Golf used to be a favorite pastime of many. Weekend swingers still hit the links, but their numbers are dwindling. Sadly the trend in the number of rounds played per person per year has been on a steady decline. Courses cluttered with people conducting informal business meetings while enjoying a round of golf are not as common. Is the game of golf going the way of the Dodo bird?
The number of core North American golfers (those playing eight rounds or more per year) has fallen between three and 4.5 percent every year since 2006. In its heyday, which extended throughout 1980 – 1999, course designers could not keep up with the demand to build new courses across Canada and the States. Banks were happy to back owners building to meet anticipated demand by the soon to be retiring Baby Boom Generation. This demand did not materialize. Since 2007, the number of golf courses closing in America has significantly outnumbered the number of new courses being built.
This downward trend of participation in North American golf has even made its way to the professional level. In 1986, North American golfers made up 60 percent of the Top 100 players in the World Golf Rankings.
By the end of 2010, North Americans made up only 32 percent of the Top 100.This may of course reflect an increase in the numbers of players from other geographical zones, such as The Saudi Emirates, Asia and groups not previously seen on the international stage. More than 80 percent of golf participants now play at public courses.
Junior and senior golfers combine to make up only 30 percent of all golfers in North America. This means that the other 70 percent of golfers are between the ages of 18-65. A very large portion of that segment would have the financial means to pay a $45 public green fee once per week if they so desired. These are the family folks who have their focus on raising and educating young children, paying the mortgage and stretching the budget to cover their ever inflating food bills.
The ups and downs of a struggling economy does contribute directly to the decline of recreational player numbers. Golf is extremely expensive if you’re looking to play top-quality courses. There are many people now reluctant to go out and pay even a $45 green fee at a public course on Saturday afternoon.
The business world no longer foots the cost of entertaining potential business partners for lunch, let alone paying for a round of golf for a two-some or four-some. Neither is it acceptable to take the half-day of work off to play a round of golf, for business or otherwise. Plain and simple, the majority of Americans that have the means to play golf simply don’t have the time.
The new technology in this sport has overwhelmed the average player,without even talking about the cost. Top flight players, who comprehend cutting edge technology, clamor for super-lite weight, highly flexible titanium drivers with over-sized hitting surfaces. Re-engineered dimple plays on golf balls are common place, like octagon or hexagon dimples, to change the dynamics of spin and slice on the glide path and decrease air resistance, not to mention the options of hard and harder core give more lift. Golfers now can drive the ball further. Technology has made the majority of golf courses with limited acreage obsolete and unplayable.
Technology has altered the sport. The jury is still out on whether these changes have improved the game. Golfers, regardless of their level of play, weekend or professional are pretty much still the same. They still get upset when they’ve lost their balls.
Join me to talk with John Coyne a life-long lover of golf and an American writer. His third book in the caddy series, The Caddy Who Won The Masters is on stands now. John brings his stories and thoughts to BEYONDtheCheers Wednesday February 20that 7PM EDT on BEYONDtheCheers at blogtalkradio.