During the last two years, golf has been having quite a moment. Last year, 106 million Americans played golf, watched it on television or online, read about it and listened to podcasts. The coronavirus pandemic was partly responsible. When people couldn’t meet at restaurants or bars, they could still hit the links. Spending more time at home, television viewers turned to more live sports, tuning in to new types of events. About 6.2 million beginners played their first rounds of golf during the pandemic, according to the National Golf Foundation. The challenge is to hold their interest and convert beginners into enthusiasts.

Now that the pandemic has reached a more manageable phase, people are eager to travel and pursue better health and wellbeing through sport. In increasing numbers, they’re heading to the greens. Resorts combining high-end golf and travel experiences are well-positioned to benefit.

Interest in golf is exploding

Since 25-year-old Scottie Scheffler won the 2022 Masters, the buzz around golf has only grown stronger. Scheffler took home a $2.7 million winner’s purse, the largest in tournament history. According to CBS, the final round of this year’s Masters was the most-watched golf telecast since Tiger Woods won in 2019. More than 10 million people on average tuned in to the final round—and during the final moments, more than 13 million people watched.

Next up, the 150th Open Championship at St. Andrews, Scotland also promises to shatter records. More than 1.3 million ticket requests were received—more than any Open in history. It’s believed over 300,000 may attend on-site in July. To encourage growth in golf, 20% of tickets have been set aside for fans under the age of 25 (Gen Z).

Who’s hitting the greens? Millennials and women are driving growth

Who’s hitting the greens? It is well-understood the Boomer generation has started to leave the sport due to age. Golf course and resort managers have been working diligently to replace them by attracting younger entrants and new groups of enthusiasts. Their efforts are paying off; over the past five years, the sport gained 1.3 million more on-course golfers in the U.S.

Industry experts expect Millennials to largely take the place of Boomers as the older cohort begins to age out of the sport. Already, more Millennials (6.4 million) play than Boomers (5.4 million). This trend really took shape during the pandemic. In a survey conducted in 2021, 60% of Millennial golfers said golf has become more important to them as a result of the pandemic, with 25% noting it is ‘significantly’ more important. They are spending more per round now, and half of them say they are able to play more often, thanks to work-from-home flexibility.

Another area of growth comes from more women taking up golf. Traditionally, golf struggled to attract women, claiming only about one female golfer to every three or four men. But today, the National Golf Foundation reports women make up almost 4 in 10 new beginning golfers.

Support 5 Millennial preferences to create on-trend golf experiences

The growing trend for Millennials and women in golf will make a huge impact on how successful resorts design and market golf experiences. Obviously, there is a lot of overlap between women golfers and Millennials, so savvy managers will find ways to build resort experiences tailored to both groups. Let’s examine 5 ways to optimize golf resort offerings around important Millennial preferences.

  1. Millennials are much more social than Boomers or Generation X. It’s not unusual to hear a Millennial say their friends are closer to them than family. The most important activities and events for them are built around social time. Golf is no exception. A recent survey of Millennial golfers revealed the most important reason they golf is to hang out with their friends.

Millennials are also more likely than other generations to travel with their friends. They also embrace intergenerational travel where families take along the kids and the grandparents. Resort managers should consider how travel with friends could impact experience. Golfing with friends is more important than being with the best golfers. Spending social time on the golf course means more trips to the beverage cart. Millennials like Apple Pay so they can pursue vacation activities carrying nothing but their phones. Friends traveling together means resorts need to offer the ability to easily split checks for drink and food orders.

  1. Millennials are experience-driven.

Millennials people place less emphasis on material possessions than Baby Boomers and Gen Xers. Instead, they focus on expanding their life experiences with novel adventures that create great memories. They especially crave high-end, luxury experiences. Even better if the experiences are personalized to their preferences.

Experience is the most important aspect of your golf operation when it comes to attracting Millennial customers. Get creative with special events. Offer experiences designed for beginners, women, and others. Remember the best experiences are social, so think about things like adding a little food and drink or great spots to snap selfies. Can you find ways to gamify the sport for friend groups? A recent article about Millennials and the off-course golf experience noted, “Tech happy golf entertainment complexes like Topgolf, X-golf America, Drive Shack and Big Shots have re-invented the range experience to include point scored electronic games, golf simulators, data tracking, Chef crafted menus and full bars.”

  1. Millennials love technology.

Millennials were the first generation of what we call “digital natives.” They’ve lived their entire lives online. Mobile devices are a natural extension of their person. Being a time-honored traditional sport, golf is sometimes slow to embrace change and innovation. To satisfy Millennials, you’ll want to integrate technology throughout the golf experience.  Consider two tech stories from The Masters: Due to Augusta’s strict no-phone policy, on-site fans complained of “jonesing for their phones,” while the event was filmed with virtual reality cameras to create a more immersive experience for younger at-home viewers.

Younger adults expect technology to help them obtain the experiences they want more easily and in less time. In this sense, they don’t have patience for waiting in lines or on hold. To leverage this energy, golf resorts should use technology to create frictionless self-service experiences such as mobile tee-time reservations, mobile payments, and mobile ordering. Anytime resorts can use technology to help staff deliver service faster, that’s a win-win as well.

  1. Millennials engage heavily with social media and online reviews. Whether they’re hanging out with friends or interacting with a business, Millennials tend to engage online first, before choosing a new golf course to play, restaurant to try, or resort to visit. Reviews, photos and peers sharing about experiences are significant influencers on Millennial travel decisions. And this generation is not afraid to use online reviews and social media to warn others about their own bad experience.

Resorts must actively monitor all the major review sites and engage with reviewers—good or bad. In fact, a 2016 study by Harvard Business School found improving your Yelp rating by one star can lead to a 5 to 9 percent increase in revenue. The key to good reviews comes right back to exceeding service expectations and creating high touch experiences.

  1. Millennials are health conscious.

Technology becomes a metaphor for life, and Millennials are all about hacking their brains and bodies for better performance. Because life is about experiences, it is important that health problems not get in the way of their aspirations. Golf is a great activity to pursue because it is both social and active and outside. What could be healthier?

Golf resort managers can tap into this health-conscious vibe in several ways. First, make sure there are healthy options loaded onto the food and beverage cart, including trendy waters and light beers popular with Millennials. On-property restaurants should have healthy menu options, too. Consider opening the golf course early or late to give guests who like to run or walk a beautiful outdoor space to exercise.

Putting it all together: Improve experience and revenue with beverage carts

Beverage carts circulating on the golf course can increase daily revenue significantly. It’s not unusual for beverage carts to bring in $1,000 per day—in some cases more than $3,000. But to support a great on-course experience, beverage carts and staff need to perform flawlessly.

The wrong technology gets in the way of the experience. Wi-Fi based point-of-sale (POS) systems usually fail to reach outlying holes. This either forces customers to use cash (not happening with Millennials) or requires cart staff to gather credit card information on the cart, but process payments later—sometimes hours later, after players have departed. Some cards don’t process and this results in higher losses, because it is too late to go back to the customer.

Fortunately, technology evolved to support the experience today’s golfers crave. Beachy Food & Beverage is a mobile POS for golf resorts that is built for the outdoors and designed to move wherever your beverage cart is needed. Using 5G cellular technology instead of wi-fi, staff can process payments quickly and close out tabs on the course, in front of the customers. There’s no place on your resort property too remote to reach. To help staff and customers see the app clearly, the UX is designed for bright sunlight. And Beachy integrates with leading hospitality POS and PMS solutions like Oracle Hospitality, Agilysys and SMS, so you can optimize beverage cart revenues without ripping and replacing current IT investments.

To learn more about how to support your on-course golf experience with mobile POS technology for beverage carts, visit beachyapp.com and request a demo.