The next generation of golf

The golf industry hopes to reach 40 million golfers by 2020 ‚ a nearly 50 percent increase from today’s numbers.

With the never-ending temptations of video games, high-adrenaline action sports and team sports such as football and baseball competing for kids’ time, golf is trying to get its fair share of youth attention, but the numbers just aren’t adding up.

Golf takes hours to play, and it’s expensive ‚ two possible deterrents to younger generations who seem to be choosing other recreational activities during their free time.

It’s not that golf isn’t fun anymore; it’s just that there are so many more choices these days for how to spend your free time, said Harry Frampton, chairman of East West Partners, the developer of the Eagle Ranch Golf Club. Frampton is also partner at Slifer Smith & Frampton real estate and is a member at both Country Club of the Rockies and Eagle Springs.

It doesn’t help that many golf courses practically have a sign on the front door that says “beginners, young people and women are not welcome,” Frampton said.

“It’s almost like you have to be a good golfer to play, but you can’t be a good golfer until you play as a bad golfer,” Frampton said.

Another problem is that golf clubs, generally speaking, haven’t done a whole lot over the years to attract younger players or beginners. The sport has become somewhat of an elitist, middle-aged white man’s sport, Frampton said, “and that’s not a good thing.”

Golf is hard. It takes tons of practice and years to become good. Some people play for a lifetime and never reach the level of play they desire.

And the attitude that often exists at golf courses that tends to shun the beginners and intermediates isn’t helping, Frampton said.

“I think courses need to get smarter about that,” Frampton said, adding that he thinks courses around the Vail Valley have, in fact, smartened up in the past year or so.

“Golf courses have gotten better at what they do,” Frampton said. “They’ve adjusted their business plans to recognize that golf has been struggling. … Each one of them is working harder and smarter, and they’re coming up with new programs for marketing. They’re trying to get more kids there, more young people, more women ‚ everybody’s done a better job, and I think that’s really positive.”

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