PGA Championship

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A Baby Boomer's 9-Step Guide to Millennial Golfers

By Bob Carney Illustrations by Paul Windle
November 10, 2015

By now, as you know, the survival of our sport depends entirely on a group of people called millennials. Without their participation, experts agree, welcome to croquet. If you're saying, "Why is this group so important, and do I have to meet any?" you'll benefit from our guide.

1) What are millennials, exactly?

The most important group of human beings in history, age 20 to 35, and thin. They're the new guys at your club who say the course is too short and your dress code is prehistoric, meaning pre-Windows 10. Every golf company in America loves millennials, who are so totally high-tech they can understand most driver ads.

2) Are they pretty much all alike?

No. There are two types: Entrepreneurial Millennials (EMs) are rich. They start and sell companies like Cub Scouts sell donuts. Broke Millennials (BMs) flock to work for them at "start-ups," which are basically Junior Achievement projects with serfs. In the time it took to read this, an EM joined your club, added an assessment and lengthened the fifth hole by 50 yards.

3) Why are millennials so important compared to, say,... me?

Companies want their brands to be youthful and vibrant, like millennials. You are a Boomer—old, and old hat. If advertisers were honest, they would tell you: "Your money's no good, old man. Your replacement has arrived." From now on, your survival in the world of commerce—much less golf—depends on your ability to relate to the common millennial.

4) How do I identify one?

The first place to look is your basement. The millennial is typically moody and communicates in clever, ironic bursts. I had one who disappeared after years in my home but left the television set on its video-game function. I have no idea how to get it back to Golf Channel. Millennials start companies like PicPKT, which tells you how many ball markers you have at any time in any of your pockets, and which hand to use to get them. Clever. But keep an eye on the remote.

5) Are these fellas snazzy dressers?

The commentator who said "Rickie Fowler dresses like Neville Chamberlain compared to most millennials" was only partly correct. Your average millennial thinks black dress socks work nicely with fluorescent laces. He has no idea how special your Pine Valley logo is. So reach across the fashion divide and say, "Hi there, millennial, shall we play a few holes?" And don't be surprised if he comes to the member-guest dinner in a trim, shiny suit, prompt-ing your wife to say what a nice young man he is.

6) Any particular on-course habits I should be aware of?

To millennials, golf is an outdoor video game through which you drive an electric vehicle and during which you track every nugget of information from chip-shot trajectory to penalty-drop dispersion, not to mention score. Say goodbye to "Oh, it's about a 7-iron." No self-respecting millennial would ever hit a shot without data, preferably big data. One millennial I knew called his driver Big Data. Or maybe it was Big Daddy. My hearing's going.

7) Is it true they play golf to music?

True. I was recently paired with some millennials who asked if I minded "some tunes" as we played. We were far from the clubhouse, no one around. I stood up and tried to make myself appear larger than I really am, like you do with bears, and said, "Groovy; whatever you dudes want." We played for the right to control the Spotify app (the only way we'd ever get to Van Morrison—otherwise, it was Screaming Females).

8) How's pace of play?

In my experience, M is for methodical. There's the loading of the stats app, the Snapchatting, the Vining and occasionally, a golf shot. If you grew up carrying your bag, you learned how to find a golf ball. Millennials lack this skill, having never walked a golf course and being entirely dependent on GPS to locate anything. They look for balls like bugs skimming the surface of a pond. The great Mac O'Grady said he drove behind old people to learn patience. Mac would love millennials.

9) What's my action plan vis-à-vis these millennials?

I've been hard on the millennial, and you will be, too. You will find yourself wanting to judge them and perhaps even maim a few. Resist. Remember that they can fund our game. Above all, show compassion, and remember when the future of the sport, not to mention the Free World, was riding on your generation.