By Mike Jennings
I love to listen to golfers talking in the pro shop. It is amazing what you take in when you spend more time with perky ears than a loose tongue.
Family issues, health problems, religious beliefs, political views, no issue is off limits. Given the right setting many people will not hesitate to open up with their thoughts, suggestions and opinions. Sometimes that’s good, sometimes it’s bad, but it is almost always entertaining.
Seniors are the most fun to listen to. They have reached an “I don’t care” stage in life that affords them the confidence to openly pontificate on most any issue. It typically does not matter who is listening or their expertise on the topic, they are ready to share their viewpoints. What I have found is that it is usually wise to listen and take advantage of their wisdom and past experiences.
One area where I do not pay as much attention is when the conversation turns to today’s youth. “All they do is sit around, play video games and punch buttons on those phones.” They will rattle on like this for a period of time with the frustration in their voice escalating with each comment. For kicks, I will wait a little bit then ask, “So how are your grandchildren doing?” Quickly they reply about how great they are doing, what good kids they are and how proud they are of how they have turned out. I think the moral to that story is that once you get to know and understand the millennial generation they are pretty impressive.
Make no mistake; millennials see the world a little different than those of us beyond that generation. And regardless if that is good or bad, the world is starting to shift a little to accommodate their vision. We see it in how industries market their products; we see it in our changing church services; we see it in how companies recruit and retain their workforce, and yes, we are seeing it in golf.
Everything in today’s society revolves around time, and millennials have little to spare. As a result, when they do get free time it is going to be full of activities that are fun, stress-free and involve friends and family. To attract this new millennial market segment, golf facilities are going to have to offer an experience that is quicker, easier, more fun and less demanding than the traditional golf experience. They want to show up, have some fun and go home. You are going to see games on the driving range, shorter holes, less than 9-hole rounds, music playing from carts and, in general, events that cater more to the social experience than the golf.
Don’t despair – courses will always offer the traditional experience many of us were brought up on. But I think you are going to see the “loosening up” of the game. I honestly think that as this happens golf will only grow in popularity. I think you will see “fun seekers” become more serious and the traditional hardcore golfers relax a little.
I am a huge fan of the millennial generation. They are smart, passionate about enjoying life and they understand the value of relationships. I think our country could benefit with more of this type of thinking, so I hope they are successful.
I just hope we overlook the few quirks they have and give them a chance to make a difference, and that includes giving them a little leeway at the golf course too.
Mike Jennings is the head golf professional at Pine Oaks Golf Course. For more information on instruction or events at Pine Oaks, call (423) 434-6250.