How Greg Norman is driving innovation back into golf
Leave it to a senior golfer to lead the charge in attracting millennials to the game. That old pro would be Greg Norman, 62, who doesn’t play much competitive golf these days but is a competitive entrepreneur. Even with business ventures ranging from wine and apparel to real estate and venture capital, he still cares about golf and wants to give new audiences of all ages reasons to try it.
Norman’s newest endeavour, called Shark Experience, uses technology to let some air out of the game’s stuffy reputation. Joining him are three companies — Verizon Wireless (networking), Club Car (golf carts), and GPSi (course maps) — united under the goal of promoting “your golf, your way.”
The medium for this madness is the golf-cart-mounted video screen. Those nearly ubiquitous monitors already help players steer from hole to hole, measure yardages, and even order food and drinks. But Norman and friends are taking the existing technology to another level by adding streaming audio and video, Bluetooth connectivity, enhanced map functions, and other services. Their “experience” just might shake off some of golf’s constricting cobwebs.
Beginning next year at select courses, players will be able to watch live sports and highlights, dial up content channels, learn from Norman’s video golf tips, and listen to dozens of music channels. They’ll also be able to more accurately plot their shots and keep score, signal the cart attendant to come around with some cold ones, and funnel it all through a cashless portal that eliminates wallet wear and tear. More amenities — like hole-in-one competitions and the same Shot Tracer technology that tracks the pros’ drives on TV — are in the wings.
As part of the package, new carts with built-in speakers will sound loud and full to the riders while remaining almost inaudible to everyone else (since some golfers don’t appreciate tunes on the tee). The speakers also keep your Clash from clashing with my Mozart.
This isn’t to say the experience will be music to all ears. Traditionalists are already carping about the potential for even slower play from buffoons bingeing on basketball or Game of Thrones instead of picking up the pace. Serious golfers and those who see the course as a refuge don’t want it invaded by gadgets and goons. And still to be worked out is how clubs and resorts will deal with these issues as well as the cost of new equipment.
For most golfers, the Shark Experience makes the game fun. So will it catch a new generation — or be dead in the water?