Retaining Current vs. Attracting New Golfers: Practices among the Class A Carolinas Professional Golf Association Membership

Article excerpt

Abstract:

Golf rounds declined in the U.S. from 2001 to 2004. The southeast region of the country has started to show increases in golf rounds. A possible explanation for this turn-around can be found in the theory of reasoned action. A survey among Professional Golf Association Class A Members in the Carolinas section of the PGA shows the utility of retaining current avid golfers is greater than the utility of attracting new golfers. Implications for managing golf clubs nationally are discussed.

The golf industry in the U.S. has recently been stagnant or declining in the number of rounds of golf played annually. The National Golf Foundation (NGF) has reported a national decline from 2001 to 2004 of--4.5% (NGF, 2004). A similar trend (-4.3%) has been observed in the southeast region during that period. Some observers (Graves, 2006; Harrack, 2006) have suggested that concentrating on getting avid golfers to play more rounds is a better approach than trying to attract new golfers to a club.

More recently, the NGF (ngf.org, 2007) is reporting a national upturn in golf rounds of +0.8% with the southeast region showing a robust growth of +4.5%. The question of why the southeast region is doing so well is one of management priorities. The theory of reasoned action (Hawkins, Mothersbaugh, and Best, 2007) provides a framework for understanding how managers of business enterprises make decisions. Professional Golf Association (PGA) members who run golf club enterprises are no different than the chief executive officer of a Fortune 500 company in the decisions they need to make. A business manager needs to identify how to grow the business and make a profit. Operational goals have varying priority and utility in this effort, and golf club managers have intensified their commitment to growing rounds of golf (Staw, 1981).

Theory of Reasoned Action

The theory of reasoned action specifies the decision-making task confronting PGA members who manage golf clubs. Historically, psychologists (Baron, 2000), game theorists (Von Neuman and Morgenstern, 1972), sociologists (Homans, 1961), economists (Elster, 1986), and marketers (Johnson and White, 2004) have all embraced theory of reasoned action concepts.

The concepts embodied in the theory of reasoned action include: 1) bounded rationality (only a few evaluative criteria can be considered simultaneously implying limited capacity), 2) making trade-offs (applying the evaluative criteria to viable alternatives in a compensatory way), 3) the superior option is revealed as the one with the highest utility value to the business manager. Thus, the PGA member managing a golf club must decide what is important and which of those important goals will lead to the best business outcome.

The theory of reasoned action has a measurement methodology known as utility calculations (Baron, 2000). The basic concept, evaluative criteria, involves various dimensions, features, or benefits sought in attempts to solve a specific problem, such as reaching operational goals at a golf club. Managerial decisions involve an assessment of one or more evaluative criteria related to the potential benefits or costs that may result from a decision of which goals to pursue.

Thus, evaluative criteria are typically business activities associated with either benefits desired by managers or the costs they must incur. Depending upon the business situation, management evaluative criteria can differ in terms of type, number, and importance. Thus, a study of business management decision making involves an evaluation of both the importance of the business activity and the business performance resulting from specific criteria. Determining an evaluation of business activity options can be accomplished in two ways: 1) direct methods where PGA members are simply asked about the importance and satisfaction with performance concerning business activities they may use in a particular decision situation, and 2) indirect techniques, where it is assumed PGA members will not or cannot state their views on these issues. …