I'm realistic about 2009. I believe the economists who predict that the entire year will be challenge, for almost everyone. In golf, there'll be closings... of courses and companies... and cutbacks in how much people play or spend on golf products. I think that's inevitable. However, I'm an optimist by nature and I'm not depressed or morose by any means. In fact, I'm looking forward to doing things better this year; I hope to work better, live healthier and give more in 2009... and I don't think I'm alone in my 09 aspirations either. I've talked to a lot of smart people in various golf businesses who plan to use the downturn to do things they didn't have time to consider in the boom times; charitable, innovative and out-of-the-box things. I look forward to profiling this trend in stories and videos as the year progresses.
And the thing is, I see the online world playing an increasingly important roll in golf as the economy continues to struggle. Collectively, online golf content producers are developing new ways of thinking about the game. These ideas will help introduce golf to a new audience and keep current fans and players engaged during the economic downturn. Lately, it seems I'm discovering at least a couple of new golf blogs everyday. Some of them very unique and well rendered. Golfcentric Social Networks are multiplying, while Golf focused groups on platforms like Facebook and Twitter are attracting members (and followers) from the across the US and around the world.
Athletes are beginning to communicate directly with their fan on social sites as well. The always enchanting Natalie Gulbis recently began twittering, and is now reaching fans in a personal and intimate way... because she's engaging them in a social space. Ms. Gulbis is one of the first professional golfers to Twitter, but she certainly won't be the last. It's just too good a way to reach and grow an audience. BTW - earlier this week Natalie was interviewed by the New York Times on the subject of her twittering. I know, because I follow her there. Look for the article tomorrow.
Some would say golf has been slow to embrace the digital world, remaining wary of blogs and social networks while other industries adopted it. I'd have to agree with that on some level. I've been writing Golf Girl's Diary for two and a half years now, and I've been an evangelist for golf on Facebook and Twitter for nearly as long, and it's only within the past few months that I've seen a real influx of recreational golfer and golf professionals of all sorts. The time, decidedly, is right. 2009 may just be the year the online golf world comes into it's own. I'm optimistic it will.