Friday, March 13, 2015

The Death of Golf?

Golf, as a participatory sport, is in crisis.  Consider the following:
  • The number of people that reported that they played at least one round of golf is the lowest that has been reported in many years
  • The number of people aged 18 to 30 - golf's next generation - has dropped by over a third over the last 10 years
  • More courses have closed than have opened for the 8th straight year
  • By every demographic measure, the number of participants and rounds played has fallen
  • In my own life, literally everyone I know is golfing less than they have in the past, or they have stopped completely.  I'm the only person I know that is golfing more now than I was 5 years ago.
Why is golf in the state that its in?  Some blame the Tiger Woods effect - the fact that there is no galvanizing cultural icon that the entire nation can get behind.  I think that's bunk.  The problem is the game itself:
  • Golf takes too long to play.  I can't remember the last time a mid-afternoon foursome got a round completed in less than 4 1/2 hours.  Add time to get set up before the round, a beer in the clubhouse afterwards, and you're looking at a 6 hour investment.  In 2015, folks don't have 6 hours to invest in anything.  There is simply too much going on.
  • Golf is hard.  The only thing that makes it easier is practice, and practice takes time.  Time which people don't have.
  • Golf is expensive.  Ridiculously so.  Equipment, clothes, greens fees, a beer at the course - none of it is cheap.  The game has really moved to a rich person's game, and if you do have the luxury of being able to invest the time, you many not have the finances to invest.
Don't get me wrong, I love golf.  But as someone without kids, I have the time to invest in my sport.  I'm fortunate enough to have some dough that will allow me to play.  And I am the exception.  

Exceptions will not be able to save golf forever.  The game is in deep, deep trouble. 

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