Many remember the “Back to the Future” movies that were popular in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. They starred Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly, Christopher Lloyd as Dr. Emmitt “Doc” Brown and a DeLorean time machine.
What you may not remember is in the sequel — “Back to the Future II” — Marty and Doc travelled forward from 1955 to 2015. Well, here we are — 2015. The future has arrived.
Some of us may wish it were 1955 and we could alter history. I was a history major in college — I know that’s not possible. I also know it’s naive to think some dramatic turn of events is going to bring back the three-martini lunch and guilt-free Saturdays and Sundays at the golf course. Or that prospective new members and customers are going to magically start lining up outside your door, anxious to pay rack rate. If you’re nostalgic for those days, watch “Mad Men.”
I also know golf often talks a better game than it walks. We lament the predicament we find ourselves in. But talk is cheap — and it’s not going to do anything to address golf’s challenges.
So what is? I think there’s a better question: Who is? Who will do something about golf’s biggest challenges?
Golf is a business — like any business today — starving for leadership.
I’m not bemoaning golf’s leadership at the highest levels. Pick your association and combination of letters — USGA, GCSAA, PGA, NGCOA. I think the gentlemen leading those organizations are doing a pretty good job. I wish each of those associations had more women and minorities in leadership roles, because golf needs more diversity more than about any business I can think of. But that’s another column for another day.
My concern is with leadership at the mid- and upper-management levels, where most of us reside. In any organization, that’s where most of the innovation comes from and where most decisions are made.
But I don’t think our crowd is doing enough. We’re not doing enough to find innovative, out-of-the-box creative ideas that help more people discover and enjoy the game. We’re not doing enough to identify and train smart, energetic young people whose perspectives we so dearly need. We’re not doing enough to speak up for golf in those circles where it needs defending. … With city councils, state legislatures, Congress and at the Saturday night parties we attend.
The challenges golf faces are too big for any association or any of the smart people running them. They are our challenges, too.
I’m a firm believer that leadership qualities are in each of us. And that each of us has the talent and ability to make tomorrow a little better than today for our members, our customers, our families and ourselves.
How do we do that? By no longer waiting for someone else to come up with a good idea and implement it. Smart leaders know each person plays a role in the organization’s success. Successful leaders make sure each person knows what that role is.
People don’t help companies or courses achieve goals they don’t share. People don’t execute plans they don’t see. People don’t value principles they can’t name.
So leadership is about all that … information, communication, vision. But it’s not necessarily about perfection. You don’t have to have all the answers. Or all the brilliant ideas.
Take innovation. We’re always saying that’s what golf needs more of. But here’s a news flash — not all people in golf are innovative. I mean it took more than 400 years before someone came up with the idea of making the head of the club bigger, so hitting the ball would be easier. … Duh.
So, if your IQ — your innovation quotient — is not off the charts, find someone whose is. Maybe that person is already inside your organization. Maybe that person is outside your four walls.
Hogan said the answers were in the dirt. I think the answers are in your dirt, at your course. National programs will never be as effective nor as important as what facilities do at the grassroots level to bring in women, couples and young people.
That said, anything that positions golf as fun and helping to improve fitness is working. Footgolf? Who woulda thunk?
So, my advice and my hope is that you will decide that it’s your responsibility to lead us out of the wilderness and into a better place. Maybe it won’t be a new Golden Age. I think most of us would settle for a new Titanium Age.
Henry DeLozier is a principal in the Global Golf Advisors consultancy. DeLozier joined Global Golf Advisors in 2008 after nine years as the vice president of golf for Pulte Homes. He is a past president of the National Golf Course Owners Association’s board of directors and serves on the PGA of America’s Employers Advisory Council.