Why Aren't Gen Y'ers Hitting the Links?

For businesspeople in their 20s who are just entering the corporate world, the time-honored tradition of doing business during a round of golf might not be worth the effort.

“Clearly, there's a defined age gap of 10 to 15 years where we've lost the interest of the business golfer,” says Bob Mauragas, general manager of Four Streams Golf Club, Beallsville, Md. “National statistics show that the number of new participants each year has flattened.”

In fact, although statistics compiled by the National Golf Foundation (www.ngf.org) show that the 18-to-29 age group makes up the second-biggest percentage of all U.S. golfers agewise (20.8 percent, with 30- to 39-year-olds coming in first at nearly 30 percent), those figures don't necessarily reflect a similar large percentage of young business golfers.

“Perhaps golf isn't active or extreme enough for young businesspeople at this point in their lives,” says Stan Waterhouse, vice president, golf and private clubs division, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co. Ltd. He also believes time could be a factor. “Devoting four or five hours to a round of golf, to say nothing of pre- and post-activity, may be more than they can spare.”

The root of this, Mauragas says, stretches to the late 1980s and early ’90s, when many companies cut back on companywide golf-club memberships. “Today, most only offer the club-membership perk to high-level executives,” he says. “My fear is that corporations have forgotten golf as a place where their midlevel salespeople — the real deal makers — can do an awful lot of business.”

Jim Miller, president of the National Business Golf Association in Indianapolis, points out that companies would be wise to pay attention to the bottom-line value of the business-golf outing — and to make sure their young salespeople do the same.

“They also need to see the value of golf as as a business tool,” Miller comments.