What Golf Can Learn from Millennial Runners

Posted by: Brendan Shaughnessy

Whether you’re flipping through channels on TV or looking up the score to your favorite team, it’s no secret that the world of sports is exploding. Professional teams are signing billion dollar TV contracts, colleges and universities are launching their own networks, and people are trying new recreational sports and activities. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that one of the most popular “gentleman’s games” is not all that popular with millennials.

Although golf is a popular sport worldwide, golfers are getting older with 83% of Americans who have played 18 holes in the past year now over 40. While golf saw an 5009027687_60d07dcab1_zincrease in popularity in the 1990s (thanks, Tiger), country clubs and driving ranges have since been waving goodbye to millennials as they have moved to other sports and activities.

There is one sport resonating with millennials that golf should be keeping an eye on, and it’s simpler than you might think: running.

The Content

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Social media marketing is dead. A big part of the reason golf is not excelling with millennials is that, as an industry, they have not embraced Content Excellence®. Sure, Golf Digest and the Golf Channel do a great job covering the sport, but what have they done to further expand the sport as a whole?

Running content outlets have supplied their readers and viewers with more than just information on the sport. They offer tips on the best superfoods for training, ways to relax on your off day and even how to combat sitting all day at work to keep active when off the treadmill.

Possible Solution: Find out what your consumers are actually talking about. If you assume that all golfers talk about is the top 100 golf courses in the world, you’re missing a huge opportunity. Provide something unique that will keep your audience coming back after the day on the course and let them drive the conversation. What’s your favorite beer after the front nine or what’s the worst dress attire you’ve seen on the course?

The Motivation

If you’ve ever signed up for a 5k, you can almost say with certainty that it was in the name of a cause or charity. While signing up for a race may not seem like a major contributing factor to choosing to participate, millennials love being able to give back to a cause they care about. It also doesn’t hurt that millennials are motivated to simply get in shape. With fitness apps and gadgets like the FitBit and Nike FuelBand, participating in running events is not a tough sell for millennials.

Possible Solution: Create reasons for millennials to go golfing more often. Whether that means partnering with organizations or charities millennials like or by having a portion of golf fees go to a charity of the donor’s choice. Additionally, partnering with Nike or FitBit to create a golf specific activity tracker, encouraging friendly fitness competition throughout the golf game. Who needs golf carts anyway?

The Experience

While providing content and motivation are key, we preach the importance of creating experiences, so it’s important we look at the experiences runners are sharing. Events like The Color Run 5ks and Tough Mudder obstacle races are gaining popularity because 8147442344_dffa666631_zmillennials can participate with their friends and share in the experience together, both in-person and on social media after.

While golfing can be a great experience, there’s a chance someone’s ball just landed in the sand trap and posting their frustrations all over Instagram probably isn’t first on their list.

Possible Solution: Find ways to create experiences and make golf more shareworthy. Encourage golfers to post pictures of themselves golfing or talk about their favorite places to golf, favorite club, etc. Offer incentives and have check-in spots that have discounts on rounds or a free bucket of balls at the driving range.

So millennials, when was the last time you played golf, if ever? Let us know what makes you hit the green here or by tweeting at @thefuturecast.

Photo Credit: Flickr via Tord Sollie, U.S. Army & Bill Dickinson

If you liked this post check out Why Millenials Prefer Obstacle Races to Marathons — and How That’s Transforming the Market.


About Brendan Shaughnessy

Brendan Shaughnessy is an Associate Strategist at Barkley. Brendan uses his data-driven background to develop strategic insights to help brands speak authentically to modern consumers and reimagine their best possible future. Client challenges are not...See Brendan's full bio.