Tradition used to be 1-up on technology in the golf world.
That’s not necessarily the case any longer, as the consumer technology revolution relentlessly surges forward, inevitably affecting many facets of the traditional game. Changing and emerging technologies continue to shape our society, as evidenced by increases in the use of mobile devices, social media, online shopping and various modes of communication.
The most serious golfers in the U.S. now spend an average of 4.5 hours a day online. And yes, that’s coincidentally close to the average time it takes to play a round of golf.
The NGF’s latest report delves into the on-course use of technology as well as the use of other golf-related technology products and examines the differences in the findings from the last study seven years ago. More than 600 core golfers (those who played eight or more rounds in the past year) were recruited from the NGF’s consumer research panel and surveyed online. This group, as a whole, exhibits greater commitment to the game than typical core golfers, as they tend to play more, shoot lower scores and spend more on equipment and apparel. As a result, these engaged survey respondents are more accurately described as “Golf’s Best Customers.”
The use of mobile devices, notably smartphones, is up 47% since the NGF’s last technology report in 2011, and almost four of every five golfers surveyed say they’re connected to their phone the majority of the day during waking hours. While the use of mobile devices has jumped significantly among those over the age of 50, they’re ubiquitous among the younger generation: 91% of those in the 18 to 34 age group surveyed by the NGF say they’re connected to their phone anywhere from “always” to “most of the time.”
Overall, this evolution seems to have a positive impact – making people feel more connected with friends, family and other interests. In fact, four out of every five golfers say they feel more in touch and informed because of technology.
Core golfers’ engagement with technology runs deep: equipment research and purchases; golf course reviews, ratings and tee times; photos and videos; social media; engagement with golf businesses and brands; media consumption including websites, digital magazines, blogs and podcasts; apps for instruction, game improvement, statistic tracking and social communities; GPS devices, rangefinders, swing analyzers and launch monitors; and digital scorekeeping and handicapping. This is just on the consumer side, and the list seemingly gets longer every year.
When it comes to golf and technology, the benefits that emerge most prominently are connectivity, information and convenience. All help enhance the overall golf experience.
While there is wide variety in how golfers use and interact with technology, making purchases or seeking assistance in the decision-making process is the most common activity. Other shared interests are game improvement, distance measuring devices, and watching or reading about golf online.
For some, the golf course remains an escape from the connectivity of the modern world – four hours or more of time away from emails, text messages and phone calls. For many others, the mobile phone has become as regular a part of their golf experience as a divot tool — used as a GPS device, a scorecard, a camera, to book tee times or to track stats and data through a game-improvement app.
Away from the course, golfers’ general online activity and interaction is up drastically from the NGF’s last technology study in 2011. They are searching out customer reviews and ratings (beyond just golf-related), reading digital magazines and newspapers, joining online forums and discussion groups, and engaging with social networking sites. Online reputation is critical for businesses and more than half of those surveyed by the NGF say they regularly read ratings and reviews from other consumers.
Society as a whole continues to be shaped by emerging technology. Golf is no different.
Embracing new tech has always driven the equipment market in golf and digital presents a new opportunity as well as a challenge that may impede on “tradition” in the game. For both consumers and operators, technology advancements will further evolve in the coming years, whether through new apps, virtual reality simulators and viewing devices, gaming and golf entertainment options, instruction, game-improvement and more. All of this is geared toward improving the golfers’ overall experience.