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Sooooo, is golf dying?


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#1 stlouismark

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Posted 05 August 2016 - 12:05 PM

We went through a round of "golf is dying" stories a few years ago. Seems like it's coming back again and it's disturbing:

1. Nike quits golf equipment
2. Golfsmith files for bankruptcy
3. Low ratings for PGA tour
4. More research saying left wing Millenials hate the sport.
5. Rounds played down
6. Courses closing, few opening

I'm depressed again!


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#2 DickieThon

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Posted 05 August 2016 - 12:09 PM

It's not dying, it's getting back to the niche sport it's historically been.  I'm fine with it.

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#3 2putttom

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Posted 05 August 2016 - 12:09 PM

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#4 DaRiz

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Posted 05 August 2016 - 12:26 PM

My opinion is that TMAG and Cally oversaturated the market, and other companies felt that they had to keep up in order to maintain a market share. The only problem is that TMAG and Cally don't really make a whole bunch of profit, so it is idiotic to try to copy their business model. The market is not growing like other markets are, which is the root cause of it all. Can't keep adding companies with multiple product launches per year to the mix when there is a finite number of customers.

I don't think what happens in the equipment market matters one lick to what happens in the overall golfing industry. Yeah, it would be great if there was a large enough user base to support places like Golfsmith, but there isn't and guess what, we are all still going to buy golf clubs.

Once the game starts to grow with actual participants, we will see another growth in the equipment market. And they will probably overestimate the growth again, and the whole cycle will repeat itself.
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#5 stlouismark

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Posted 05 August 2016 - 12:39 PM

View PostDickieThon, on 05 August 2016 - 12:09 PM, said:

It's not dying, it's getting back to the niche sport it's historically been.  I'm fine with it.

When was it a niche sport? Like prior to 1995ish.....pre real-estate/country club boom and pre Tiger?


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#6 stlouismark

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Posted 05 August 2016 - 12:41 PM

View PostDaRiz, on 05 August 2016 - 12:26 PM, said:

My opinion is that TMAG and Cally oversaturated the market, and other companies felt that they had to keep up in order to maintain a market share. The only problem is that TMAG and Cally don't really make a whole bunch of profit, so it is idiotic to try to copy their business model. The market is not growing like other markets are, which is the root cause of it all. Can't keep adding companies with multiple product launches per year to the mix when there is a finite number of customers.

I don't think what happens in the equipment market matters one lick to what happens in the overall golfing industry. Yeah, it would be great if there was a large enough user base to support places like Golfsmith, but there isn't and guess what, we are all still going to buy golf clubs.

Once the game starts to grow with actual participants, we will see another growth in the equipment market. And they will probably overestimate the growth again, and the whole cycle will repeat itself.

When/how do you see participation growing again? Liberal Millenials aren't into it.....maybe the generation born around 2000 and after?

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#7 mcs4

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Posted 05 August 2016 - 12:44 PM

All I know is that there's more golf on TV than there's ever been and courses still seem pretty packed down here in South Florida.

I do think there are some manufacturers that thought there was more to get out of the equipment side of the game than there actually was.
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#8 JJuel5

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Posted 05 August 2016 - 12:47 PM

I am a liberal millennial and love the sport. I have many friends just like me who also love the sport. Seriously, the increase and current decline are very much to do with Tiger Woods. He reached an audience previously not reached. Now that he isn't playing well (or even playing currently) that group has gone away from golf. It could definitely spike up again if we get another transcendent personality. Someone who will reach more than just the die hard golf fans. Someone who can bring in people who never thought about golf before.
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#9 rcain1us

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Posted 05 August 2016 - 12:49 PM

It's definitely contracting.

The boom of the Tiger era saw more and more courses opening up.

Now the costs of maintenance (mostly the cost of gas) are just too much for some places to make a profit, you add the value of all that land in some areas its not hard to see the pull to sell out.

Luckily my home course also makes a bundle with outings and weddings and the like which offsets whatever the course isn't making from golf, and for the most part the course is still full most weekends.

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#10 ldchristopher

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Posted 05 August 2016 - 12:51 PM

Golfsmith might file for bankruptcy but that's a result of things like bad leases. As for the other things, golf has always had peaks and valleys that tend to reflect the economy. It's a sport that relies on consumers making luxury purchases and when people either can't afford said luxury expenses or need to slow their spending habits, their golf budget is among the first things to go. I'm fine with it returning to a niche market, as one poster referred to. If that means less hackers losing balls and slowing rounds down to a crawl, I'm not going to complain.

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#11 cgasucks

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Posted 05 August 2016 - 12:52 PM

I don't think it's dying...its stagnant at best but more like contracting to levels only seen in the 80s IMHO.

Sears is dying...

Edited by cgasucks, 05 August 2016 - 01:09 PM.

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#12 MitchellGolfing

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Posted 05 August 2016 - 12:56 PM

View PostJJuel5, on 05 August 2016 - 12:47 PM, said:

I am a liberal millennial and love the sport. I have many friends just like me who also love the sport. Seriously, the increase and current decline are very much to do with Tiger Woods. He reached an audience previously not reached. Now that he isn't playing well (or even playing currently) that group has gone away from golf. It could definitely spike up again if we get another transcendent personality. Someone who will reach more than just the die hard golf fans. Someone who can bring in people who never thought about golf before.
As a very conservative millennial, I agree with you. To grow golf, we need another big, talented personality to reach way outside of the normal game. Golf is fine. Companies will come and go, and people will stop and start playing. It's just an ebb and flow cycle.
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#13 Nixhex524

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Posted 05 August 2016 - 12:58 PM

There are a lot of places in the country where the golf season is short so I think it's easier for people to lose interest faster.  It wasn't until I moved out to Southern California from NJ that I was able to really get into the game as I can play just about any day of the year, any time of day.  I didn't really think about golf when I lived back east during the winters.  I just assumed golf was THRIVING for a while, I wouldn't say dying now, maybe just purging those that aren't as serious about it???
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#14 jbhawx

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Posted 05 August 2016 - 12:59 PM

View Poststlouismark, on 05 August 2016 - 12:05 PM, said:

We went through a round of "golf is dying" stories a few years ago. Seems like it's coming back again and it's disturbing: 1. Nike quits golf equipment 2. Golfsmith files for bankruptcy 3. Low ratings for PGA tour 4. More research saying left wing Millenials hate the sport. 5. Rounds played down 6. Courses closing, few opening I'm depressed again!

Number 1 and 2 are a long time coming. Surprising this type of news didn't come sooner. Very few, maybe 1 or 2, companies in golf actual turn a profit. Never mind TMs statement about their M line being profitable, it dismisses the fact that they are still losing money, AND are up for sale. The fact that it is happening now after a horrible Q2 report is alarming though. It could signal that companies are finally hitting the bottom and if they can't find a way to stay afloat more exits could occur.

Number 3 is not really surprising. Golf has to compete with other sports for viewers. Would you rather watch the Olympics, baseball, Stanley Cup or the NBA finals? ESPN is more likely to show you everything else first over golf because they simply have a larger fan base, and/or the event is far more significant in comparison to 1 of 4 majors. The Masters and the Opens are probably the biggest audience grabbers, other than that, golf can't even touch the viewer ratings of even the worst MLB team, or NFL team. Not to mention no house hold name exists in Golf (I'm not implying that one is needed, or that having one will save golf). On top of that, the sudden light that has been shining all over the rules and how strict they are doesn't help either.

Number 4 is total garbage. Anyone can make stats for or against golf. Unless you poll a vast majority of actually millennials (truth is most polls only have a few thousand participants, with specifically targeted questions to generate a desired outcome) there is no real way to determine if millennials actually hate the game or not.

Number 5 depends on where you live. If golf is big in your area this is obviously a non issue. In other areas where golf isn't so big, this could be a huge issue. Again this is easy to misconstrued. I can easily show how rounds played is significantly lower in northern states than in southern states and I'll leave out the fact that I pulled the stats during the middle of winter. So of course the rounds played are down in northern states, but that information is withheld so it "looks" bad without going into details of when/where the stats are coming from.

Number 6 is still an aftershock of the housing bubble as some will say. Again this will also depend on the area. In areas where golf isn't big, the more courses, the higher the risk you have for closing the doors. However; other areas may be so saturated that 10 courses in the local area isn't even enough to keep up with demand.

just my thoughts.

Edited by jbhawx, 05 August 2016 - 01:04 PM.

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#15 NevinW

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Posted 05 August 2016 - 01:00 PM

It isn't dying.  The economy hasn't recovered enough and that is the primary problem.  Golfsmith's problems sounds like it is a bunch of bad real estate deals and leases more than anything.  Nike getting out is hardly a surprise.  How many great golf club manufacturers have gone away over the years?  Remember Macgregor, Powerbilt, Wilson (to a lessor extent)?  These were the main club companies when I started playing.  When the economy improves and there is more disposable income, golf will expand again.


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#16 omoub001

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Posted 05 August 2016 - 01:01 PM

View PostJJuel5, on 05 August 2016 - 12:47 PM, said:

I am a liberal millennial and love the sport. I have many friends just like me who also love the sport. Seriously, the increase and current decline are very much to do with Tiger Woods. He reached an audience previously not reached. Now that he isn't playing well (or even playing currently) that group has gone away from golf. It could definitely spike up again if we get another transcendent personality. Someone who will reach more than just the die hard golf fans. Someone who can bring in people who never thought about golf before.

I second this. I am a liberal millennial (25 yo) and I've been playing since I was 14 from growing up in a middle class family. I don't think the issue is that young people don't want to play the game, I think that we are seeing an economy with stagnant wages and increased costs (rent, power, groceries, etc.) and the money isn't enough to get into a sport that has a significant start-up cost. Think about it, before you even play 18 holes people typically buy a box set that ranges from $200-400. Then they have to spend normally 10-15 sessions just beating balls until they can advance it far enough to make the game semi enjoyable. We're probably close to 550 dollars and 20 hours.

If the green fees were cheaper and the next "level" of equipment didn't cost so much I don't think we'd have this issue. Also, consider the question, what has the game done to reach out to this population? We haven't really seen any outreach by the tour or PGA to the millennial age gap that didn't play golf during the "Tiger era"

Edited by omoub001, 05 August 2016 - 01:03 PM.

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#17 joey2aces

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Posted 05 August 2016 - 01:05 PM

maybe the millennials that hate the sport do so because it is something that cannot be given to them for free.
I am not sure why people need someone like Tiger to be drawn to a sport... maybe these same millennials need to look up to their parents or teachers rather than self-absorbed athletes.

Tiger grew the game for sure... to the point where people were either forced out of golf, forced to play 5+ hour rounds at their local muni or forced to join a private club to keep pace of play bearable.

golf companies cannibalize each other and often times, themselves. eBay has taken quite a bite from brick and mortar.... not to mention the thousands of BST transactions that take place. It's not too rare to see many BNIP clubs on here for 20% or less than retail.

golf isn't dying... the tide is out and we are simply seeing who is naked.

Edited by joey2aces, 05 August 2016 - 01:05 PM.

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#18 Golf Monkey

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Posted 05 August 2016 - 01:06 PM

Golf is seen as slow and boring by those outside of the sport.  Many of top professionals are self centered and at least one has no interest in growing the game which has made him very rich.

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#19 mudmarlin

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Posted 05 August 2016 - 01:12 PM

As said, no Tiger equals lower ratings. He made non golf people golf people. Now he's not playing and now the non golf people are non golfers again. But no it's not dying. As also has been said the public courses around me are packed every weekend. A tee time before 1 on the weekend is a hard thing to get if you don't book early. The golf club business however is in a tail spin. I'm kind of glad about that. Perhaps well stop seeing new models every year and prices go down.

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#20 displayname

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Posted 05 August 2016 - 01:12 PM

I think part of what has made the golf industry so unstable is the inability to make it something other than a luxury sport. Before everyone freaks out and says it's not the stuck up rich person sport, just compare it to other sports.

You can get into baseball, soccer, tennis, etc with high end brand new equipment for less than the price of a value golf bag. You can also play every single one of those sports for free at almost any public park. I've said this before, and I stand by it - golf has a huge barrier of entry. No matter how much everyone might want to play golf, or want their kids to play golf, it's an expensive, time consuming sport to jump into.

I'm close to the millennial age group (30). I spend more on golf than I should. More of my friends are starting to gain interest in golf, but it's largely because more of them are getting to a financial point in their lives where the barrier of entry doesn't seem as great. Even some of my friends that grew up playing just lost track of the game, or are coming back to it. From your late teens through early thirties, golf is just too expensive for the average income in that age bracket. Or at least more than they are willing to spend just to try it out. I will say more casual settings removing barriers of entry like Top Golf have defiantly helped. I personally know 3 people off the top of my head who ended up buying clubs after about 5 visits to Top Golf. They aren't avid golfers yet, but they can be persuaded to get out for 9 on a weekend here and there. And they end up talking about potentially playing golf on a course much more frequently after an afternoon at Top Golf.

But at the end of the day, the combination of too many companies, too much R&D and high dollar marketing, the economy, and the fact that a round of golf really does absorb the majority of a day for most people doesn't make it as appealing as many other options to most people. I don't think it's so much a lack of interest as it is a lack of willingness to invest the money and time once the interest has been sparked.

Edited by displayname, 05 August 2016 - 01:16 PM.


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#21 Golfnut801

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Posted 05 August 2016 - 01:13 PM

golf is just a yuppie sport made for yuppies. That's just one of the comments I've heard before. My main issue with golf is the people and there judgmental opinions.
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#22 North Butte

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Posted 05 August 2016 - 01:16 PM

Shrinking, not dying.

There are more golfers, more money being spent on golf and more golf courses out there now than there were when I took up the game 25 years ago. It did not seem anything like "dead" to me.

But back then there was one locally-owned semi-Big-Box golf store within 100 miles of me. Couple more really dinky mom and pop places. No way to buy or sell clubs on the Internet (not at any meaningful scale, anyway). Not nearly as much golf on TV and therefore not nearly the TV advertising budget for golf companies. And outside of the Masters I'd never met anyone who had attended a PGA Tour event.

So if it's shrinks another 30-40% in terms of rounds played I might start worrying. Or maybe not even then.

To me the number of rounds played (and possibly the amount of money spent on green fees and club memberships) is the only meaningful measure of the size of the game.

Edited by North Butte, 05 August 2016 - 01:17 PM.

Everything has its drawbacks, as the man said when his mother-in-law died, and they came down upon him for the funeral expenses.

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#23 CheckJV

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Posted 05 August 2016 - 01:17 PM

My home track is a small private club founded in 1956.  Last month we maxed out our membership (at 400) for the first time in the history of our club.  We have a waiting list to join.  Golf not dead.

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#24 CosmosMpower

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Posted 05 August 2016 - 01:17 PM

View Poststlouismark, on 05 August 2016 - 12:05 PM, said:

We went through a round of "golf is dying" stories a few years ago. Seems like it's coming back again and it's disturbing:

1. Nike quits golf equipment
2. Golfsmith files for bankruptcy
3. Low ratings for PGA tour
4. More research saying left wing Millenials hate the sport.
5. Rounds played down
6. Courses closing, few opening

I'm depressed again!

Except for #6 all sounds good to me!  Faster rounds, no more ugly green and yellow clubs, no more used clubs marked at full price or liberal fools on the course slow playing.

Edited by CosmosMpower, 05 August 2016 - 01:18 PM.


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#25 ucmike11

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Posted 05 August 2016 - 01:23 PM

Its not a problem with golf....retail big box stores are closing, no matter the products they sell.  Best Buy, etc.

Why would I buy from Golfsmith if I can find it cheaper online? Amazon.com for the win.


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#26 MitchellGolfing

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Posted 05 August 2016 - 01:25 PM

View Postucmike11, on 05 August 2016 - 01:23 PM, said:

Its not a problem with golf....retail big box stores are closing, no matter the products they sell.  Best Buy, etc.

Why would I buy from Golfsmith if I can find it cheaper online? Amazon.com for the win.
This is very true. A lot of Brick and Mortar stores are falling out.
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#27 MtlJeff

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Posted 05 August 2016 - 01:26 PM

Market for equipment isn't growing,  when that happens companies will go out of business,  usually the ones with low margins who chased lowest common denominator sales


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#28 nikegal

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Posted 05 August 2016 - 01:28 PM

View Postjoey2aces, on 05 August 2016 - 01:05 PM, said:

Golf isn't dying... the tide is out and we are simply seeing who is naked.
Great post Joe!! The game is and will continue to be fine. Those "true" golfers, and I don't care if you're a Plus or a 25~ handicap, 15, 35 or 75yo, those true to the game will continue to play it just as they have for ages. And those that thought it was a great activity to pass the time?

As Richard has said, that 5 mill ain't nearly enough, lol. I hope that you're having a nice season Joe. Have a great weekend :) Fondly, Madison

Edited by nikegal, 05 August 2016 - 01:29 PM.


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#29 txl146

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Posted 05 August 2016 - 01:29 PM

TMAG is saturating the market with new products, but people seem to pay premium for their new products. Everyone should adapt Ping strategy.

Edited by txl146, 05 August 2016 - 01:30 PM.

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Ping i20

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#30 Whisper11

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Posted 05 August 2016 - 01:29 PM

Not so bad of a time if you are currently invested in the sport. High supply, lower demand begins to make things cheaper for those of us who have been here for a while. I see more and more courses with better specials and clubs giving away free initiation just to get new faces in the door. As we know, this ebbs and flows but good time to take advantage of things over the next few years, if in fact, the OP's symptoms do signal a decline in the sport.

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