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Golf Becoming a Growth Opportunity for Brands with Latinos

Increased accessibility to the sport in the U.S. and the work of organizations like The First Tee means more opportunities and potential business expansion.


What: Prospects for the growth of Hispanic involvement in the sport of golf are looking better than ever.
Why it matters: Increased accessibility to the sport in the U.S. and the work of organizations like The First Tee means more opportunities and potential business expansion.

Monterrey The First Tee participant Pedro Ortiz (r) with his father and Pres. Bush

The Ryder Cup (@rydercupis history and most of the U.S. starts preparing for the colder weather and maybe more indoor activities, so we thought it would be good to take a look at the sport of golf. Coming off a marketed increasing upswing led by Tiger Woods (@TigerWoodsresurgence and a host of rising stars, golf looks to be bouncing back. But is the ball moving along with the increasingly savvy Latino participant and consumer? Some numbers appear to say yes, which bodes well for brands like Callaway (@CallawayGolf), Nike (@Nikeand Top Flite (@TopFlite), as well as for emerging technology engagement centers and business like TopGolf (@Topgolf). We took a look.

According to the World Golf Foundation, 32 million participate in golf in the U.S. What is perhaps unexpected is that there are six times more Hispanic golfers in the U.S. than in the rest of the Spanish-speaking world –Latin America’s 200,000 and Spain’s 270,000– combined.

Why? Several elements have contributed to the diversification of golfers in the U.S. For starters, 75 percent of the facilities are open to the public, in contrast with the Southern Hemisphere and Spain, where private country clubs and exclusive courses for foreign tourists remain the norm.

Keith Dawkins

That steady increase in participation is not the only contribution of Hispanics to the record level of expenditure in golf US $84.1 billion reported in 2016. The expected and better-known fact that Hispanics make up a large portion of the approximately two million jobs in the golf industry also is a nice bonus, so affinity with the game is growing.

At the core of that growth is The First Tee (@TheFirstTee), the youth sports organization whose mission is to grow the game of golf by transforming the experience that kids (and families) have with the sport. Since its inception in 1997, The First Tee has reached more than 15 million kids, positively impacting their lives. Reaching more than five million kids annually, The First Tee offers programs in all 50 states through the National School Program in more than 10,000 elementary schools, 150 chapters at more than 1,200 golf courses and The First Tee DRIVE at 1,300 youth centers. The First Tee is expanding globally and currently offers programs at six international locations.

From 2014 to 2017, The First Tee’s Life Skills Experience (at the chapters) had an increase of 43% among Hispanic females ages 5-18. “There are 50 million kids in the U.S. under the age of 11. That’s roughly 15% of the population making them the largest cohort of kids in our nation’s history,” said Keith Dawkins, The First Tee CEO. “Over half of those kids are kids of color. That growth is driven largely by the Hispanic audience. So, having the largest and most diverse group of kids EVER provides a wonderful opportunity for The First Tee to have a profound impact on a new pool of kids and the game (and industry) overall.”

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With the current projections, each year close to one million Latinos will join the U.S. golfing ranks, both as fans and players. And consistent with the general increase of women in golf, the largest surge of Hispanic participation will be in junior females.

How can The First Tee and other organizations continue to fuel that growth? “We have a variety of programs around the country that are successful,” Dawkins added. “In East Salinas [Calif.], The First Tee of Monterey County in partnership with the school district of Alisal provides transportation for elementary school students to the chapter as part of their school day. There are similar programs in San Diego, Silicon Valley and other markets around the country.”

And central to that growth and game affinity for life are brand partners. The yin and yang of equipment sales in sports always fluctuates with what is hot and what is not in sports. Woods’ front page success certainly has more people thinking and watching golf again, and that bodes well for the brands that need the interest to expand business. With that business expansion comes more money available for partners like The First Tee to reinvest in the grassroots and rising players of the game. Then the cycle moves ahead. More investment means more affordability for inner-city youth or Latinos anywhere who want to pick up a club, and that investment leads to affordable opportunity in a game thought by many to be cost prohibitive.

“The First Tee (as a National/international) organization has always worked to provide an affordable program for its kids and their families,” Dawkins concluded. “We are able to do this because of the great support that we get from our partners.”

That support is good news for all.


Cover image: credit Keith Allison

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