLF Magazine gig materialized, I had come close to taking a position with LINKS Magazine, but owner/publisher Jack Purcell and I agreed that the position we were discussing was not the right fit for either of us at that moment in time. Needless to say, I was disappointed, since I greatly admired (and still do) Jack and his amazing partner in the business (wife Nancy).

On stage at the GWAA dinner, George’s speech was elegant, eloquent, funny and even sentimental (not a typical Peper trait, according to Jim Frank, George’s long-time deputy). He told some wonderful stories and expressed gratitude to those who he most enjoyed working with. As George admitted his general disgust for his suit-wearing Publisher counterparts over the years, he gave well-deserved glowing praise for the Purcells (under-rated and under-appreciated for their own amazing 25-year body of work), who had graciously invited me to join them at their table for the dinner. George has been the editor of LINKS for several years.

I never actually had the opportunity to shake George’s hand that night. Ten minutes after the well-deserved standing ovation the room gave him, I looked up and he, wife Libby and son Scott were gone.

My personal email to George a few days after (an unfortunate substitute for the handshake and hug I didn’t get the chance to give him) included the following paragraphs:

I was honored to be at the LINKS table with Nancy and Jack on such a special evening. You have helped millions of people get more enjoyment, satisfaction and fulfillment from golf… an immortal professional legacy to go along with your family which I know is cherished above all else.

Of course I personally loved your reference to Herb Graffis (NGF co-Founder and one of George’s own heroes) and your speech touched me through its honesty, humor, humility and your immense love for good people and the game that connects us all.

You have a special place in my personal history in golf, and the golf business… and I admire you more than you could possibly know. It means so much to call you my friend.

Congratulations.

Yours truly,
The HMCT (aka Greg Nathan, NGF)

Volume 6, Issue 3 – March 2016

Welcome to the golf season! Is everybody fired up to shoot their career round, put new gold markers in their “Top 100” peg board and buy some fresh new technology to hit it farther, faster, straighter and tighter? The Mayor has indeed hit the ground (covered by Celebration brand fairway turf) running this year!

In a true miracle, there is a new golf trophy making its home in Palm Beach Gardens…and it’s not the Ryder Cup nor the Wannamaker which were already here…at the PGA of America HQ down the street. I’m speaking of a silver platter emblazoned (I so rarely get the pleasure of using that word) with “Osprey Cup 2016 Champion.” This is the prize awarded to the two-man team who brings home the member-member title at The Dye Preserve Golf Club. I still have a hard time believing that this actually happened.

But it did.

I love “The Dye” as it stands tribute every day to so many of the wonderful things I love about golf…a retreat away from reminders of daily stress, a wonderful lay-of-the-land (Florida flat) creative and strategic design, the company of friends, a natural setting with wildlife/alligators, good food and heavily poured cocktails, etc. Winning a Dye event is bucket list material for a hack like me.

The Osprey Cup is a handicap event (the team winning the net is the one that gets painted up on the board hanging in the hallway of the hunting lodge-ish clubhouse) contested over two 18-hole rounds, the first played as better-ball and the second round played in Pinehurst modified alternate shot format. My good friend Dave Winters and I have teamed up in this event before and never sniffed the top half of the leaderboard. Believe me when I tell you those poor showings were never Dave’s fault. Mr. Winters has a knack for winning, having tested his mettle in competition at many great American clubs like Southern Hills, Shinnecock and National Golf Links. In fact, his name is already on the Osprey Cup board due to a victory in 2007.

The weather was a big factor in the 2016 miracle. A first round rainout led to the miniaturization of the event. Best-ball would now be the format for the front-9 holes, alternate shot on the back. Few things trouble me more than having a fully negotiated (with she who must be obeyed) and approved round of golf cancelled. But somehow I recognized the silver lining. With 32 competing teams, my long-odds improved exponentially based on the fact that a single 18 would determine the champion. Over two rounds, surely the inconsistency and sub-standard quality of my game would rise and eliminate our chances. Anyone can catch lightning in a bottle for 18 holes, right?

The shotgun start had Dave and I teeing off on the dogleg-left 18th (meaning we’d play just one hole of Pinehurst format before going to the front-9 which would be played better-ball). I proceeded to slice my opening drive 50 yards straight into a pond. Not so unusual, actually. I love golf in spite of my ability, not because of it. I felt no panic.

After a Winters drive into a FW bunker and my crafty 7-iron chunk-and-run punch down the fairway, a gorgeous wedge from my partner nestled in around 18 inches from the hole. A nicely executed par on the card to start the round…always welcomed when playing any alternate shot format.

The front nine that followed is perhaps the most epic nine holes of my golf life. My ball striking wasn’t all that stellar (maybe hit 3 greens in regulation)…but I didn’t lose any and I stayed “in the neighborhood.” Seemingly everything I hit with my putter went into the hole…and from all kinds of crazy places. For somebody who has been fighting the yips for more than eight years, this could never be predicted. The opposite, actually.

My first birdie rolled in from around 25 feet from the fringe on #3. It never left the hole from the instant it left the putter face of the weird MacGregor DST model I grabbed in the garage before the round and put in play for the first time in 7 years (thank you Reid Gorman!).

I’m not going to use this space (or your time) for a complete blow-by-blow…but I drained putts of between 15 and 40 feet on holes 6 (2nd birdie), 7 (ridiculous R-L side-hill bending 3rd birdie), 8 (20 ft. for a clutch par from off the green) and again on 9 (birdie #4 and my 3rd natural bird in four holes). I’d say this was 80+ feet of putts on only four holes. I touched the ball, it rolled, it went in, every hole. Insane in the membrane! My favorite memory of that streak was the way Dave smiled and laughed his ass-off with disbelief and joy each time. The Nathan/Winters team shot nine-under 27 net on the better-ball front nine. Needless to say, we knew we had to be on or near the top of the leaderboard making the turn.

We didn’t make any birdies in the Pinehurst format on our final 8-holes on the back, but walking off our final hole, we realized we had managed to avoid any double-bogeys and went +3 for the back, -1 (35) net after our handicap strokes were applied. Even with a net 62 posted, my typical positive attitude could not accept that we would win. Somebody would surely be sauntering into the clubhouse with a 59 or something else crazy…and yank the rug out from under us.

I sat quietly eating lunch with Dave and other friends as the remaining players were turning in their cards outside and out of sight. I was just waiting for the bad news to arrive…which never came. The anticipation seemed endless, but the taps on the shoulder started and the smiles and “congratulations” eventually allowed me to believe…and I exhaled.

Lightning actually did strike in my bottle and it still hasn’t completely sunk in yet. I’m still looking forward to seeing the Nathan-Winters team on the Osprey Cup board…my little piece of club golf immortality! I really do love being reminded of how truly fortunate I am…in so many ways.

Volume 6, Issue 2 – February 2016

I’ve been thinking a lot about email lately.

If you read the NGF Dashboard last month, you would have seen an article covering some of the latest thinking (and NGF’s perspective learned through working with hundreds of B2C and B2B clients) about direct marketing via email. We asked, “What is your email marketing handicap?”Incidentally, please ask how NGF can help you shave a few strokes off of yours.

I would expect that the citizens of Crazy Town are also shoulder-deep in their own world of digital communication. I recently rediscovered (and wanted to share with you) what I thought was a very useful article about the device usage and the time of day when people consume their emails and via which devices. Of course you won’t be surprised to read that the percentage of emails read via desktop computer has been shrinking. Smart phones and tablets account for around 2/3rds of our email use. Separately, and much to my chagrin (I can’t say I can remember when I last wrote/typed the word “chagrin”), I see that mobile email use peaks in the pre-work hours in the morning.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE ARTICLE

Percent of Email Opens by Time of Day


Click here
to enlarge the image.

Source: Movable Ink (Q1 2014)

Now maybe we all could be chagrined because a large population of people are tethered more to their smartphone at wake-up time than their “better half” who is likely in bed only a foot or two away when they first eyeball their personal electronics. This is clearly not a trend that bodes well for morning “relations.” However, I’m neither Amish…nor so self-righteous that I cannot admit to a multi-year issue with crack-of-dawn smart phone addiction.

What I’m REALLY burned up about is that I recently joined the ranks of people who cannot read a frickin’ thing without glasses. Even though I’m 46 and everyone is quick to tell me that most people generally start needing optical help “when they reach your age,” I genuinely believe that my early morning smartphone use is responsible for accelerating the stark deterioration of my eyesight.

Those of you who have read a few issues of my blog (I can’t believe I’ve been writing monthly as the Mayor for almost five years now), may recall that I have a bit of a collecting issue. I find things that I’m passionate about and I often go a little nuts. I have collected “things” like soccer jerseys or golf course architecture books or baseball caps…and at other times it has been experiences like concerts or rounds of golf on top 100 courses (golf is never too far from my mind, as you know).

My latest collection, though, is a direct by-product of my pre-spectacled years of opening my eyes in a dark bedroom and immediately staring into a back lit smartphone before my eyes had “warmed up.” The resulting collection of CVS +1.50 reading glasses I have accumulated and placed on bedside tables, in bookcases, automobile consoles, desk drawers…and yes, even golf bags…is pathetic.

I hope you enjoy the article…and those of you whose eyesight has not yet succumbed to glasses…please take heed and grab your partner in the morning instead of your smart phone.

Volume 6, Issue 1 – January 2016

Happy New Year Fellow Citizens of Crazy Town –

From the Mayor’s office; 2015 appeared to be a solid year in the game and business of golf. Spieth and Jason Day brought some great interest to the professional game, the weather was favorable to recreational golf (rounds increased 1.8% nationally)…and many leading golf businesses had solid financial results. Not everyone did well, but seriously folks, golf is a competitive business. We are no different than any other industry in that the best managed companies and courses with the most compelling offerings, the best people and the most effective marketing usually win.

As it relates to the nature of competition in golf, my attention is drawn to the engine of the golf economy, the 15,000 U.S. golf course facilities. Currently, we are oversupplied with courses and there are not enough golfers/rounds to support them all. Overall golf supply has declined by only 5% (eliminating a few competitors) since the correction started in 2006, so the number of competing courses hasn’t dropped in any meaningful way. Since participation has been stable at 24-25 million since 2011, courses continue to fight for the love and revenues from recreational golfers. In certain ways, this fight could be compared to a pillow fight…or to borrow some British vernacular of a non-threatening altercation…”handbags!”

One of the unavoidable truths in our business is that the game of golf needs to be sold from the bottom up to its prospects (our well runs deep with 32 million of them see the latest NGF participation story) the same way as many products or services. We need more customers. Golf courses are getting better at this… but there is still huge upside room for more dedicated sales efforts (selling golf itself… the act of creating golfers) that must be conducted away from the course. We are in the zero-sum game where all courses and business are competing for existing golfers.

However, everyone would win from co-opetition and taking the front line customer recruitment effort to the streets (or supermarket, corporate park or community center). Golf isn’t for everybody. The good news is that the prospects are out there (don’t believe anyone who says “nobody is interested in playing golf anymore”). Many of them simply need to be invited. An invitation is a very powerful thing. Knowing somebody who works at a golf course immediately removes some of the intimidation that holds many non-golfers back from venturing into an environment that makes them anxious or concerned about embarrassing themselves.

There is no shortage of talk about “growing the game,” but if our industry is guilty of anything… it is a less-than-stellar record of pro-activating (have I created a new word?) the 32+ million non-golfers in America who are interested in playing the game. The “latent demand” for golf is very real. The meteoric rise in popularity of TopGolf presents indisputable proof of the attractiveness (and huge business success) of a less-serious, less-intimidating, technology-infused and socially-driven golf experience. It’s a simple fact of human nature that people prioritize things in their lives that are fun (and spend substantial time and money on those activities). TopGolf activates and engages these interested non-golfers in several ways that golf courses should emulate.

Despite the fact that the average rounds played per 18 holes has gone from approximately 40K in 1988 to around 33K today, most of us would still be hard-pressed to identify many courses in our home market that do a spectacular job turning non-golfers into golfers… recruiting new customers, rounds and revenue by proactively, consistently and effectively engaging their community. We all have many recreational choices (golf is “pay-for-play,” which only increases the degree of difficulty)…and the game must be sold on all its many merits vs. those other options. The more common reality is that many golf courses remain stuck in a 1990s mentality… waiting for golfers to show up at their course.

I just recently heard an illustrative analogy…that golf courses too often act like gas stations. They have their “physical plant,” they put prices up on the board and then wait for drivers to show up and consume the same product they always have. Golf is too often offered up as a “take it or leave it proposition.” As Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding’s character in the filmJerry McGuire) famously and animatedly stated, “these are the A-B-C’s of me, baby!”

A bit of a culture change is needed for the benefit of everyone doing business in golf

Of course this is a broad generalization, a brush not intended to color those who recognize and act on their need to do the incredibly hard and rewarding work of going out and finding/converting new golfers. We have great programs like Get Golf Ready, The First Tee, PGA Jr. League but large scale impact on the industry can only be achieved through more effective grassroots marketing (once again… in the community, not at the golf course) that drives prospects into these good programs. A bit of a cultural change is needed for the benefit of everyone doing business in golf. I have never been more certain that while perhaps gasoline does not need to be sold (auto transportation is a necessity of life), golf unquestionably does. A more dramatic shift toward the proactive selling of golf is not only necessary, it’s inevitable for our long-term health and welfare. All blessings indeed flow from the recreational golfer.

I hope you’ll think of the NGF when you decide to consider research, data or direct marketing to increase your market understanding and to compete more successfully. These are just a few of my favorite things (Sound of Music alert!)…and among the highest-and-best reasons why the leading companies in golf engage with NGF. We’d love to help you.

Cheers from the HMCT

Volume 3, Issue 12 – December 2013

Fellow Citizens of Crazy Town –

Imagine for a moment that Santa Claus is an obsessed golfer… what would St. Nicklaus (!!!!) and the elves put together for those of us who were not naughty… but spectacularly nice this year?  Actually, let’s push this a little further for fun… what gifts would inspire the most incredibly joyous twelve-days of Christmas for any gentleman with a passion for hitting a snow-white dimpled sphere?

  1. A singularly perfect swing resulting in your first hole-in-one, ideally on the 16th hole at Cypress Point Golf Club – now that would be a plaque worthy of the Mayor’s office!
  2. Rolls-Royce Golf Car, complete with chromed grill and Fluff Cowan behind the wheel to drive it (and read your putts) while you walk the course.
  3. One round of golf at Augusta National Golf Club – with three guests of your choice that you can invite
  4. Fried chicken and macaroni & cheese from Augusta National, a BurgerDog from The Olympic Club, lobster lunch from National Golf Links of America… with a Southside from Shinnecock Hills and a black and white milkshake from Castle Pines to wash it down (Santa doesn’t worry about calories… obviously).
  5. Blu-Ray of Caddyshack (with Blu-ray player and 72 inch plasma TV, should you be lacking those essentials).
  6. Tour fitting and an unlimited budget with which to build the ultimate custom-fit set of clubs
  7. Your own “Bubba-craft” with the glove box filled with 12-dozen golf balls in your favorite brand and model… each printed with your name and lucky number
  8. High-Definition golf simulator with a library of the world’s greatest courses to play on rainy days… and a “home clubhouse make-over” of your man-cave to most-comfortably host matches with your golf buddies.
  9. 12 hours of lessons from Butch Harmon
  10. Back-yard putting green like those found at Berckmans place (including a year of maintenance)
  11. A trip to St. Andrews including at least two rounds on The Old Course
  12. Your preferred Golf Channel host as your night golf playing partner (and no, I’m not thinking of Charlie Rymer!)

Should I pinch you now… or perhaps you can just continue your own (Myrtle Beach) Golf Holiday dream?

By the way, are Santa’s diminutive toy makers in the North Pole missing their buddies Corey Pavin and Ian Woosnam?

Holiday Cheer from the HMCT (aka Greg Nathan, NGF)

Volume 5, Issue 11 – November 2015

A note from China –

It’s 4:45 a.m. here in Shanghai (November 4), but I’ve had a good night’s sleep and my mind is quite active right now. I’m wide awake indeed, catching up on emails… and I wouldn’t mind being a little tired later when I’m on the airplane(s) home. I suppose since I have a very long day of travel ahead and the trip is coming to a close, my subconscious is forcing me to begin digesting everything from the week at the HSBC Golf Business Forum where NGF was a premier partner and speaker/content provider.


A view of Downtown Shanghai from the site of the HSBC Golf Forum.

To say it’s been a very interesting trip would be a gross understatement. I suppose of all places to go on a first trip to Asia, Shanghai or Hong Kong would likely be among the least disconcerting (relative to other destinations) for an American… especially one who grew up in a “big energy” city like New York, but it was still a major culture shock as I was warned it would be. Outside the bubble of the Golf Business Forum where everything is scheduled and handled, communication is difficult, my credit cards don’t work and life is bustling around you everywhere.

When I ventured out into the city on the first night (Halloween, btw) with my friend Steve Bauerle from GolfTEC, that’s when I really got a feel for what it might be like to be “an international” in your 30s or 40s here. The New Yaw-ker in me was very comfortable with the environment… but what I’ve only begun to realize since then is that I feel VERY small here. Making the 70 to 90 minute drive outside the city to Lan Hai International Golf Resort yesterday was an opportunity to see some of the size and scale of Shanghai and reflect on the rest of China you can’t see.

I’m fascinated.

The number and size of the buildings in the city, the length of the tunnels and bridges to get out of the city (insane!) and the visual sweep of the suburbs are a lot to fathom. I look at specific ramshackle homes and then the nicer ones and imagine “who lives there?” or “what do those people do for a living?” and I find myself at a complete loss.

As somebody who feels like they really do understand people… I realize that there is so much here that I don’t comprehend at all. I’m not speaking about the golf industry folks… we have much in common… but when I look outside the GBF, everything seems so completely foreign from a psychological standpoint. The deck is completely reshuffled in terms of any insight I normally have on what makes people tick. Of course I realize that certain things are universal like the love of family and the need to pursue security, food, clothing and shelter… but I’ve looked into the eyes of many Chinese people here and they give back a different spirit and energy than I’m used to… and I want to understand it better.

For example, the female caddies at Lan Hai International Golf Resort yesterday really seemed to be fun loving young girls (kidding each other and poking fun at each other when they thought nobody was looking) – but completely incapable of communicating with us. The girls seem to operate in fear of getting in trouble… but they did have a fun human side that they showed to each other but clearly felt uncomfortable showing us. Our group busted its collective gut… when the first instantly understandable comment from the caddies was heard on the 2nd tee. “Oh No!” was reflexively yelped upon seeing one player’s drive fly dead right and off the planet. Sorry Manny.


The spectacular clubhouse at the Lan Hai International Golf Resort in Shanghai.

The Lan Hai Club itself was beyond extravagant… and there were members… old guys clearly worth millions of Yuan… wearing shabby business clothes while napping on couches in plain sight and snoring their butts off. The ceilings were 25-30 ft. high in the bar and library… with amazing mill work all around… but empty shelves everywhere… including the pro shop and other rooms. It’s rather bizarre… like an unfinished palace… even though they are not a new club and have something like 800 members there (mostly Chinese, not internationals).


A look down the hallway at the Lan Hai International Resort clubhouse.

Bottom line is that I certainly don’t feel like I understand the Shanghai or Chinese culture at all… because it‘s loaded with many contradictions. The side-by-side existence of communism and capitalism, poverty and immense wealth, humility and hubris… it’s really hard to get your head around, in all honesty. I’m sure there are a few books I should read… I’m open to recommendations.

Back to the GBF. It’s been a terrific experience and a wonderful opportunity to be here at the premier global golf conference with our partners from IMG. I’m grateful for the experience. After going more than 10 years without any international travel beyond North America, 2015 had me in France, Spain, Scotland, and now China… and I feel different having experienced those places… and I knew I would.


The leaders of several of the world’s top professional tours and organizations were on hand in Shanghai.

More than anything, I am extremely proud to have represented NGF well here… halfway around the world… while spending time with a group of international golf business leaders who I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting before. I didn’t get to meet everyone I wanted to, but almost everyone.


The Mayor delivers his speech at the HSBC Golf Business Forum

The feedback on the NGF presentation I made was positive and rewarding. I’m brutally critical of myself and I don’t think I deserved more than a “B” grade on the speech, relative to my absolute best delivery… but others saw it differently and felt compelled to tell me so over the past 2 or 3 days. The content was designed to provide a new perspective on Golf’s Global Brand (see the recap of the Mayor’s speech in this November issue of the NGF Dashboard) and it was the first time anyone had delivered this presentation. As a result, I’ll freely admit that I felt some palpable waves of pressure in the 24 hours leading up to my time on stage… further aggravated by a jet-lagged lack of any decent sleep the immediate night before.

The industry continues to talk to itself, as it relates to growing the game. Professional golf is important in terms of exposing the game to millions of TV viewers around the world. However, the pro game is the entertainment business and not the recreational golf business… Can GBF attendees Rickie and Bubba help grow the game’s cool factor? Yes it can. But we need more transparent discussion that golf participation growth will succeed or fail at golf courses, the engine of the golf economy… through the marketing and selling of the game, widespread invitation of prospects and accommodating new (and often intimidated) players.

Growing participation in new markets requires several foundational components including heroes (pros and celebrities who play the game and can inspire others to play), corporate sponsors like HSBC (thank you Giles Morgan), availability of golf instruction, a strong middle class and developers who create accessible and affordable golf. Without public golf that’s priced within reach of the middle class, golf cannot grow among the masses with any scale.

Of course we can always hope that a Chinese national wins the Olympic Gold medal in 2016 or 2020, but that’s not really a constructive nor strategic approach to golf’s global future. Like any other product or service, golf must be available, golf must be sold and golf must be FUN.

Cheers,

Yours truly,

The HMCT (aka Greg Nathan, NGF)

Volume 5, Issue 10 – October 2015

In an unexpected but welcomed surprise, the Mayor is headed to Shanghai today (Friday). I’m on my way to attend the HSBC Golf Business Forum alongside some of golf’s most influential leaders and stakeholders. It will be an honor to represent NGF as a forum speaker, halfway around the world.

As a premier partner with IMG in the event (along with companies such as Jacobsen, John Deere and Syngenta), I am privileged to be delivering a presentation to the conference this Monday entitled “Golf’s Global Brand.” As many of you know, NGF and many significant partners, including the The R&A, spent the past five years creating, refining and maintaining the first definitive and complete database of every golf facility in the world. I look forward to sharing what we have learned through the development of this industry asset.

The “Golf’s Global Brand” presentation will address the perceptions of golf in a different way than we’ve approached it before.

  • Golf is a game, a business and a global brand with hundreds of years of equity.
  • Like all brands, golf has an image.
  • Golf’s image is shaped by professional golf and what people see on television… and that image is vastly different from recreational golf played by an estimated 50 million golfers globally.
  • Golf is consumed differently around the world based upon geographic, economic and cultural variances.
  • Golf facilities are concentrated, yet widely dispersed.
  • Where are the courses, where is development happening and what kind of development is happening?
  • Asia is the most active region of the world for golf development.
  • What are the underpinnings of golf’s growth in a country?

We’ll give all the NGF Dashboard readers a more detailed look at “Golf’s Global Brand” in next month’s issue, which you should expect in your mailbox before the Thanksgiving holiday. Happy Halloween, and enjoy some autumn golf wherever you are in the golf world.

Cheers,

Yours truly,
The HMCT (aka Greg Nathan, NGF)

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