Thoughtful Thursday: What do golfers really want?

This is a question I believe all golf clubs, coaches, club manufactures, pretty much anyone and everyone in the industry should be asking. Perhaps more importantly, as golfers, it is a question we should be asking ourselves.

I have been around golf and golfers for longer than I can care to remember and have worked in the industry for over thirty years but I’m struggling to recall when I last heard golfers across the board and around the world being asked what they really want.

Club and ball manufacturers appear to believe we all want to hit the ball for miles if you listen to their marketing. Every newly released driver, iron and golf ball promises greater distance assuming that is what we want. Now for some that may well be the case. Not many golfers want to hit it shorter but will hitting our drives five or ten yards further really make us happy.

If you spend any time searching for “golf tips” on the internet or social media, it would appear that golf coaches assume you want to possess “the perfect swing”, whatever that looks like?! I see lots of before and after golf swings being posted on social media but rarely do I see before and after golf shots. I always question what motivates coaches who post images of “massive improvements with Dave on the range this afternoon.” Are they giving Dave or themselves a pat on the back? Yes, that is a rhetorical question.

Do we really want better swings more than better shots? While we would all love to look as elegant as Adam Scott, as powerful as Rory McIlroy and as intimidating as Tiger Woods on the course, let’s face it, the likelihood of achieving one, never mind all three of these is pretty remote. Do we want to play better shots? Absolutely, so let’s focus on shots rather than swings.

The golf industry as a whole is great at telling rather than asking us what we want.

I think and hope I can speak for the majority of golfers when I say that what golfers really want is an enjoyable experience. We want to feel good before, during and after our game. If we hit the odd drive 10 yards further, that might make us happy for all of about thirty seconds but it is unlikely to be the deciding factor on whether we enjoyed our day out or not.

While we can influence and control some of our experience, the golf club, course and people we meet along the way should, in my humble opinion play a massive part in making a memorable impression on us.
From a personal standpoint, my ideal day of golf would look something like this –

  • I want to wake up and be grateful for the opportunity to play the game I love and appreciate every moment.
  • Arrive at the club at least an hour before teeing off to be greeted by someone who is genuinely pleased to my playing companions and I.
  • Enjoy a cup of tea and some breakfast in a relaxed atmosphere in the clubhouse.
  • The ability to hit a few balls on the range to warm up, do a bit of short game and hit a few putts on the putting green to get a feel for the pace of the greens.
  • Play an interesting golf course that looks good but more importantly asks good questions and provides a variety of challenges. High shots and low shots etc…
  • I want to have options off the tee and into the greens.
  • I want to be able to decide what is the best option for that particular shot and moment in time. Is is a draw, a fade or a straight shot? Is it a high pitch shot through the air or can I run it in along the ground? I might not be able to execute every shot on command every time but I would like the option to choose.
  • I want to play the occasional risk and reward short par 4.
  • I want to play par 3 holes of varying lengths but not 230 plus yard ones.
  • I want the rough to make me ask the question of “will I get a flyer from here?” NOT “will I be able to find my ball?” I do think there should be some light rough off the fairways but not the knee high stuff that contributes to lost balls, slow play and angry golfers.
  • I want to be able to pay attention to what I am doing on the golf course and not worry about emails and other notifications distracting me from playing golf.
  • It would be a real treat to play golf in good company. To play with people who know and understand the rules and etiquette of the game. People who know how to fix pitchmarks on greens! People who love the game.
  • It would be great to play at a reasonable pace and complete 18 holes in 3 hours.
  • I want to smile more than I swear after every shot.
  • It would be nice to play my best ever round of golf but accept that if I don’t, my whole life won’t come crashing around me.
  • I do not want to be consistent. Consistency is a myth and not one player in the history of the game ever achieved it. Consistency eliminates the spectacular and the memorable.
  • I want to get better at playing golf through creating a variety of different shots.
  • I want to be able to control my golf ball and focus on what I want it to do rather than what I don’t want it to do.
  • Essentially, what I really want is to play a well designed, well prepared golf course with good people in glorious sunshine. Ok, the sunshine bit would be a bonus but we are talking about what we really want here.
  • On completion of my round, I would like not to have any aches or pains.
  • I would love to sit in the bar afterwards, have a nice lunch and a couple of “adult refreshments” while my chauffeur waits patiently in the car park before driving me home. We can all dream can’t we?!
  • I do not want to hear about every shot my playing partners hit on every hole. I was there! I saw each and every one of them, good and bad!
  • As I leave the clubhouse, I would like to be asked if I enjoyed my day, when I plan to come back. Soon I hope!

That pretty much sums up what I want as a golfer but what about you? What do you really want?
Until next time, please don’t take for granted how lucky we are that we are able to enjoy the opportunity to enjoy this great game and everything it offers.