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The Definition of Insanity: This logical step to identify golf’s decline in participation is being ignored

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Several years ago, I wrote a story about the impending decline in golf participation followed by another one on playing the correct tees. The stories got a lot of attention including the ruling bodies. To be clear; I have no ulterior motive outside a love for the game. I’m not looking for any form of employment. Then again, at 77, who’s kidding who.

I’d guess since those stories appeared, my Gmail account, barneyadams9@gmail.com, has received hundreds of responses ranging from “my course is already too crowded” to in-depth conversations with a variety of solutions including alternative golf. The solutions offered on improving participation are well thought out, and frankly so are mine, but they all have one flaw — they are based on opinions. Look at the following data as if you were Golf Czar: all powerful, but also responsible for results.

To get hard data on participation you turn to the most reliable source, The National Golf Foundation (NGF). They have detailed studies on participation starting with their figure of 25 million golfers in the U.S. Looking a bit deeper, the definition of that number is age 6 and up who play at least once a year. As Czar, you would like something more concrete and upon further study you find a category called Avid golfers. These folks (still age 6 and up) play at least 2 times per month and pick up 71 percent of all golf-related expenses.

Now you love your job as Czar, and are strongly motivated to do the right thing so this Avid category is the mother lode. Get more of the 71-percent gang playing and the game prospers. You need to develop them. More beginner programs, more junior program, and with 80 million Millennials… my goodness, a special program aimed at them, and those are just your immediate thoughts. You call a staff meeting to present and hopefully expand on your ideas.

About a third of the way into the meeting, this guy Adams raises his hand. He’s basically a pain, wouldn’t have the job but for some strong connections. He says, “I’ve done more research on the Avid category, and the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over hoping for a different result.”

“Please go on,” you say, figuring you’ll let the jerk hang himself.

“The Avid category started in 1985 with a count of 6.9 million golfers. It peaked at 10.2 million in 2000, and is 6.2 million today. This isn’t a problem; it’s a catastrophe. We’ve lost 4 million folks who were picking up 71 percent of the tab. Now I suspect they haven’t all dropped out, but they certainly have dropped back. Our fix is junior and beginner programs and a millennial focus, in of themselves each a good ideas, but you’re missing something. THESE PROGRAMS WERE ALREADY SUCCESSFUL, AND THEN THEY WEREN’T. We had Avids at 10.2 million in 2000. Where did they go?

“Everyone here and virtually everyone in golf has opinions as to what happened, but they are opinions. WE NEED FACTS. Further, we have to be clear on the issue; it’s worthless to bring more people into the game without understanding why 4 MILLION quit or cut back play.”

I put things in caps where he was pounding the table for effect. Now, I said Adams is a pain, but he’s not dumb, so I said, “What’s your proposal?”

He replied, “The NGF identified 4 million drop backs. Let’s hire the best consulting company in America and commission them to survey them and ask WHY; why did they drop back or even quit. I guarantee two or three reasons will dominate. It’s called Pareto Distribution, or the 80-20 rule.

“First, the survey produces FACTS. Then we use them focusing on developing programs to stop the decline of Avid golfers, because it’s still going on. Simultaneously, we make decisions to bring more people into the game.”

When he sat down there was a silence, because intuitively we all knew he was right. Further, our financial situation meant we could afford the best. No more well-meaning opinions, no knee-jerk reactions: a study, with the understanding that the data will come from folks who belonged to clubs, payed greens fees, bought clubs, balls, and food at the course. There are 4 MILLION of them, and our survey agreement states that it will produce FACTS. What happened? What reasons caused them to reduce, or even quit playing?

There will be those who say a survey doesn’t produce facts, and technically they are correct, but the pros use statistics, algorithms, and specifically worded questionnaires. Their results are high probabilities, 95 percent plus, and that’s more than acceptable.

So there it is readers, this is what a business would do, no? It’s what business does. You have friends, associates in golf, send it on. Why isn’t there a movement from golf’s ruling bodies to do exactly this?  Maybe GolfWRX readers can look back with pride on influencing such  a movement. As for those who don’t want any more players because their course is crowded, they have it backwards. Players drop out, play less, courses close and the ones remaining are even more crowded. Then supply and demand allows them to increase fees!

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Barney Adams is the founder of Adams Golf and the inventor of the iconic "Tight Lies" fairway wood. He served as Chairman of the Board for Adams until 2012, when the company was purchased by TaylorMade-Adidas. Adams is one of golf's most distinguished entrepreneurs, receiving honors such as Manufacturing Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young in 1999 and the 2010 Ernie Sabayrac Award for lifetime contribution to the golf industry by the PGA of America. His journey in the golf industry started as as a club fitter, however, and has the epoxy filled shirts as a testimony to his days as an assembler. Have an equipment question? Adams holds seven patents on club design and has conducted research on every club in the bag. He welcomes your equipment questions through email at barneyadams9@gmail.com Adams is now retired from the golf equipment industry, but his passion for the game endures through his writing. He is the author of "The WOW Factor," a book published in 2008 that offers an insider's view of the golf industry and business advice to entrepreneurs, and he continues to contribute articles to outlets like GolfWRX that offer his solutions to grow the game of golf.

125 Comments

125 Comments

  1. stephenf

    Jul 8, 2016 at 4:09 pm

    I’m actually less worried about numbers than I am about the nature and character of the game. In fact, I don’t know that it ever should’ve been seen as necessarily appealing to everybody. The effort to make it so has really bastardized the game at the pro level. That’s really what I worry about, the prospect that what the game really _is_ is going away, not that not enough people play it.

    But as long as we’re talking about “decline” in the sense of participation, we’ll start with the fact that in many or even most locales, costs have risen beyond the ability of people to pay. It’s just unbelievable. If you’re going to be an “avid” golfer, you have to be able to play several times a month. “Avid” when I was coming up in the game meant somebody who was playing no fewer than two or three times a week. How are you going to do that now on a middle income at greens fees of 30 to 50 bucks a pop? You’re talking about $300-400 a month not including equipment. Four or five thousand a year? Really?

    Then there’s the problem of the corporate mentality whereby every last unit of value is sucked out of the product to the point where even one less unit would mean a noticeable decline in sales. That’s the maximize-bottom-line-for-shareholders-above-all way of operating. Charge the same or more, offer as little as people will tolerate, get that profit margin as wide as you can.

    Just one example: One local course here, an ex-municipal that used to have a good reputation statewide, used to attract a really healthy number of younger players, host good tournaments, etc., and the conditions used to be much better than they are now. If you played with the afternoon or evening discount, you could walk the course for four or five bucks, and I’m not talking about the 1930s, I’m talking about the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. Full price was nine or 10 bucks. City gets rid of the course so local politicians can lower taxes by about a dime a month. Corporation buys it. Immediately the course conditioning goes to absolute hell, while the corporation puts a million-five into the clubhouse and grill. Fees go up double, then triple. Most of the regulars can’t afford to play more than a couple of times a month, if that.

    As long as it’s money above all — that’s what is producing the increasingly twisted version of the game you see on the PGA Tour — you’re going to see a continuing decline of the game.

    A general devaluing of tradition and any pursuit that takes more than a few seconds is another really big factor. Look at what the game has become on the PGA Tour — increasingly just another big-money sport, complete with top players who are ex-criminals, philanderers, whiners, rule-evaders who wait to be “called” on the rules, etc. Almost nobody I know understands what the game is really supposed to be about in the first place.

    Incidentally, Barney, if you’re still reading these comments, I met you back in ’94 at Haney’s place. Always got a kick out of seeing the success of the company after that, and I’m happy to see you’re still out there contributing to the good of the game.

  2. Matt Melo

    Jun 29, 2016 at 9:03 am

    We live in a world of instant gratification. Golf is the very antithesis. For $12, I can buy a football and the neighborhood kids can all play a game, or I can throw with my sons. For $250 I can buy a basketball hoop and ball and we can play in the driveway, or I can take them to a local park to play for free. We can join the Y, and they can do water sports, basketball, football, baseball, soccer, and exercise for $50 a month. All of those sports can be picked up by kids for next to nothing and learned in a few minutes.

    Golf is a sport that takes years, even for the best and most dedicated, to become proficient. The time required to do that is astronomical. I can practice free throws in my driveway. I can’t hit full wedges in the yard unless I live on a farm. So I need to drive somewhere, pay for balls, practice and drive home. If I want to play, I need to set aside 5-6 hours of my day. With families, work, etc. who has 6 hours more than once or twice a month anyway?

    More importantly, WHY do we need to grow the game? Golf ballooned by 4 million avid players for ONE reason, Tiger Woods. Golf became cool and popular. It became mainstream, sports center material. I would argue that a great many people started playing more or joined the game, only to find out three things: they couldn’t afford to keep playing, they couldn’t afford the clubs the pros play, it isn’t fun when you stink at it.

    So why is it expensive? One reason is that golf clubs and balls are costly. When you’re terrible, you can lose a dozen a round. But you can buy cheapo balls and clubs. Playing has become more expensive in some places because some courses close, others become busier and prices have shot up. In NC prices have stayed reasonable because we have very little golf course attrition. Courses stay open, and have pretty good amount of play, so prices stay consistent. In other places not so much.

    With all of that said, a recent article said that 11 million people are overburdened on rent alone. If we place the cost of playing golf “avidly” at $125 per month (which is low, and involves spreading the cost of balls and clubs over the course of the year or years), that’s a car payment for some people. It doesn’t help that other studies show us working 50+ hours on average, leaving little time for 5 hour rounds at public muni’s. Most people can’t save up for a down payment on a house, how do they manage for an initiation fee to a private club? Cost/time/difficulty.

  3. Jim

    Jun 26, 2016 at 12:42 am

    Barney you were in the Business what gives the big OEM’s the power to dictate the price everyone MUST sell their equipment for??? I had a neighbor that owned a small golf shop and driving range..he tried to have a sell on Ping Irons one week and the Ping rep found out, came in and removed all the Ping product and told him he could no longer sell Ping Equipment….WHY

    • Fredo

      Jun 28, 2016 at 12:16 pm

      That’s easy to answer. Company’s set the retail price at a level that gives them a decent profit margin while maintaining market share. If retailers deviate from the company plan they face retribution. EG: my local shoe store B. Bros. sold a ton of Nike shoes. Nike was upset because they were selling them less than suggested retail. Nike pulled out thus causing the stores closure. The Nike Corp. was protecting the surrounding retailers profit margins by demanding price uniformity.

    • Barney Adams

      Jun 28, 2016 at 5:08 pm

      Fredo is essentially correct. I have a business to protect. Once you buy my product ( and pay for it) you can eat it for breakfast. Then I make the decision to sell you again

  4. BJ Westner

    Jun 17, 2016 at 12:30 pm

    Looking at the nation as a whole is too broad and I think it would be much better to break things down by regions instead. What may work in one area may not in another area and the problems faced by one part of the country may be completely different in another.

    While slow play is an issue front and center, I have to believe that the biggest issue is the insane cost of the game. I have my own theory on this and I think that we are now feeling the hurt for what Tiger did for the game. Things were great in/around 2000. Economy was good and purses on tour were rising as well as interest and participation. The price of everything went up from the purses on tour to the fees to play golf. The recession came and went and prices dropped but it’s still outrageously high to get someone to be an avid golfer.

    I work/live in the Washington DC area and first started playing 4 years ago at age 32. If I was married or had kids there would be no way I could have played as much golf as I do. To play the local municipal courses on a Saturday or Sunday morning the cost is north of $90! That is more than my country club would charge you to play as my guest. I had to join a country club because I could not afford to play the munis!

    In a world that’s vastly different from the past (in 2000 many of those “avid” golfers probably grew up in households were one parent worked and that was okay compared to today where that’s almost impossible), unless you grow up in the first tee program, it’s so hard for anyone to get involved in golf unless there is a ridiculously strong desire, a desire that is greater than the whopping fees that one has to pay in order to play a muni on a Saturday or Sunday morning.

    There is that saying that hockey is expensive to play. Well it’s got nothing on golf, that’s for sure.

  5. Brian

    Jun 15, 2016 at 2:50 pm

    We’re looking at a lot of factors here:

    1. Do your friends play? If not, you don’t have any incentive to play. Playing golf by yourself is fine on occasion, playing with strangers can be nerve wracking for some personality types.
    2. Do you have the time to commit to playing and getting better?
    3. Do you have the financial resources to play and commit to getting better?

    I personally think it’s the time commitment combined with the cost to play that are the biggest factors. To get a decent bag of clubs fit to your swing, including the bag, shoes, balls, and accessories, is going to run you at least a grand. Add in $40+ for green fees on the weekends and your season can get quite expensive. Lessons are quite expensive. If you can’t get better on your own and want to take lessons, you’re looking at $50+ per lesson there.

  6. Jamie

    Jun 14, 2016 at 11:49 pm

    Golf courses are just too tough for the average weekend warrior. Hell, me and all my buddies are all low single digits and we still find these hazards. The new courses these days are long, littered with hazards, OB, forced carries, water, long distances between holes, etc. There is a place for tough courses, but for the majority of public courses, make it playable and fair. The average player can barely hit a green or fairway. Then you add the hot cart girl that every 50 yr old schmuck thinks they have a shot at. They’ll order drinks, call in a hot dog and throw out every lame pickup line to get a smile. Dude! get your gatorade and move on!! Another issue is making 3-4 holes cart path only. This alone adds tons of time as people run across the fairway with 5 clubs while searching for a yardage marker. Lee Trevino commented on how every modern designer will design or redesign an existing course to show everyone how hard he can make a course. Lastly, play ready golf. I don’t give a crap if you made a birdie. If your texting your boss, i’m teeing off.

  7. Other Paul

    Jun 14, 2016 at 1:23 pm

    Here in Edmonton, Canada, golf prices aren’t to bad. I play when ever i can which about once a week. I would say that equipmemt costs cant be a huge issue. I play 712 mbs ($450), callaway 2015 dbd driver($140), some great wedges ($200). I just buy the one year old equipment at discount, or bargain hunt online. Time is always the problem. I usually play at 7:30 at night when my little junior golfer goes to bed. And go out the odd sunday with some friends.

  8. blawrence

    Jun 14, 2016 at 12:46 pm

    Slow play seems to run off everyone that has a choice to play during the week… however, players that work and have families don’t have 6 hours to spare on weekends and holidays. HERE IS A SOLUTION. The USGA is in a great position, and should jump at the opportunity to solve this issue. It should establish a training program for golf course marshals and head marshals on how to eliminate slow play. Imagine the USGA providong regional training on how to communicate having fun by playing to a reasonably fast pace… no rounds longer than 4 hours. The Pro Shop and the Marshals areas would post and communicate expectations such as: playing (forward) tees that players handicaps are best suited for; play when ready, not by most “away” whenever possible; if a player is putting for +2 on a hole, pick up; be ready to hit when it’s your turn, etc.
    Then there is a very delicate issue that would require special training for Head Marshals on the course… HOW TO SPEED UP GROUPS THAT ARE PLAYING TOO SLOW, AND WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT. Here again, this expectation should be posted: “Speed Up, or for all groups that are being held up behind you, your group will need to skip to the next hole”. This is obviously delicate to communicate to a group; however, if there is a national expectation supported and communicated by the USGA, it would be hard for the group to argue against speeding up.
    Consider that with play reaching the -4 hours play will bring back a measurable number of “family” players, it will also bring back players that would like to play but not if +4 hours. The course benefits from more player revenue, and after play revenue… and it might just allow more players time for a beer before going home to the family.
    I would suggest that the Head Marshal job requires a special personality and probably ought to be paid a reasonable rate to attend the training and to execute their job professionally. I suspect the cost would be around the cost of one green fee… But think also of the potential for having a happier clientele of golfers and improved revenue for the golf course.

    • MP-4

      Jun 14, 2016 at 2:16 pm

      Courses should install “Turnouts” or rest stop areas for slow players.

    • Barney Adams

      Jun 14, 2016 at 5:29 pm

      Excellent idea! I suggest you pass it on to the USGA

      • At

        Jun 16, 2016 at 4:01 am

        What a stupid idea. Why not just tell them NOT to play golf?
        There are plenty of rest stops – between holes. And at the turn. Duh.

    • Barney Adams

      Jun 14, 2016 at 9:59 pm

      I want to repeat this is an idea for positive USGA involvement. Golf wrx readers unite. Send several thousand copies of ” The Lawrence Plan” to the USGA.

      • Gr

        Jun 15, 2016 at 2:18 am

        That won’t work, Barney.
        Slow play, from what I have seen, isn’t all to do with actual slow play.
        It’s the lack of manners and etiquette, and in the US, we all know those are things with which people are not educated, exactly, in general life, and it translates to the course, and you are asking why there is drop in play? It’s the same people you are trying to bring in without proper education in manners and etiquette that would cause these slow play problems.
        What I said about the slow play problem not being actual slow play – is also to do with the rules. It doesn’t SAY in the Rules of Golf, for example, that you are “limited to only look for a lost ball 4 times each of 5 minutes duration in any round and if you cannot do that then move out of the way of the group behind you,” and such. And why not? Why is the club or the marshal responsible for those enforcements? Golf is a self-regulating game, we say, too. Which goes back to the point about manners and etiquette, when you have a sleeveless wife-beater wearing bozo in ripped up shorts and full arm tattoos drinking a 12-pack of beer legally while they drive the cart around a muni, you really want to deal with talking to that guy about getting out of the way? Seriously. Lets get real

        • Scott

          Jun 15, 2016 at 10:06 am

          @Gr +1
          Awesome point.
          “It’s the same people you are trying to bring in without proper education in manners and etiquette that would cause these slow play problems”

          True story (that we all may have encountered) I have gone out on a weekend afternoon round and I am playing 15 holes in 6 hours, following behind couples with guys wearing wife beaters, army boots and girls in flip flops. How long do you think that round is going to take? And these are the people I should care about bringing back to the game? I don’t want them anywhere near me on a course.

          • At

            Jun 16, 2016 at 4:07 am

            Yeah, and if you do catch up with them on a hole, you’ll look at them and the other groups in front of them that’s also there and realize skipping ahead one group isn’t really going to change anything.
            Or, if they are the real culprits holding you up, you’d be too scared to approach them seeing how belligerent they are already – you never know what else they might be carrying beside beer in their bags.
            And if you call the clubhouse, at a muni they’re not going to care, they won’t send anybody out to do something about it because they already know the group you’re talking about the old guys are too scared to come out to say anything themselves too!
            You have to bring respect to the game, a respectable image throughout the entire culture of all golf in the US. No t-shirts, polos with collars and they must be tucked in to shorts or long pants and no jeans, no tennis shoes and no knee high socks for men if wearing shorts, etc etc.

            • snowexcuse

              Jun 21, 2016 at 10:55 am

              “No t-shirts, polos with collars and they must be tucked in to shorts or long pants and no jeans, no tennis shoes and no knee high socks for men if wearing shorts, etc etc”

              Excuse my ignorance, but what is wrong with the long socks and shorts combo? How is that vastly different from the traditional long socks and knickers?

    • ders

      Jun 15, 2016 at 12:10 am

      People always bring up players playing from the wrong tee box as the problem but I don’t think it is. The traffic jams are always at the greens. Putting etiquette needs to be changed/abandoned in favour of speeding things up (ie. don’t mark your putt if you are with in 6ft or on someone else’s line, just play it in). I play a lot of twilight hours golf and there is nothing worse than watching some guy who shanked 2 balls into the water on his approach shot only to spend 5 minutes lining up his 3 putt for quadruple bogey. Other things that would help:
      Double par pick up should be the official rule.
      Ball retrievers should be banned from all courses (its in the water, you don’t deserve to get it back).
      One rider per cart unless both riders are single digit handicappers who both hit to the same side of the course.
      Make the maximum size of a group 2 rather than 4 and send them out 5 minutes apart rather than the 10 min. Where a group of 4 takes 4 hours to play a course, 2 can get through it in 3 or less (assuming no traffic jams). With a 5min interval between groups, 3hours 5minutes for 2 groups of 4.

      • Eej

        Jun 15, 2016 at 7:44 pm

        How’s a course supposed to make money with 2somes unless they charge double green fees than they are now? Idiot

        • Shallowface

          Jun 16, 2016 at 7:38 am

          The discussion is about why aren’t people playing and the answer that keeps repeating is that it takes too long. “Twosomes only” solves that.

          My suggestion has always been, if you are struggling as a course operator why not try this one day a week. Promote it and see what happens. If it fails, you’re out nothing. But it will not fail.

          If your course is booked solid with foursomes dawn to dusk, don’t change a thing. But the truth is, in today’s world and particularly on weekdays, the foursome is the odd group out. At the very least, the policy should be “no foursomes before 10 AM.”

          Eej, how is a course supposed to make money when no one is playing it because they either don’t have five hours to do so, or can’t get four people to show up in the same place at the same time? Clinging to policies that no longer work would be truly idiotic.

          I’ve seen time and again that most foursomes are two twosomes that joined out of convenience, and really don’t even like each other.

        • Shank

          Jun 16, 2016 at 8:50 am

          Eej….They would have more tee times to offer. No more twosomes booking a tee time meant for a foursome. The course would run more efficiently. My course gets all messed up in the afternoon because people refuse to join up and make a foursome.

        • ders

          Jun 16, 2016 at 10:52 pm

          Because it takes 4 hours to put 4 players through as fousome, 3 hours per twosome. That means 4 players playing as 2 couples takes only 3 hours and 5mins with shorter tee time intervals of 5 minutes. The courses would make more money because they could get more players through the course, everyone would spend less time and complaints of slow play will vanish (people will still complain but the pace of play will increase)

          • Nc

            Jun 17, 2016 at 2:59 am

            ders,
            Do the math again. You would think what you’re saying makes sense, but not if the tee times cost the same.
            How many minute gaps do you plan to do for your tee times?
            Say in the normal set up you have tee times that cost $35. So you have 4some groups every 8 minutes per hour or so.
            Try doing that with 2some at the same price and 5 minute tee times, according to what you say.
            No way can the club make any money. It won’t even cover maintenance fees at that price. No matter what you think, the 2some prices have to go up, and the same people who were paying the $35 will not pay, say, $55 for that same course no matter if they play as a 2some.
            It’s all been calculated by courses, clubs and the associations. It just doesn’t happen that way. If it did, we wouldn’t need GolfNow and the TeeOffs giving us discount tee times all the time.

            • ders

              Jun 17, 2016 at 11:20 am

              The plan would work with no price increase if the intervals were halved. You would get the same number of people though the course each day but each group would spend less time playing. I said 5 minute intervals because the course I play at uses 10 minute intervals. Same number of people playing the course will not result in a drop in revenue. 4 or 5 minutes is more than enough time to hit a second shot and is tons of time for even a 2some of beginners to clear the green which is where the tie ups always occur. 10 minutes is not enough time for a lot of foursomes and backups occur.

              • tP

                Jun 18, 2016 at 3:57 am

                Not if you walk the course, it isn’t! You’re an idiot!

                • ders

                  Jun 20, 2016 at 10:00 am

                  Walking is often faster than carts if there are 2 riders or restrictions from leaving the cart path. If you can’t walk 250yds and hit a shot in 4 minutes, you have problems should probably rent a cart. I know it can be done quickly on foot. A couple days after christmas I was the first one on the course, I played 2 balls from the whites (5500yds), had to wait for maintenance on 2 holes, took a dump after 9 holes and still WALKED 18 holes in 2:05 minutes.

            • Shallowface

              Jun 17, 2016 at 7:28 pm

              NC, the point of this entire thread is, most of them aren’t making any money now. Something has to change, and hiring retired diplomats instead of retired Jack Webb style DIs for rangers is not the answer. Nor is involving the USGA whose most memorable effort in combating slow play involved posters hanging above the urinals (they should have printed the message on those little screens at the bottom of the urinals). “Twosomes Only. For The Good Of The Game.”

      • Ashley

        Jun 16, 2016 at 7:58 am

        I personally play with my parents, so sending people off in twos wouldn’t work very well for others in situations like mine. I’ve seen slow play caused by many things–hitting more balls than you should, driving around looking for balls, and just plain disregard for pace of play, but I’ve never really felt that carts and foursomes are the issue in themselves. It’s the people in the carts and foursomes who are not playing efficient golf or putting in a timely manner. In my opinion, most of these people are not good enough to each have their own five minute pre-putting routine.

        • Jack

          Jun 27, 2016 at 3:55 am

          Putting routines are annoying especially the ones who take like 10 practice swings then line up and then back away to do it all again. Same for practice swings. I can’t stand the people who will just practice swing the day away. And most certainly will shank it very often. Then they gotta spend time searching around in the rough for their precious balls.

          But for me while living in SoCal was that courses were so crowded locally that you have to go at least an hours drive out east to find a decent course. It was a huge trek and a full day would be gone. Living in Portland for a year it was much better as there were several courses but very little people playing them. It was easy to get in a twilight round after work.

  9. ders

    Jun 14, 2016 at 11:26 am

    Here in Vancouver BC, there are 6 public parks with small pitch and putt courses (<1500yds) that cost $10-14 to play during the summer (free to play during the off season). They are always packed from sun rise to sunset on a nice weekend day – Seniors and families in the morning, drunken teens in the afternoons and evenings. The 2 courses without any hazards are by far the busiest, the one with small elevated greens with water on 3 sides is the least busy. Many of them will never go on to play anything bigger but everyone I've ever talked to at the full courses around here started on the city pitch and putts. Make golf cheap and casual and new people will come. The problem is there is no money in growing the game. The big money is in catering to the high end, big money spenders not the first timers.

  10. FO

    Jun 14, 2016 at 9:35 am

    People would rather sit in front of their TVs getting fat drinking sugary drinks and eating oily foods than go out outside suffering on a weekend spending their well-earned money on a leisure sport they’re not very good at and spend 6 hours of their precious time away from everything else they’d rather enjoy doing

  11. Scott

    Jun 14, 2016 at 8:57 am

    Barney,
    Great way to looking at it, just unnecessary.

    Just like everything that gets hot and popular, golf is just back to the base players it has had and will always have. There always have been and will be fads that capture the public. I am sure that there are still a number of hard core roller bladers out there, somewhere.

    It could and may come back again to a much larger participation number, but it might not. What about the answer from the people that left the game, “it was just too hard and I am tired of beating my head against a wall”. No amount of lessons, equipment changes, or course changes will change the fact that the game is really hard. Some people would just rather not be that frustrated.

    Golf was a fad for 4 million players. Simple as that.

  12. Fb

    Jun 14, 2016 at 2:41 am

    It’s simple.
    Lets just look at 2008’s crash as an example of a recent financial debacle, then the oil price nightmares.
    How much did gas prices jump then? And how much does food cost now in grocery stores or in restaurants? At one stage in a quick 4 month period price of gas DOUBLED. Then within the year after that, so did a lot of other things to keep up and golf courses also raised their prices. Yes of course in reaction to the gas prices everything must be raised. But then once prices came down, did anybody want to lower their prices? No.
    Just do the math

  13. Matt

    Jun 14, 2016 at 12:18 am

    I have a dumb question: Why is it important to increase golf participation? What will happen if participation doesn’t increase? Okay, two dumb questions.

    • Mat

      Jun 14, 2016 at 10:17 pm

      It’s not a dumb question. I was thinking the same thing. Someone explain to me, the individual, why I want courses to be busier and more costly? Because some might close? If they close, they are getting weeded out, no? I’d rather have more casuals and fewer avids.

  14. Chris Hanson

    Jun 13, 2016 at 9:53 pm

    Like most sports Golf is in massive competition for reduced leisure time across the age groups. Men are asked by wives to be around the house more than they were. Kids have football, surfing and computers and electronic games as alternatives. Most spectator sports are on Friday night, Saturday afternoon and night, Sunday afternoon and night, even Monday night now so no-one has time to goof off for 6 hours. That’s the reason people leave when they have to account for a few thousand dollars on a reduced number of rounds. So I would say it is a judgement call on value for money.

  15. Briggsky

    Jun 13, 2016 at 4:50 pm

    We did a study at our course as to the needs of our membership. The single biggest problem listed was slow play. How ever following up this complaint we found that nobody could name one member who left for that reason. What happened was that our early players who comprised of some 10 or 15 groups were playing in slightly over 3:30 and all of the complainers were in this group except one. The actual single reason is cost but because of pride few admit that. Our overall average is still under 4 hours on the busy days. Our membership has filled for the last five or six years and the waiting list continues to grow. That is highly unusual in this area with about 60% of the clubs looking openly for new members. One small problem is that we are on the cart paths about 25% of the time and we lose players on those days because of having a membership comprising of some 45% retirees. Membership cost $850 and $1,400 with annual excluding carts which are now $20.00 per person. Our course has improved conditions continually in it’s 50 years and is owned by a private group of golfers.

    With all of the complaining about access and cost for juniors we find that the interest isn’t there. We are a single membership club that offers reduced rates for a second family member. We have a reduced rate for players under 18. Five dollars for 13- 18 and free for all younger players. The rate includes both children and grandchildren. Most of the really younger players are required to play with their fathers or grandfathers until they exhibit the necessary maturity to know how to behave. In spite of this great opportunity fewer than 5% of our rounds are played by kids. One promising thing is that we have a very large practice area where as many as 40 people can use it at one time. We have several greens to hit at and have both artificial and grass tees. We also have a large green to chip and pitch on as well as having a large sand trap. We also have a very large putting only green. I have seen twice as many kids practicing there in recent years.

    Public greens fees are up only $4.00 in some 40 years here, but five to six hour rounds are very common. Semi private play has expanded as clubs fail here. Typical rounds are at $35.00 to $50.00 with a cart abd some of these courses are very, very good.

    I feel that we are very lucky in this area where affordable golf is everywhere. I still have no response as to the problem of younger golfers. If you can’t get kids to play for virtually nothing, I’m not sure what to do. Being a 36 year member, I have started to see second and third generation kids come back to join. We are losing to year round participation and travel teams in about five or six sports in this area and time to play golf is very limited.

    • Mat

      Jun 14, 2016 at 10:21 pm

      I think the key with kids is exposing them to the game. They aren’t going to become avid players because they know that the course is the domain of grown-ups. They don’t mind practicing because there won’t be some codger yelling to hurry up. The benefit is that when they grow up, they will play more. But there’s no doubt about it; 4 hours is going to be harder and harder to do. It’s going to be a game that becomes a 9-hole standard.

  16. Ian McDonald

    Jun 13, 2016 at 4:18 pm

    I think it boils down to time. I think the pace hasn’t slowed that much, but people have less free time. So a 4 hour round takes up a higher percentage of free time. The global economic busts have ruined the traditional work schedule. Companies are able to demand more hours for the same pay (pay isn’t increasing to even keep up with inflation). I would say the majority of golfers are salaried employees and are now working 60 hours a week instead of 40 hours. That is why people complain about time it takes to golf, cause they have 20 hours less of free time.

    Now as a solution I think maybe we need to rethink how we break up a golf course. I think it should be 3 sets of 6 holes. Each with a par 3 and a par 5. You get to break down golf into 3 time slots, 1.5 hours for 6 holes, 3 hours for 12, and 4.5 for 18. With proper tracking of carts they can send people off who are only playing 6 holes on whichever third will take the least time.

    • Kris

      Jun 15, 2016 at 8:32 pm

      I’m 35 and many of my peers are just flat out not interested in taking the time. Everyone here talks about 4 hours but thats not how long you are out of the house to play with transportation, practice, eating etc… This is only getting worse too. You know where millenials are moving to the past decade? Back to the cities. I’ve lived in Washington DC, New York and Tampa and not a single one is easy to get to a golf course if you live in the inner core and no new courses are going to get built near those areas either, more likely the opposite in fact.

      The things I think we would want to invest in are things like Top Golf, indoor simulators with bars and food. The other thing I think would help in the US is to try to get pitch and putts become a common thing. They are inherently less intimidating, costly and require less land. Setting up 18 ( or 6 or 12 or however many) 30-100 yard holes is something I would have jumped at when I was learning and gotten me more excited to play regular courses. The 6 holes is nice and all but when I talk to my friends and co workers that dont play its time that always comes back. Heck I am a nut and if I had easier access to something like those I wouldn’t be considering trying to build my own simulator area

  17. Robert

    Jun 13, 2016 at 3:06 pm

    Just looking at it from the perspective of younger people/kids (as in trying to focus on the next gen of potential golfers, the real target group for increasing numbers over time)… Very few of them think golf is ‘cool’. It is stuffy, full of rules, run by old folks, not very much fun, their friends don’t play (most of their friends will make fun of them even), and they aren’t very good at it, esp when beginning. If they don’t have a really strong influence driving them to play and keep playing (like an avid dad or mom that takes them out every weekend), then why should they want to golf? Anyone…? Nope, and there it is.

    Another expanded relation is the fact that most kids (and people) don’t have the discretionary income and time. So the would be avid middle class income parent never becomes that every weekend avid golfer, and the primary driver for a kid to start and stick with it is simply not there. Golf is by design elitist, and that wipes out the majority of the population from consideration. So golf has and markets itself to a very small pool of potential customers… It never will be tens of millions as a consequence. It can’t be. Toss in the fact that a golf course is generally an uncomfortable place for a kid, especially with all the stuffy norms and judgements that go along w them, then again, why would kids be drawn in? For that matter, I’v been a golfer for 30+ years, and between playing hs, college, working at clubs, knowing the game… There are always golf courses and employees and members that make me feel unwanted, let alone what a true newcomer would feel.

    You can take that to pro golfers as well… They just aren’t cool. Heck, the pga and usga don’t even want them to be cool… They would be fined and suspended if they did anything that appeared cool. There’s a strict dress code, behavioral norms, mannerisms, rules, etc. Even Tiger had to conform. Conformity isn’t cool. How is the pga and usga going to change that?

    But then again, I personally would want fewer golfers on the course, and less hacks… So even I bought into the elitist attitude. Doubt there is an easy answer to any of this. Maybe it should be to lower the expectations of running golf for profit, mass marketed for everyone.

    • Double Mocha Man

      Jun 13, 2016 at 4:45 pm

      Hey, Rickie is cool! And he wears golfing attire you would never own.

    • Shallowface

      Jun 13, 2016 at 6:07 pm

      Conformity isn’t cool? When everyone has a tattoo, it ceases to be a statement of non-conformity.
      I think the Millennial generation may be more into conformity than any in history. Look alike. Act alike. Everyone constantly on the phone. Politically correct to a fault. Hypersensitive to another fault. Not really all that different from the flower children of the 60s who thought they were the great non-conformists. But again, when “everybody’s doing it…”
      I took up golf in the 70s as a teenager. Now THAT was being a non-conformist!

      • Double Mocha Man

        Jun 13, 2016 at 7:16 pm

        I hear you! When I was a ski bum in Breckenridge, Colorado I almost got a piercing and an earring. Then I looked around me and almost every guy had an earring. So I skipped that. Being an iconoclast is where it’s at… 🙂

      • Eric

        Jun 16, 2016 at 3:39 am

        Had to comment on this – you are so completely right about this conforming generation. They seem obsessed with fitting these prescribed ideals in every aspect of life. Politics, food, parenting, dress…it’s all become right way vs wrong in their minds. It’s creepy really.

  18. Greg Tellis

    Jun 13, 2016 at 3:01 pm

    Some courses have a “pulse”, others do not…why, for example, are courses like Boundary Oak in
    Walnut Creek, Callippe Preserve in Pleasanton, Diablo Creek in Concord, Indian Valley(Novato),
    Windsor(Windsor), and The Vintners(Yountville) thriving during this period of decline in participation?…study, then copy successful operations.

    At Diablo Creek I joined a single who carried a container of sand mixed with seed to repair wounds in the ground…just an average player with above average love for the game and his course…this kind of customer should be rewarded.

    Player types should be segregated more carefully…single digit walkers should not be paired with
    cart neophytes…one time I shared a cart with an infrequent golfer…I grabbed my bag to follow
    a wild shot, and he got offended thinking I didn’t want to sit with him…it took a lot of explanation
    to get through to him about pace of play…another time I joined two players who took a 45 minute
    lunch break after nine holes, and it was mid-morning!…last week two teenagers in a cart, playing
    nine holes, stopped the cart girl directly in front of the fifth tee to load up on soda and potato
    chips…I’m 67, walking, and waiting to hit with an open hole in front…my good friend Mark Stock
    referred to these sort of players as “Jimmies”.

    Here’s to “Jimmie”-free golf and the benefits of walking a playable, well-groomed and intelligently
    managed course in a reasonable amount of time, be it nine or eighteen holes…it’s addictive, and
    NOT expensive…for a real treat, tee off twilight over the weekend when the courses are often
    quiet and beautiful.

    • Bruce

      Jun 13, 2016 at 7:00 pm

      i played most of my teenage golf at boundary oak. i remember watching keith clearwater (who went on to turn pro and won at least one tournament i believe) hitting approaches into #1. recently went back (now live in Oregon) and played diablo creek for the first time and that’s a fun course. blue rock in vallejo was absolutely jam-packed. golf isn’t dead everywhere.

  19. Snowman9000

    Jun 13, 2016 at 2:59 pm

    My 20-something son in law says, “I like to golf but the time commitment is too long.”
    He can afford the cost of playing once or twice a month. We might not be able to get the cost down much. But we can certainly reduce the time commitment. Promote 9 hole rounds, leagues, etc. Today courses basically discourage 9 hole rounds by their pricing schemes. If I go play 9 on a daily fee course, I feel like a sucker.

    I am an avid golfer now. When I was real busy with my business and kids, I did manage to play once a week in a 9 hole league for a few years. It kept me in the game during that time in my life. People like to make friends, and leagues are a good way to do that. Many leagues are based on some existing affinity group, such as work, church, whatever. It would not be too hard for every course to come up with more league choices, with formats that help people minimize their fears and have fun, and make golf friends Once a casual golfer has a few golf friends, he/she will be more interested in playing.

    I’m not a big believer in junior programs. I think they have a low conversion rate as far as seeing their participants be golfers 20 years later. They are fine for what they are, but not growing the game. Get people in their 30’s out on the courses for 9 holes and some friendship/fun.

    Might also consider offering on-site kid sitting programs while Mom and Dad golf in the Parents League. Kids get a light meal, movie, popcorn, and make play friends while Mom and Dad are making golf friends.

  20. OH

    Jun 13, 2016 at 2:44 pm

    Where I live there aren’t a ton of courses (maybe half dozen public and 4-5 country clubs). A couple of the local tracks are decent but the rest are poorly mismanaged, overpriced, don’t offer any kind of comfort station or even cart girls in the summer and play slow as molasses pretty much all the time. The country clubs are so expensive that even those of us making more than the average wage in the area would struggle to justify the dues and initiation fees. So basically we’re relegated to playing dumpy courses with little to no amenities and spending 5-6 hours away from family. I know other parts of the country may be similar or might have more or less course offerings, though. That said, the game really isn’t growing in this area because the courses don’t offer any incentive to come play (even twilight rates are high) and it’s darn near impossible to try and get on the course even later in the day with my kids to try and teach them the game. Thankfully there is a First Tee so at least we’ve got that available so my kids have an opportunity.

    I think that so much of the stagnation in the game is because you have a governing body (USGA) that has done very little to grow the game and make it more accessible to kids, manufacturers that are charging more and more and more for equipment, release cycles that seem to happen every 6 months, and courses that are mismanaged and overpriced. Of course, that’s just my ‘focus group of one’.

    I agree with Barney in that it would be very interesting to see a 3rd party study on ‘facts’ that have slowed down the development of golf. Hopefully if the USGA/R&A decide to step down from the ivory tower and do something that they’ll actually make the information public.

  21. Johny Thunder

    Jun 13, 2016 at 2:33 pm

    The problem with the corporate approach – trying to find a “reason” that 4 million people have “stopped” playing golf, is that you’ll get a corporate answer; it will be boiled down to 2 or 3 things, which will be pursued vigorously (like making the hole 15″), when the reality is that there are far more answers than that. Just like most corporations want the easy answer for what 1 billion people will buy, when, in fact, those people have a vast array of needs and wants. Golf is as guilty of this as anything – listen to Jack Nicklaus describe how “the golf ball” is responsible for the entirety of distance gains of the modern golfer… YAWN.

    Although I am always suspicious of “statistics”, and would be interested to know where these “10 million” and “4 million” numbers actually come from (US Census??)… AMONG the myriad of reasons for decline – the expected downturn after TigerMania subsided (Tiger made it cool, but it’s still a really difficult game), the decline of Tiger’s own game diminishing his “it” factor for global interest, the cost of rounds, the cost of equipment, the time involved, the demolition of many golf courses during the “housing boom” (leaving longer drives and more crowded courses elsewhere), poor running of golf course pro shops and starters (old geezer jerks, many), poor golf course conditioning and maintenance (less fun), slow play (TigerMania increased this significantly), aging boomers, disinterested Millennials (many the golf age now who don’t know or care about Tiger, the media still whines about “missing Tiger” and refuses to give them new heroes – idiots!!), Gen X work too many hours for too little pay, the economy and ruling of business by corporate juggernauts (people are afraid to take a day off, work weekends, work 60 hours a week, are expected to be “on call” 24/7, have more than 1 job, etc, etc), lasting ripple effects from the housing boom catastrophe… I do think the biggest of causes are lack of time and money from those who would like to be playing golf. Unfortunately for golf, the selfsame corporations that want more golfers employ the same policies that reduce participation (Nike, TMAG, Trump, etc.) Outsourcing, layoffs, crazy paychecks for CEOs (and tour players) with a scant “trickle down” for the masses… Longer expected working hours, healthcare coverage concerns, job insecurity… Fix THOSE things, and maybe you’ll see more golfers.

    By the way, note that the peak of golf was during Clinton’s years in office. Budget surplus, strong economy. Duh.

    • Barney Adams

      Jun 13, 2016 at 9:39 pm

      Numbers came from The National Golf Foundation. Their business

      • CD

        Jun 14, 2016 at 4:23 pm

        Since 2000 we have had a surge in the use of the internet, we are less well off, our relationship with our partners have changed, the workplace has changed, the world is more fast paced. Golf has been anachronistic. It was propped up by a generation whose attitudes are anathema to all of that. Even some regard for tradition is a double-edged sword; ostensibly a good thing. But if the guardians of tradition, the power brokers and the customers who pay are anachronistic; is it any wonder there’s been a mass decline.

        You don’t need a professional survey. Even unlike other long (duration) games like cricket and baseball golf has intrinsic limitations. The facts (not a survey’s educated guesses, or subjective questions) are these:

        What is the nature of the game?
        I.e.
        Where is it played?
        What are the barriers to me playing RIGHT now? (space, equipment, cost)

        What are the attitudes of the (‘avid’) generation?

        What are the attitudes of the next generation? (You don’t need to reinvent the wheel, surveys already exist).

        What have been the key, biggest developments in:
        – the workplace
        – use of time
        – sport
        – communications
        – gender dynamics
        – technology

        A good example is T20 which is resuscitating Test cricket. Which has the bonus of being a portable sport in terms of equipment. Our local range:9 hole course had more FootGolf players at the weekend both on course and in the bar. It helps to be a nation where the national game is football which you only need a ball to play, but these people had dressed in shorts, kit, socks, football boots.

        Golf is specialist and the world is becoming less specialised. Any response has to look at it that way.

        I respect your business perspective for the solution. I do think you’re trying to apply a ‘hard’, binary, black and white approach to a more mutable and ‘soft’ series of trends.

        Best,

  22. Shallowface

    Jun 13, 2016 at 2:26 pm

    One reason for the decline in participation among the avid is the fact that many of them could no longer accept the way they were being treated by the pro, the starter, the ranger and the greens crew. Any business that treats it customers the way the golf business treats theirs is doomed to fail. The greens crew, due to the GCSAA, is now the dominant force in the game, not the PGA of America, and the prevailing attitude we see from them is that you the golfer are in the way and preventing us from maintaining our Grass Farm.
    Years ago, a friend of mine described the weekly golf experience as “they sh*t in your hat, and you say thanks, put it back on your head and say see you next week.” I love the game too much to quit, but for those that didn’t and have quit, I can certainly understand why.

  23. Shallowface

    Jun 13, 2016 at 2:16 pm

    I saw an article this morning that said sales of boxed cereal were down among Millennials. The reason they gave for that was that boxed cereal created a bowl and spoon that had to be washed and that was “inconvenient.”

    You’re not going to get that generation to take up golf, in ANY form, to any significant degree. The game is too difficult, requires too much effort, can be downright embarrassing, and requires the phone to be put down while playing a shot.

    • Double Mocha Man

      Jun 13, 2016 at 4:52 pm

      Okay, funny stuff. Almost true.

    • ronald ebaugh

      Jun 13, 2016 at 6:55 pm

      AMEN brother!!!!

    • Tom Wishon

      Jun 16, 2016 at 11:42 am

      People can laugh about Shallowface’s comment here, but he is dead on right. And this IS a reason why golf is going to have to accept lower participation for quite a long time heading forward. The Millenials just are in a totally different mindset which is in complete opposition to what draws us here to this great game. There really is nothing that is going to change that and make even a small percentage of this younger generation embrace the cost, the time required, the attention span and difficulty to play well enough to have fun, and yes (the time away from their digital devices!)

      The ONLY part of golf that is appealing to these people about the game is the advent of the Top Golf party atmosphere built into a driving range. Short, quick, not serious, party with friends, check the digital devices every 90 secs, laugh and be done with it in an hour and off to something else.

      • RG

        Jul 6, 2016 at 10:19 am

        I’ve said it a thousand times. Among the millenials video games are and will remain their dominant form of recreation. I took my nephew and three of his friends golfing yesterday as a present for his 15th birthday. They were all upset because I made them turn their phones off. They all hit some good shots, but you could tell that by the 12th hole they were done. As soon as we finished out come the phones( it was like they were having withdrawl symptoms) and they’re checking their FB pages. When we got home they were very polite and thanked me. When I told them it was my pleasure and that we could do it again soon they kind of chuckled and said”Sure.” Then they scurried into my nephews room and spent the next 8hrs. playing Call of Duty Black Ops, laughing and high fiveing the whole time. The world has changed and the toothpaste ain’t going back in the tube.

  24. Trevor

    Jun 13, 2016 at 2:06 pm

    One detail that I haven’t seen talked about often is that golf is one of only a couple of sports where you CAN’T PRACTICE FOR FREE. Almost every other sport can be practiced with simply time and dedication but even to practice putting or short game requires a paid green fee at most courses.
    Basketball – Ball and hoop (at every school in the country)
    Baseball – glove and bat and empty field
    Hockey – Outdoor rink shinny
    Football – Ball and field
    Soccer – Plastic bags tied into a sphere
    Swimming – Water
    Tennis – racquet, ball and a net OR even a wall

    More comparable would be curling and bowling and I don’t see the participation numbers in those “sports” ever skyrocketing.

    If golf wants to grow, the price of PRACTICE needs to be reduced. Yes we’re talkin’ bout PRACTICE.

    • Shank

      Jun 13, 2016 at 2:37 pm

      Putting: just about all public course allow you to put and chip for free
      Driving/Irons: Buy a net and go set it up somewhere. Make sure you have enough room in case your swing or net fails.

      Golf is the hardest of all the sports you listed.

    • Bruce Ferguson

      Jun 13, 2016 at 9:44 pm

      Sometimes I take a shag bag go to the local grade school which has a huge mowed field behind it. Practice all kinds of shots and no one bothers me. All the kids are at home playing video games or on their computers. God forbid if they play a pick-up game of baseball or basketball. I let the occasional dog walker “play through”.

      • Double Mocha Man

        Jun 14, 2016 at 3:44 pm

        As a kid I practiced in a cornfield behind my house… hitting off the furrows between cornstalks was not easy. But I credit this to going on to play high school golf and college golf on a full scholarship. I practiced putting in my basement on an old carpet placed over an old 4″ post hole on the concrete floor where a 2X4 had been removed.

  25. Crlawrence

    Jun 13, 2016 at 1:34 pm

    Very good. Pace of play seems to be the defining reason that a lot of players “bail out” of a game at my club. Anytime the course is expected to be crowded, those that can play weekdays decline to play, then those that cannot… grudgingly endure slow play. This weakness can be fixed, and the cost would be minimal. The fix for this could be immediate and improve participation and enjoyment in our game. With their experience, the USGA would be the first option, and it falls into their sweet groove: establish a program for annual training for Marshals and Head Marshals (certified) for golf courses that could be done in every city. The training would be how to good-naturedly promote and communicate pace of play expectations at the first tee so that everyone can enjoy their round of golf: based on handicap or average round scores = which tees they can play, hit when ready; help each player watch (and help look for) where an errant ball by another player might have landed, etc.

    And probably the most important training would be how a Head Marshal would communicate a first warning to a slow group to speed up play. If this doesn’t work, the “slow” group would need to skip to the the next hole. Of course, this would be posted in the pro shop, and additionally, explained at the first tee as a precursor to letting each group understand that “we” want them to have an enjoyable round of golf. Additionally, it would be beneficial if the club were to pay the Head Marshal who has completed this very special training a reasonable salary. What could it cost?… probably less than the cost of one green fee per day. Then patrons will really appreciate that they can finish in 4 hours or less, have more time for a beer & BS, look forward to coming back, or, join this fantastic club! As a businessman, I’ve learned there are customers that are a pain in the butt and nothing’s ever their fault, so I prefer they take their business elsewhere… so, let those “must skip to the next hole” groups play elsewhere, where the pace of play isn’t managed, but occupied by the same ilk of players that would never notice it.

    • Alex

      Jun 14, 2016 at 7:37 am

      Nailed it.

      Some sort of training for rangers is a terrific idea. So, often these guys don’t want to or the course doesn’t give them the authority to move along slow groups. To avoid offending 4 slow players the rest of the course suffers.

      Laying out the slow play policy and reinforcing hit when ready on the first tee should always be done.

  26. Milo

    Jun 13, 2016 at 1:22 pm

    Why does it matter how many people are playing golf? It’s not like it’s going to go the way of the dodo, it will always be around. Just played a round this morning and the course was full by the time I left. When I got there looked like they were having a first tee type of program going on.

  27. Steven

    Jun 13, 2016 at 1:20 pm

    I would love to offer tons of opinions, but that is exactly what it would be. Adams is right. We need to find out why. Bringing people in doesn’t help if they quit. Bring them in, and then keep them here. It is the basics of any retention program. The question then is, who and how to do it.

  28. J.B.

    Jun 13, 2016 at 1:13 pm

    Pace and difficulty: played two rounds this weekend, each pushing 6hrs. each time held up by fires ones who lacked the skill for the course. Nobody has fun; beginners are getting pushed by marshals to navigate a tough course, active players tired of waiting on every shot.

    Ski hill comment very good; more par 3 and pitch-putt style courses for beginners to develop on before jumping onto a course with a forced carry tee shot over water…. Like the green circle to the black diamonds; the right difficulty level for the right player.

  29. Marnix

    Jun 13, 2016 at 1:02 pm

    There appear to be stark geographical differences, as well as ‘public’ vs. ‘country club’ variations. Here in the Pacific NW it is hard to find a weekend morning tee time because courses are really crowded both Saturday and Sunday, and at the same time we have a plethora of pay-and-play courses to choose from with costs per round varying from very affordable (~$40) to very expensive (~$150), but most in the ‘affordable range. So the phenomenon of decline in participation does not seem to affect us much here – yet, driving by some of the private clubs on weekend days I often see empty tees and greens – this could be due to intentional exclusivity, or to the fact that the next generations are not that much into the country club thing.

    Are things different in the SW, in Florida, in the NE? I don’t know, but if the survey did not at least research these aspects, it will likely not provide the richness of information that is needed.

  30. Bob Jones

    Jun 13, 2016 at 12:51 pm

    One more comment from me. I played from the age of 10 through college. After I got out of the service, got a job, got married and started a family, I had no time to play, even though I lived three miles from a course for a few years and could have played nine early on a Saturday morning. It wasn’t until the children grew up and left home that I had enough time for myself that I could start playing again. In roughly a 20-year period, I doubt that I played more than ten rounds. As for the boys getting interested in golf, they grew up in the Michael Jordan era and all they could see was basketball. Now as adults, one plays, and the other realizes that he has too much of a temper to put up with hitting terrible shots, so he doesn’t.

  31. Jim

    Jun 13, 2016 at 12:49 pm

    Time, money and kids. It takes too long, it costs way too much and if you have kids your time is spent shuttling them around on weekends. It takes almost 5 hours to play a round nowadays and that’s way too long for even the most hardcore golfers. It costs way too much and I have to look at bargain rates to get out typically as most clubs charge through the nose for early times then demand that you use a cart which adds $20 each for an already too expensive round of golf . Some of the clubs in my area charge $85 and up for a weekend round which is ridiculous (I’ll pay a high greens fee a few times per year but that’s it) and paying for a private club just isn’t in the cards at this time. And finally if you had kids they are involved in soccer, baseball, etc. on weekends and you’re running all over the place taking them to games, etc. There just isn’t any time left for golf. I know when my kids were younger that was the case and I was lucky to play 3-4 times per year but now that they are older I can play pretty much every weekend. The organized play date and sports really eats into any possible free time for golf. Lots of things impacting whether you can play golf or not and I didn’t even touch on the high price of equipment. And another thing start teaching people how to ‘play’ on a golf course to speed things up. Getting tired of the 20-somethings driving their carts around with all of them looking for one ball lost in the woods rather than finding their own ball and getting ready to hit – really slows the round down.

  32. Bruce

    Jun 13, 2016 at 12:43 pm

    my local course just posted this on Facebook. i haven’t studied the golf course business model but it seems like it would be better to have people playing rather than having it empty during non-peak times even at a discount? and not having to worry about the carts makes it easier to do that?

    “For our golfers looking for great deals, we would like to announce our Twilight and Sundowner Specials. Twilight Special is weekdays after 3pm. The Twilight rate is $15 for 9 holes & $27 for 18 holes. The Sundowner Special is weekdays after 6pm and is walking only. The Sundowner rate is $12 all you can golf.”

  33. Chris

    Jun 13, 2016 at 12:40 pm

    Barny,

    I a a big fan of your analysis of the golf industry. I think your point that it is easier to Farm than to Hunt (less effort to keep the customers than to get new ones) is a great point. Many others here make a good points about cost and time. However, I think this discussion, as most golf participation discussions do, misses two key points. First, the industry doesn’t know what matters to their customers. Not what we say we want but what really drives our buying decisions. We all say we want faster rounds but we all pay to play at the local muni and take 6hrs. Second and I think more importantly the industry treats all golfer in basically 2 ways. Either you are a public golfer or you are a country club player. Why don’t we segregate the customers like cell phones or movie theaters do. What if there was a choice in larger markets to play an inexpensive, adequately maintained course, taking 6 hrs with lots of beer carts and there was a course that had 12 min tee times, faster greens and better conditions. Couldn’t there be a market for all golfers and let the consumer patronize where they see value? By segregating the market everyone gets to pay for what is important. I know I’d love to see a walking course with high rough, fast greens and enforcement of POP. But I also know that most people would pay for those items and for some it would be a negative.

    Most industries fail when they don’t understand their customers well.
    Just a thought

  34. SB

    Jun 13, 2016 at 12:32 pm

    Have each player putt out his ball instead of constantly marking it, stepping away, allowing another player to putt and so on. If each player in a 4-some 2-putts and takes just an extra minute to mark his ball and come back to it instead of putting out, that could be 4-8 minutes a hole, or 72-144 minutes per round! That is well more than an hour a round. More if, shockingly, there are some 3-putts. It’s not so hard. The player who is away putts first and if he misses continues to putt until he holes it. No need to keep bending down, lining up etc. Then the next player goes.

    • emerson boozer

      Jun 13, 2016 at 10:24 pm

      or, no three putts allowed. if you’re on the green, one chance and go.

  35. Angry Tom

    Jun 13, 2016 at 12:32 pm

    No research needed. It’s demographics, as others have pointed out. 10,000 Boomers are turning 70 every day. They don’t play as often, and are on fixed incomes. Gen X’ers are a smaller population and Gen X men are also not the sole bread winners any more. They have less power in family dynamics: they don’t call the shots with how they spend their time on the weekends. My father had seven kids — he never played golf on the weekends. I have two kids, but it might as well be seven. You can’t disappear for 6+ hours on the weekend twice a month. After work rounds are a laughable idea. I don’t see the Millennials being in a different boat, and they probably care less about golf as a worthwhile pursuit anyway: it’s not environmentally friendly, it’s historically elitist and white, and it’s expensive. These all go against general core values of most Millennials.

    • Bruce Ferguson

      Jun 15, 2016 at 6:50 pm

      My father belonged to a boat club on the Scioto river for many years. Very family friendly, wonderful club house and facilities. After he passed away, the club Commodore all but begged me to join. Since I now live 70 miles away, it just wasn’t practical. A family friend at the club told me that there are so few new members, the club would probably not be around much longer. I also have to wonder how it is with tennis. Is participation slacking off at swim and racket clubs? This problem may not just be a golf thing.

  36. Bruce

    Jun 13, 2016 at 12:25 pm

    i wonder if more putting and or pitch&putt (nothing over 100 yards type of thing) courses would help? but nice ones with quality greens (not the places with windmills and clowns). a place for people to get started and/or for the family or people who aren’t up to a big course. maybe have one of these in combination with a “real” course or a driving range?

    when i learned how to ski they had the baby areas for beginners.

  37. Will

    Jun 13, 2016 at 12:11 pm

    Here in the UK we have an ageing golfing population as average age in many clubs is 55+. Clearly golf is not, generally speaking, attracting the younger generation for many of the reasons already stated. In my view the decline is clearly due to a) lack of TV exposure as there is NO golf on TV other than via satellite so where are the hero’s the kids want to follow other than footballers? b) Clubs are not tuned in to attracting parents and kids or, in certain instances, even women (Muirfield is a shameful embarrassment to us) c) There are few courses designed to attract youngsters (shorter, nine holes with larger cups etc). d) Other sports have adapted to changing needs over here such as cricket with its shorter form as the the longer game is dying d) the entry cost to the spoprt with manufacturers producing new equipment every year that is little or no better than last years at a cost beyond many. e) Time is precious and we don’t have enough of it and can’t get away from work or anybody due to the mobile phone era. Golf needs to address some or all of the issues otherwise it will continue to shrink.

  38. keith

    Jun 13, 2016 at 12:06 pm

    too expensive-
    too long to “play” a round-very difficult for most average players-
    why spend the money and not enjoy what you are doing

  39. Killer

    Jun 13, 2016 at 11:59 am

    I paid $72 CDN at a Hamilton, Ontario muni to play 9 holes with my 7 year old daughter and rent cart at 6:30pm. Kids under 18 should play for free or a nominal fee at least with an adult green fee. Very expensive to play fun rounds or practice rounds in evenings and off peak hours.
    I am avid. I will pay a prime time green fee on early weekends for convenience and quality but there should be more late in the day options at more reasonable prices to play the second or third round during the week. I won’t play $60 to walk on the weekend and $50 to walk on Wednesday afternoon or evening where I may or may not finish a round for example. Need more value and better service in the golf industry. Some Courses sometimes think golfers are a walking ATM machine. Fortunately we still have a lot of value where I live in Southern Ontario.

    • cgasucks

      Jun 13, 2016 at 1:20 pm

      $72 for 2 with a cart and one is them with a kid?!? Yeah…they should offer some sort of junior rate if they play with adult golfers. Some restaurants offer free meals for kids as long as they’re with an adult during certain times, why not golf courses? Great way to grow the game.

  40. farmer

    Jun 13, 2016 at 11:54 am

    Middle class income as been essentially flat for 15 or so years. It takes two incomes to support a middle class family, and even then, they pray for no unexpected expenses. You certainly don’t have to have the latest and greatest, but if it comes down to a regular round of golf or braces for the kids, well, the choice is obvious. Even in the tiny rural community where I live, the millenials don’t have much time for golf, because their kids are doing everything. Football camps, baseball camps, cheerleading camps, gymnastics, summer league or AAU basketball. If the parents don’t play golf, it’s almost a given that the kids don’t play. So, kid-centric families struggling to make ends meet just doesn’t allow much time or money for a somewhat expensive pastime.

    • Bruce

      Jun 13, 2016 at 12:00 pm

      agreed about the kids. around here it’s an endless amount of sports and music and dance and karate for the kids. i guess you’ll be seen as a bad parent if you take some time for yourself on the golf course. and getting your whole family into golf can add up. maybe they need special pricing to encourage families.

  41. Steve S

    Jun 13, 2016 at 11:45 am

    I read all the comments and the vast majority made good and valid points. They also proved Mr. Adams points. They are all opinions with no data to back them up. They may a right or wrong but we will probably never know because the golf industry is too fragmented to get together and spend the money to find out.

  42. Tumba

    Jun 13, 2016 at 11:44 am

    It simply costs to much for the common man!

  43. marybeth crowley

    Jun 13, 2016 at 11:30 am

    The failure to really welcome women to the course is a big [art of the problem. Life has changed and women are in the work force and have a say in how the household spend money and time. Men now have to pick up kids at day care and can not play after work leagues. If both people work then the guy can not be missing hours on the weekend. If more women played then it would be more of a family activity and more kids would play. I paly all the time and have a 12 handicap but I had to fight through the discrimination and the attitude. I still see it and how it turns of the new women golfer that is trying to learn and play.

    • Bruce

      Jun 13, 2016 at 12:15 pm

      i wonder if this applies to business as well. if the guys go play golf and don’t invite the women (or the women don’t golf) then i imagine that some women might feel left out of a company bonding type of activity. so maybe growing the women’s side of the game is part of the solution.

  44. Dan

    Jun 13, 2016 at 11:19 am

    Barney needs to back his nose away from the painting. What fueled the boom? A strong economy, companies that could write off big-ticket green fees, and a successful baby boomer generation that was looking forward to retirement.

    Now…no more company golf, unless you own the company, golfers in their 30s now have to contend with kids in traveling sports teams and the luxury of paying $250k for college…then add boomers that are quickly moving from the fairway to wheelchairs, and failing golf courses were either place in a crowded market or they are determined to keep their courses empty by not having reduced rate happy hours.

    Time to stop acting like golf is in triage, it’s just isn’t a time where anyone can jump into the industry and become a success by sheer participation like it was in ’97.

    • Barney Adams

      Jun 15, 2016 at 9:13 pm

      Could you answer me this. The Avid category was 6.9m in 1985 and 6.2 today. Factor in the population increase and if you really want to analyze look forward with today’s birth rate

      • Eric

        Jun 16, 2016 at 3:43 am

        That’s the point though, artificial boom in the late 90s, aging population bubble from the boomers, these are real ebbs and flows, not some sign that the game is dying.

  45. Mike

    Jun 13, 2016 at 11:15 am

    Barney,

    Although I do agree that other activities are keeping people from golf such as online gaming that one respondent mentioned as well as all the travel baseball, lacrosse etc that keep parents too busy to play much golf, I think what peaked in the year 2000 was a bubble. The economy was booming in the 1990’s and we built way to many golf courses. I worked at an affordable private club in Ohio in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. If you looked at our tee sheet in 1999 or 2000 we were booked all day long. We had foursomes teeing off until 7:00 in the evening trying to squeeze in 9 holes. As soon as the market has a small crash in the summer of 2000 when the tech market came back to reality we saw a 20-30 percent reduction in rounds. So I think the 10 million avid golfer number can be explained as a bubble and the fact that we have roughly the same number of players that we had in 1985 but with a larger population in the United States is because there are more things that keep people busy today i.e. travel sports, gaming, Netflix, etc. All those course closures are due to overbuilding in the 1990’s. I think golf is healthier that we think. Just my take.

  46. Jeff

    Jun 13, 2016 at 11:10 am

    I will tell you why I cut back, I was an avid golfer. THE PACE OF PLAY!!! I go out to play and I come back 7 hours later, why? It took me 20 minutes to get there. I paid and warmed up and that took 30 minutes (you can’t arrive exactly when your tee time is). Then it takes 5:30 hours to play the round.
    10 minutes to get back to my car and packed up and 20 minutes to get back home. Who wants to spend 7 hours playing a round of golf? NOT ME. There was a movement to get the pace of play faster, you know “while we’re young”. Well, it didn’t work.

  47. tlmck

    Jun 13, 2016 at 11:00 am

    If you want to grow the game, you are going to have to jettison the USGA/R&A and create a new game based on the old. These organizations are built around the idea of serious competitive golf, whereas millions of golfers play “casual golf” for lack of a better term. They have no interest in joining a club, or maintaining a handicap. They just go out and have a few hours of fun, and then off to other things. The also have no interest in $500 drivers or $1000 iron sets.

    The new game could be called casual golf or some such, and be limited to half a dozen rules or so. Among the rules would be lack of equipment restrictions like square grooves, hot faces, hot balls, etc. Clubmakers could make a casual set of say a driver, 4 wood, hybrid, 5,7,9,SW, and putter along with a simple carry bag and maybe even a dozen balls for around $200.

    Courses could also encourage 9 hole 1/2 price rounds with maybe a random closest to the pin contest run by the beverage cart girl. And of course there will be a smart phone app that goes along with it all. If people get hooked on casual golf, they may want to move on to “real” golf later.

    • Jason Hutty

      Jun 13, 2016 at 11:29 am

      This. golf used to be much cheaper, then the market got greedy and priced everyone out of the game, especially in the context of house and life affordability.

    • larrybud

      Jun 13, 2016 at 12:01 pm

      Do you really think the real rules have any effect on guys who aren’t following or don’t know the rules to begin with? This would be akin to kids not playing backyard basketball because they don’t have 5 a side or a 24 second shot clock.

      Two, with ebay, craigslist, and a host of other online markets, nobody is forcing new player to buy $500 drivers if they don’t want to. I also don’t see the casual player quitting golf because they can’t buy a wedge with square grooves.

      Green’s fee prices, maybe, but that has self-regulated. Courses who need to fill up the tee sheet will reduce prices, or go out of business.

  48. Bruce

    Jun 13, 2016 at 10:57 am

    Played my favorite local public course yesterday and found out the bank currently owns it and they’re looking for a buyer. It’s not too long, not too hard but when people play it for the first time they often use the term “goat track”. Admittedly before the bank took over the maintenance wasn’t that great and it doesn’t have great drainage. But i still think it’s a good, fun course.

    And a local private course (designed by peter jacobsen) is currently involved in some lawsuits so they have the option to sell the land to developers because the course isn’t generating enough revenue to satisfy the owners.

    Around here people seem to love the really difficult courses. “I only lost 7 balls” is what you hear. Almost like masochism. You go out with your buddies to get beaten up by the course. Bandon is another one of those buddy bonding experience type places.

    i have two co-workers and they both enjoy playing but one has the stress of the running the company and rarely plays while the other has 7 kids and just doesn’t have much time/money for it.

    I wonder if part of the boom was from being able to expense the golf through your company (or otherwise justify the golfing as part of doing business) and now that has been cut back?

    Maybe what is needed are more 9 hole executive-style courses (or courses with multiple nines like one here that has three) without fancy restaurants/bars. But those can be slow to play if it’s really busy.

    • thomas murphy

      Jun 13, 2016 at 11:59 am

      the “expense report” piece I think is a big change — “perks” are tightly controlled legally and fiscally.
      As you note, busy means slow so golf is damned if it succeeds in growth with the problem it becomes slower or you have to pay a LOT for pace. But I would like to see more options on 9s and having 3 with the ability to string together 18, play all day, etc. is good if you can keep the flow moving.

      • Bruce

        Jun 13, 2016 at 12:04 pm

        there’s one around here called Charbonneau that is three separate executive-style nines in a beautiful park-like setting. i’ve never seen such a lush place. and lots of women players. but it can be slow so i don’t tend to go there on weekends.

        i’ve seen some places with a day rate for folks who want to make a day of it. the guy i played with yesterday was doing just that.

  49. bob

    Jun 13, 2016 at 10:50 am

    blame the boomers.
    i was in the business for 30 years until 2007. got back into the business in 2010 as a tech rep. running into my old customers, i was dumbfounded how many of my “serious players” had cut there rounds way back. most talked of time being a factor, but what i saw was an ageing group of players that were coming to the realization that kids had to be put thru college, they had large living expenses and no money in savings. all of these issues plus no retirement plan forced them to change their lifestyle.
    the huge boomer population helped golf to explode, but now nearing retirement age, they don’t have the disposable income to feed the habit.

  50. Shank

    Jun 13, 2016 at 10:45 am

    I’d like to see a study on a twosome only course. Pace of play, enjoyment, experience.

    • Bruce

      Jun 13, 2016 at 11:58 am

      i think even with threesomes and foursomes if you made some rule/course changes it might help.

      lost balls seems like a big one. only allow 2 minutes to find a lost ball and then you drop with penalty where you think it should be if you can’t find it. mow down the rough and encourage high-visibility golf balls.

      limit the number of strokes you can have on each hole. if you are a bad golfer then you might not be able to finish out on some holes (or will need to move up to shorter tees).

      make sure that shorter tees are available (but don’t call them ladies tees or have separate shorter tees for men).

      even with twosomes if you had some golfers where they were constantly searching for lost balls or taking 12s on every par 4 and 5 i imagine they could still slow things down.

      and when it comes to putting encourage people to just hit it already. if you can’t get the ball started online anyway what difference will aim point make?

    • Shallowface

      Jun 13, 2016 at 1:53 pm

      I’ve been advocating this for years. The biggest waste of time in a round of golf is watching three other people play.

      • Shank

        Jun 13, 2016 at 2:48 pm

        And it’s so frustrating when I see all 4 guys around one ball and they do that for every shot!!!!!

  51. Jack

    Jun 13, 2016 at 10:18 am

    Great article. As an avid golfer (100+ rounds per year) I do worry about the decline of the game.
    Barney is right. Everyone has an opinion as to why participation is shrinking but there is no or very little hard data available. Growing the game is important, but I’m not a fan of some of the ideas being tossed around. Six hole courses, making the hole larger, incorporating Frisbee golf, etc. do not appeal to me. I do applaud the efforts of The First Tee and think supporting that organization will help golf and society in general.

  52. Bob Jones

    Jun 13, 2016 at 10:16 am

    Market forces determine how many courses are built, how many people play the sport, and how many courses survive. It’s up to course owners to make their place of business attractive to new customers. How about free introductory lessons? How about providing rental equipment that is good, not what looked like is got salvaged from the scrap heap? How about having tee boxes that are realistic for beginners, including juniors? or building 22 holes — 18 for established players, and a smaller four-hole circuit for newbies to get their feet wet? We could all go on with more ideas.

    Maintaining the sport is a global task with local solutions.

  53. ders

    Jun 13, 2016 at 10:12 am

    so it spiked in 2000 and its back to 1985 levels now? Did nothing else change in the late 90’s in golf? Tiger Woods brought a bunch of new people to the golf course. It was a craze and now it back to its normal level of participation.

    • larrybud

      Jun 13, 2016 at 12:03 pm

      Love or hate, Tiger was a huge influence. My old instructor told me he saw an immediate spike is players booking lessons after a Tiger win.

  54. Double Mocha Man

    Jun 13, 2016 at 10:10 am

    It is the ebb and flow of things. Things get popular; thing get unpopular. Mr. Woods motivated and excited a lot of people to take up the game, who wouldn’t have played otherwise. It’s like bandwagon fans in other professional sports… your team wins a championship and new fans come scurrying out of the woodwork. They slink back in as soon as their team regresses to mediocre. The hardcore remain. That’s your 6+ million.

  55. ButchT

    Jun 13, 2016 at 10:10 am

    The main difficulty is inappropriate tee distances. I have played for over 25 years but could not shoot consistently in the 80’s. My CC course from the senior tees had 3 par 3’s over 190 yards and 7 par 4’s over 400 yards. I am 70 and drive the ball 200 yds! I complained to the Director of golf and he explained that there are lots of seniors that can drive the ball over 250 yds – to which i responded why don’t they move back? I live on that course! I almost quit playing, but i moved to another club where the senior tees are in the 340 – 370 range. Could not be happier. On the otherhand rounds often take 5 hours plus because high handicappers are pkaing from the tips. Time is valuable – if i were not retired, i could not play

  56. steve

    Jun 13, 2016 at 9:59 am

    Golf takes a long time, it is boring and expensive. Why would anyone steer their kids to golf? Unless you are one of the avid’s? Have to buy them clubs, shoes, balls and lessons and in 6-12 months they are bored and quit.

  57. Luke Daniel Borel

    Jun 13, 2016 at 9:58 am

    The decline in golf is the same reason for the decline in bowling. The cost to buy annual passes for your local public golf course has gone up ten fold in the last decade.

    The same thing applies to going somewhere to bowl a few games. The cost is astonomical.

    Luke

    Kansas City

  58. Brent

    Jun 13, 2016 at 9:55 am

    I’m one of the drop-outs. It all came down to time for me. I no longer have the time (or patience) to play a 5 hour round. The few times I play a year now are times I can get around the course in a couple of hours. However, this usually means early weekday mornings, so it’s not convenient for me.

  59. BA

    Jun 13, 2016 at 9:49 am

    Barney,

    Is there a way for you to present the data in graphical form where only the avid golfer’s are measured over time? I suspect the industry and those concerned with golf participation are repeatedly making the same mistake over and over, and that is to make the faulty assumption that the peak 2000 avid golfer numbers was sustainable. You mentioned the starting point of 1985. I would love to see a simple regression line drawn from 1985 until now for avid golfers. I suspect the surge going into 2000 and subsequent drop will prove to be a one time phenomenon. The regression back to 6 million avid players is simply a natural result of golf retreating back to it’s long run historical growth rate. A better question to ask is what is the average number of “avid golfers” per year over the course of the entire data set? The industry is trying to chase 4 million ghosts.

    • Eric

      Jun 13, 2016 at 11:12 am

      Bingo.

    • Bobtrumpet

      Jun 13, 2016 at 11:56 am

      Thank you! I’ve been thinking the same thing. What’s the population distribution for the Avid group?

      The Avid group in 1985, from 6 y.o. to, lets say, 75 y.o. is now 36 to 105. With attrition at the top end, the group is 36 to 75. How many were added in the 6 to 36 range?

      I don’t know if there’s enough info in the data set to determine this, and to know who to survey.

    • Barney Adams

      Jun 15, 2016 at 9:17 pm

      In 1985 6.9 m Avids today 6.2 m that’s actual no factor for the population increase over the last 31 years.

      • Barney Adams

        Jun 15, 2016 at 9:24 pm

        My answer is inadequate. Best I can glean from the numbers is the trend is definitely to age. This makes the analysis of the 4m dropouts ( or drop backs) even more important.

  60. RG

    Jun 13, 2016 at 9:24 am

    Great article Barney! I am honored to be the first to comment. So here’s my 2 cents. Multiple universities now offer scholarships to play video games. There is a professional circuit and players are getting sponsorship deals. ESPN is covering the world championships and calling it a sport and it’s players athletes. I cannot pay any of my nephews (or nieces for that matter) to play golf any more. Last time I took them we made it through 5 holes. They were hitting it sideways and I was trying to get them to slow down and focus. They don’t want that, they want to hit “reset” and start again. We left after nine, went home, and we spent the rest of the day playing online. I was bummed, they were happy.
    This generation is not bringing new players to the game as past generations did. Players that should have stated in the nineties and should be reaching that status where they are playing with their buddies aren’t there. They’re at home in the A/C online gaming with their buddies, playing against other players from all over the world.

  61. ca1879

    Jun 13, 2016 at 9:13 am

    I think you’re right Barney, but I would ask why the golf equipment and services companies, who do have a business focus and understand the need to make decisions based on better data, haven’t done this? Is everyone so tightly focused on the trees in fighting for market share that they don’t see the forest?

    • Barney Adams

      Jun 13, 2016 at 10:52 am

      That is hitting the proverbial nail on the head.

      • SullGolf

        Jun 13, 2016 at 4:35 pm

        Barney, let me phrase his question differently. You were the founder and Chair of a golf equipment company, which had a business focus and understood the need to make decisions based on better data. Why didn’t you do this already?

        • Barney Adams

          Jun 15, 2016 at 9:21 pm

          In our relatively short life we were focused on getting to scale. Such questions were left to competitors 5 and 10x our size

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