As part of the USGA’s ongoing research into golfer experience, a recent project sought to classify golfers into archetypes based on their individual characteristics and how they engage with the game. The archetypes were developed through a three-part qualitative study of 126 golfers. Then the archetypes were refined, quantified and characterized using a quantitative survey of 20,001 golfers from across the United States.
Golfers have a wide range of demographic characteristics, skill levels, motivations for playing golf, and variable amounts of time and resources to devote toward playing the game. Golf courses themselves vary considerably in the experiences offered through number of holes, course design, conditioning, pricing, access and many other factors. Within a course, multiple teeing options allow golfers to tailor their experience depending on their ability and their desires for the round. If golf facilities can better understand the characteristics of their current and potential customers, they can improve their course and experience offerings to increase golfer satisfaction in the most efficient and effective manner possible. The archetypes identified through this research provide an important foundation for courses that wish to understand their customers better.
What are the different golfer archetypes?
Golfers across all of the archetypes identified in this study share many similar traits. For the eight green-grass segments, all play on natural turf at 18-hole, 9-hole or par-3 courses. They all play for fun and enjoyment and nearly all play for additional reasons like competition, exercise and outdoor activity. A ninth segment of “off-course” golfers was also identified – “Golfertainment” – but this group will not be a focus of this article.
As part of developing the segments, three skill levels were defined. Highly skilled golfers have a handicap index less than 10 and regularly score in the 70s or lower on a par-72 golf course. Medium-skill-level golfers have a handicap index from 10-29 and score normally in the 80s or 90s. Lower-skill-level golfers have a handicap index above 29 and typically score more than 100. None of the archetypes are gender based. The eight green-grass, experience-based archetypes identified through this study are:
Occasional: The infrequent and often reluctant casual player that is lowest on the engagement scale and learning curve. This archetype represents 14% of the golfing population, can be any age or skill level and is classified into this group because they play less than 12 rounds per year. All other archetypes play more frequently.
Determined: These golfers are lower on the learning curve, lower on performance expectations and likely newer to the game. This archetype represents 6% of the golfing population and is classified into this group because of their lower skill level. They are the highest-scoring golfers that play 12 or more rounds per year and can be any age.
Fun-Only: It’s all about the social aspects for these players. Having fun is the only significant reason they play. This golfer doesn’t keep score, doesn’t compete against others and doesn’t play for any of the many other reasons golfers play in addition to having fun. This small segment can be any age and represents only 2% of the golfing population.
Sporty and Grinder: Golfers are classified into these groups because of their medium skill level and because they play 12-52 rounds per year. The only difference separating these segments is age. Sporty golfers represent 3% of the golfing population, are younger than 50, and often picked up the golf “bug” after participating in other sports or physical activities. The Grinder golfers represent 17% of the golfing population and are 50 or older.
Avid: This group is golf’s passionate “weekend warrior.” This archetype represents 16% of the golfing population, has a medium skill level and they play a lot of golf – i.e., more than 52 rounds per year. They can be any age.
Player and Veteran: Golfers are classified into these groups because of their high skill level. These are the best golfers with the only difference separating these segments being age. Player golfers represent 3% of the golfing population and are younger than 50. Veteran golfers represent 19% of the golfing population, are 50 or older, and have strong desires to preserve the norms of the game and the integrity of classic courses.
Note that 7% of respondents were unclassified and 13% are exclusively off-course Golfertainment participants, so the eight green-grass archetypes account for 80% of golfers.