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The Baby Boomers: Golf’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Editor’s Note: Pellucid Corp., a company founded by Jim Koppenhaver that looks at the golf industry with a very keen eye (unlike some organizations), has released its most recent evaluation of the status of the game. Here’s what Pellucid and Koppenhaver have to say.
Untold numbers of investments in golf in the 1990s were predicated on the golden era of golf fueled by the aging Baby Boomers. As the first Baby Boomers turn 60 this year, we're still awaiting the first signs of annual rounds increases that the Boomers should usher in (the "Dr. Jekyll effect"). In the Unauthorized State of the Industry presentation in Orlando last week, we also for the first time revealed the potential that the Baby Boomers might also have a "Mr. Hyde surprise" waiting for us as well.
There is no refuting that golf is a game of discretionary time and money. The discretionary time aspect of golf is evidenced by the fact that golfers over the age of 55 play at twice the frequency of their under-55 year old counterparts. Moreover, this increased frequency doesn't happen immediately at 55, it gradually increases, peaking between 65 and 75 and then trailing off again above 75. Along with higher frequency that should fuel more rounds played, this generational cohort will also bring some other things to the golf party as well:
Savvy consumerism: The Baby Boomer seniors have been astute consumers throughout their adult lives and there's no reason to believe they'll check that consumerism at the door upon entering their "Golden Years."
Golf (and other recreation) becomes a "fixed" vs. a "variable" expense: They'll display a pattern we've seen even in the generations before Baby Boomers, that of converting golf to a fixed vs. a variable expense in and around retirement (from season passes to fishing balls out of water hazards).
Tech savvy: The Baby Boomers will be the first generation of seniors with enough Web experience to arbitrage tee times at a moderate level (they still won't hold a candle to Gen X'ers and Millennials who can book the best tee time, talk on the cell phone and check e-mail, all simultaneously).
Wider range of interests: We've seen in the early peeks at Baby Boomer retirement that these folks are less likely to be the five-days-a-week golfers than their fathers were in retirement.
Working later into life: Given the corporate environment of the late 1990s of downsizing and fewer "employment-for-life" situations, a significant portion of the back half of the Baby Boomer generation has lost time in compounding in retirement savings, which will force them to work longer than their predecessors.
Less dependence on leisure activities to fill their time: The final potential downside for the Baby Boomers is the tendency to continue working part-time in positions they enjoy just to stay active.
Koppenhaver goes on to note that the next issue of his bi-weekly Outside The Ropes newsletter will focus on the potential “Mr. Hyde” aspect of a large group of savvy seniors entering their peak frequency years. He believes the industry will potentially lean into that curve ball by offering more and broader senior programs (lower age, discounts across all rate types, more leagues etc.) to the group that will be responsible for over 50% of all rounds in the U.S. by 2020!
For more information or to subscribe to Outside The Ropes, visit www.pellucidcorp.com or contact Koppenhaver at 847/808-7651 or via email at [email protected] The newsletter, which is subscribed to by over 600 industry leaders and followers, costs $125 annually for 24 bi-weekly issues and allows access to a large archive.