The Hero Challenge is exactly what golf needs to survive

The European Tour’s latest innovation is a hit, and golf desperately needs it.

To put it simply, millennials are ditching golf. It’s too exclusive, expensive and ultimately, dull. That is the hard truth facing those at the top of the sport.

Raised on social media, we value instant gratification. We like and share, dislike and discard within seconds. Golf, on the other hand, is a gradual pursuit. 3 and a half hours of repeating the same motions, culminating in a solitary number on a card and a packet of crisps in the clubhouse is a counter to the speed, efficiency and inclusivity millennials crave. And it shows.

In the US, golf’s biggest market, participation among young Americans is in freefall. According to a 2015 report by the National Golf Foundation, the proportion of 18 to 34-year-olds playing the sport has dropped by 13 percent, with over 5 million players turning their backs on the game in the last decade.

Golfsmith, once the world’s largest golf superstore, has filed for bankruptcy. High-profile manufacturers including Nike and Adidas are re-thinking their presence in the sport amid plummeting sales, abandoning clubs, bags and balls all together. Nike is only making apparel and footwear, whilst Adidas is looking to sell its stake in TaylorMade to the highest bidder.

Much like Test cricket, golf has revelled in its rich tradition and high standards, but has become a victim of its own image. Time to adapt.

To survive, the experience must be enhanced and accessibility to the action improved. That’s exactly what the European Tour has achieved with the Hero Challenge.

In a bid to entice fans to the sport, the final hole at this weekend’s British Master’s was turned into a par 3 for a knockout tournament and live-streamed on Facebook. A packed crowd, eight players – including professionals and celebrities – commentators, ProTracer, fireworks and a hole surrounded by lights made for an awesome spectacle.

Beef summed up the event perfectly:

If golf is going to survive and bring young people back to the game, this kind of innovation and engagement must continue. One thing is for certain: it’s on the right course.

 

About author

Toby Marriott
Toby Marriott 86 posts

Toby is an Account Executive at Snack Media and Editor of Digital Sport. Follow him on Twitter @TobyMarriott

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