Spoiler Alert, golf does not need the Olympics. Seemingly everyone is down on the Olympics at this point in 2016; what with the alleged IOC corruption, the billions of dollars of debt the host nation incurs in hosting the Olympics, the terrible human rights and environmental situation in Brazil and even Zika. Male golfers have dropped out like flies and the women are in an almost Stockholm syndrome situation, participating in the Olympics come hell or high water to grow the LPGA’s footprint.
Whatever the issues are with the Olympics, the fact of the matter is that golf is in fine shape and doesn’t need to “grow the game” through the Olympics (side tangent, I don’t think golf needs to “grow the game” at all and I think the contraction during the recession has been beneficial to golf as a whole but I can save this rant for another article). Golf is doing just peachy and here are a few reasons why:
Reason One: The PGA is doing Great and so are Golf Destinations.
As we are constantly told, today’s PGA Tour pros can earn more money in one event than Gary Player earned over his entire career. The numbers certainly back this up, the PGA is rolling in TV and sponsor’s money. Not only that but men’s golf has a global footprint between the European Tour, the PGA-branded inroads to the Latin and Asian markets and the PGA Tour itself going international with the WGC events (Mexico and Shanghi are the venues for two of the 2017 events). Is there a sports bubble that will burst at some point leading to a reduction? Sure, probably but right now men’s golf is living high on the hog, has a huge global reach and for a niche sport, is about as big as it can get. So why again does it need the Olympics?
Another argument I heard for having golf in the Olympics is to encourage people in other countries to come visit places like Bandon Dunes. While I get the point that the Olympics is “free” advertising for the sport, I doubt there will be direct links to specific American courses or other golf destinations and there doesn’t need to be. Golf tourism hasn’t just rebounded from the recession but is growing at a large rate. Don’t believe me, check this out. Golf destinations, golf courses, golf resorts are all using social media to get the word out which is proving just as effective as a traditional media spend or big event like the Olympics to move the needle. The business of golf doesn’t need the Olympics and has been doing just fine without them.
Reason Two: The LPGA Is On The Way Up!
The LPGA was on death’s door a few years ago but nowadays it truly has a global reach with 15 tournaments being played outside the US. The purses of those tourneys has risen $4 million dollars over the last year. The number of entries for the US Women’s Open has had the highest numbers ever 2 years running. Plus the LPGA just entered into a strategic partnership with the PGA which seems like it will lead to co-promotional opportunities both with major tournaments and also fun events like at TopGolf. The LPGA has been going up on a rocket ship recently without the Olympics and while they want the Olympics; women’s golf and the tour don’t need the Olympics.
Reason Three: The future is fine, all due to the AJGA, First Tee and Drive Chip and Putt.
When I was growing up, there weren’t many options of playing competitive golf outside of a school environment. Sure there were golf camps (that one time…at golf camp…) and some tourneys but nowadays kids have plenty of options in the US to pursue golf on a variety of levels. While this structure is not present in most countries, it provides a template on how to engage kids and encourage the next generation to pick up the sport that countries can adopt. You will notice that none of these methods involve the Olympics at all.
To me, it looks like men’s golf, the women’s game and the kids all are doing fine. How is this ever possible given that golf hasn’t been in the Olympics for close to 100 years? How will golf ever survive if it isn’t included in the Olympics past 2020? Hopefully my facetiousness is showing on those questions and you buy my argument that golf doesn’t need the Olympics.
Follow Pete Flanigan on Twitter @ReGripped
Pete Flanigan a/k/a ReGripped has more musings on golf that you can read at www.re-gripped.com. You can follow his quest to play all of the Coore Crenshaw designed golf courses at www.coorecrenshawquest.com. If you know of any way for ReGripped to play Cypress Point, he will put on a giant gingerbread costume and dance in front of your house. You can catch ReGripped live and direct on Twitter every week for #GolfChat.
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