Here’s How You Follow A Golf Tournament

I hope that those of you who, like me, live in the North East U.S. enjoyed the Indian Summer weekend that we just experienced. Temperatures were in the mid-to-upper 60s throughout the weekend here in New York, and I can say from personal observation that our local golf course benefited from the unprecedented January weather.

Of course, we all recognize that this is an aberration. So, our golf fix for the next couple of months will need to come from following the professional Tours on television and other forms of media.

But that should be all fine and good for those of you reading this posting. As I alluded to in a previous column, we’ve begun the new decade by conducting our first survey of SwingU Strategies readers. We’re just beginning to dive into the data and I’ll look forward to sharing some of the more salient findings with you over the coming weeks. As a starting point, let’s take a look at your affinity for tournament golf and some of your habits for following the PGA Tour.

It was no surprise to learn that virtually all of you consider yourselves to be serious sports fans, and the PGA Tour is at the top of your list. Nearly 80% of you claim to closely follow the circuit and it occupies a special place among the average of eight hours of television sports coverage that you watch each week. As a point of context, your second favorite sport to follow is NFL football, which 55% of you report following closely. Do this writer a favor and jump on the bandwagon of my beloved Tennessee Titans this weekend.

In several other studies that my firm has conducted across a variety of sports in addition to golf, we’ve been tasked with gaining a greater appreciation for how fans consume live sports from the comfort of their own homes in relation to their behaviors and motivations surrounding the live sports experience. We’ve informed clients on the optimization of their digital offerings, their broadcasts and ticket marketing strategies. A significant strategic issue has risen to the forefront of sports properties regarding how best to deliver compelling onsite experiences that are unique and value additive from watching at home.

With continued advances in technology, sports properties have focused on their heightened need to deliver an onsite product that gets fans off the couch. Golf has been particularly challenged in this regard. In addition to the logistical issues of parking and egress, the nature of tournament sites does not readily allow fans to follow all of the action throughout the golf course as they can on television or digitally. There has certainly been a number of significant advances in onsite tournament apps, radio broadcasts and leaderboard technologies that have closed the gaps in at home versus on-site experiences, but it’s an area that we anticipate will continue to see more innovation over the next several years that will only enhance what fans can come to expect when attending tournaments in the future.

That should be good news to SwingU Strategies readers, as your survey responses make it clear that attending live tournaments is among your favorite leisure activities. In fact, the data shows that 14% of you actually attended a golf tournament while on vacation in 2019. Golf resort destination travel is, of course, a staple, but the survey data makes it clear that just as we’ve seen increases in fans of other major sports incorporating game attendance in their vacation plans, golf events are also a significant draw for experiential travel.

One of the things I find most enjoyable about being a sports marketing researcher is that it affords an opportunity to test hypotheses and personal observations to determine whether your own tendencies are reflective of more pervasive fan behavior. I’ve often espoused in this and other forums, that it’s easy to fall into a trap that assumes one’s own biases, behaviors or beliefs are representative of others. This is often not true and extends into the golf spectator experience, where I’ve been attending tournaments since I was a young boy.

My typical tournament attendance patterns (when I’m not on-site for business or to conduct research) has typically been to learn the course layout and ideally find a number of key vantage points proximate to multiple holes of interest. I’ll then cross-reference this with the day’s pairing sheet and map out a day where I can watch all groups make their way through several holes, mixing the opportunity to watch approach shots, drives and putting. It doesn’t always work out that way, and sometimes I’ll mix that in with following a particular group of interest, particularly during practice rounds.

I’d often wondered where my behavior maps into that of the typical tournament attendee, and this survey afforded me the opportunity to get a definitive answer. 60% of SwingU Strategies readers tend to follow a group for a few holes and then stop at one hole to watch the balance of groups go through. Just over a quarter of you (28%) stay at one spot and watch everyone play through, while 8% pick a favorite group and follow them around the course. And what about the other 4%? You prefer to experience the tournament inside the comfort and amenities of a hospitality tent, chalet or clubhouse.