Jordan Spieth is one of the most buzzed-about pro-golfers ahead of this weekend's AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. The 22-year-old, who is currently ranked No. 1 according to the Official World Golf Ranking, was the youngest player to win five times in a season since a 21-year-old accomplished the feat in 1929.
To commemorate Spieth's achievement, 8,000 Pebble Beach attendees can take home a Spieth bobblehead and more can watch several Spieth bobblehead comedic online videos, courtesy of title sponsor AT&T. It may seem out of line for the normally buttoned-up sport, but it's part of a greater initiative to make golf cool again among younger audiences.
"The PGA Tour is certainly looking to grow their fan base, and we're seeking to grow our millennial consumer base," said Ryan Luckey, AT&T's assistant vice president of corporate sponsorships.
The death knell of golf among millennials has been often rung by the media, often sighting the fact that 200,000 millennial golfers left the sport in 2013, according to the National Golf Federation. But the PGA Tour and its sponsors believe times are changing.
Using a mix of showcasing millennial golf stars and digital media marketing, it believes it has millennials interested in the sport again. Since last year, Ty Votaw, chief marketing officer of the PGA Tour, said it has seen a 43 percent increase in its website traffic from millennials year over year, while its Twitter followers went up 39 percent in the same timeframe.
Most importantly, Votaw said there's a "healthy" number of millennials playing golf: The PGA Tour said that 6.5 million millennials played 100 million rounds of golf in 2015. The age group made up 28 percent of all total golfers, mirroring its percentage in the population.
"There's been a little bit of a misconception," Votaw asserted. "That's not to say that we think that's enough millennials."
The numbers are slightly lower than what was reported by the National Golf Foundation, which found that 6 million millennials play approximately 90 million rounds each year.
But notably, there are some differences in playing style. The research shows that of the age group, half are frequent golfers like previous generations (about 18 rounds), a little less than a quarter use it as social events (eight rounds) and a little more than a quarter play infrequently. Together they spend $5 billion on golf a year, a tiny fraction of the $76 billion industry.