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At what point will the decline of golf be irreversible...


270 replies to this topic

#1 melo

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Posted 21 August 2017 - 11:30 AM

I've been reading recently about the impact of millennial habits, cost of living/economic issues, and time constraints or time preferences on industries. Data seems to show that golf is, or will be, one of the most severely impacted industries by these changes. Some data I have read suggests that 83% of regular golfers are over 40, without about 37% of all golfers being over 60. Clearly, even with the increases in life expectancy, golf can't be sustained as the older generations die off. As they pass, that's about 10 million regular, loyal golfers that need to be replaced...so my question is...at what point are we unable to reverse the trend? And what can we do to to attract more loyal golfers from those who are under 39?

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#2 Matt J

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Posted 21 August 2017 - 11:34 AM

Ebb and flow.  Golf will survive.  Must remember data is after the huge Tiger surge and a huge recession.  There were too many courses, soon there will be too few.

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#3 nbg352

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Posted 21 August 2017 - 11:39 AM

Every old golfer is soon enough replaced by a young golfer.
If there is decline, it will be gradual.
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#4 HawkeyeHacker

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Posted 21 August 2017 - 11:44 AM

Golf's been around for hundreds of years.  Millennials (which I am) won't kill it.  They'll play more as they get older.  Since millennials are the largest generation maybe golf will be bigger than ever when as this generation comes of age.

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#5 Pepperturbo

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Posted 21 August 2017 - 12:39 PM

When I was in my 20-30's I was around golf but didn't play, and single.  Few people played golf because of cost, family demands as well as business demands.  The same is true today.  My 20 something millennial son and his friends seldom play golf for the same reasons youth didn't play back in my 20's, etc.  If the youth golfer turn out in PGA and LPGA youth golf events, even in Pro tournament gallery's are any indication, it confirms my belief.  Ebb and flow.

Edited by Pepperturbo, 22 August 2017 - 03:30 PM.

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#6 kgeisler13

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Posted 21 August 2017 - 12:49 PM

I think golf courses and golf clubs are way to expensive for the average golfer.  My friends that play golf 1 a week, buy used or year old equipment thats on sale.  I am a golf nut so I do not mind paying big bucks for some equipment or nice course as long as I have the money.  Also I am very blessed that my work pays for my country club membership.  If I was a not a member of a club I would probably only be able to 2 times and barely hit balls because of the cost of golf.  I get it you can find cheap golf course but if you want a decent course they can cost anywhere from 40 to 65 dollars on weekends.  I get it you have to keep up maintenance on the whole property but I think some courses have some super inflated rates for the course they offer.  


I do find that if people have the money or a hook up at a course they start to play the game after college if a parent or grandparent introduced to them some time in life.  Its a game you can play for life.
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#7 SixtySomePing

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Posted 21 August 2017 - 01:22 PM

Just a quick food for thought.... when I was a kid, like 55 years ago, we played baseball, in leagues all summer, at school, or in the streets. We went to the minor league games in my town, we watched baseball even on Saturday afternoons...

This last weekend I played in a company golf tournament, I'm 66, I have no plans to quit as you can play golf all your life. There are young people in our company playing, some brand new to golf. My grandson is learning to play, the local schools have golf teams, for boys and girls, these didn't exist when I went to school. The Solheim Cup attracted many including young ladies, as well as the PGA this year, let alone all the youth programs for golf.

We went on a 90 minute flight Saturday night with our son (he flys a small plane) and I looked down and saw many golf courses with lots of players on them. I also saw lots of empty baseball diamonds, some were city diamonds with 4 fields. When I was young those would have been packed...   whew, hope I can get this posted before I die off..  :)

All I'm saying is golf to me seems to be flourishing... at what point will the decline in baseball be irreversible?
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#8 300e

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Posted 21 August 2017 - 01:44 PM

While I would agree that golf won't die, the current state of the industry is in a very poor place.  In my twenties, at the height of the boom my group and I would routinely log 80 rounds per year,and while getting a tee time could be difficult, the conditions were excellent and all was good.  My game took a backseat when I started a family and got more involved with my kids sports as a coach and volunteer.  Those days are quickly closing, and I've returned to playing again and frankly the value proposition, for public golf anyway is exceedingly poor.  

On the one hand I have a local who in the past was always hailed as a top flight track, but now is poorly maintained and had many course features removed to, ya know "speed up play."  I take a little pity in that greens fees at this course have not increased in the last fifteen years, and depending on when you play, have even backtracked.  Tough place for them to be.

On the other hand, I decided to pay a little more this past weekend and went to a nice track that has continued to keep up most of their maintenance.  Unfortunately they stack the course so tight that my 2:30PM tee time was not going to allow me to finish by sundown.  When I hit the 13th tee, and saw four groups stacked up, and noting I'd been playing for four hours already, I left.  I had attempted to get a rain check at the turn, but was met with a resounding "no."  Staffing was minimal as I had to search out somebody in the clubhouse to inquire regarding the rain check, the starter had no idea if any of the groups in front of us had dropped out or plodded on, and not a ranger to be seen all day.  

I'm looking at going the club route.  I don't have confidence the public golf industry is anywhere near settling out for the benefit of all.

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#9 Ferguson

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Posted 21 August 2017 - 01:59 PM

Tiger was a staple of American Sports, not just golf.  IMO the damage is done.
Trying to anticipate what the Millennials will do is tough.  


Will there be a rebirth?
If The Tiger returns - yes.
If he does not - maybe.


Will golf ever reach the peak again to the level of play during the Tiger Era?
No, never, never.

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#10 HatsForBats

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Posted 21 August 2017 - 02:05 PM

Maybe when instead of nearly 70% of high school students attending college we go back to a more normal 50% (USA)? With the price of college these days that has to be sucking a large amount out of the disposable spending for kids these days. After the boom of not only golf but the falsely inflated real estate industry it seems like a normal correction. Not time to panic yet though I am sure some are finding a way to make a decent buck out of spreading fear.


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#11 golfandfishing

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Posted 21 August 2017 - 02:07 PM

Golf isn't going to die. But it does need a bit of a step back in terms of expectations and what the experience is. For a period of time courses opened left and right, most affiliated with a housing development. This affiliation required a "hook" so every course had to be best new public, best new private, the only (insert designer name) course in xxx area, longest, highest slope/rating, toughest whatever to build a marketing campaign around. Each of these courses required opulent clubhouses and a GM, a Director of Golf, a Head Pro, a director of golf services, a teaching pro, 3 assistant pros, a merchandise manager, 3 golf services supervisors and 18 services employees to staff the bag drop, staging area, range and cart barn. Nearly every course opened from say 1992-2007 had outrageous overhead due to payroll and maintenance. You had $450,000 worth of payroll doing the work that a $65,000 head pro used to do before the "boom".  And players started reviewing courses based on bag drop staff and clubhouse amenities instead of the course itself.

Build a course with a range, have enough carts and hire a guy that can add to run the place. Allow him to hire as revenue allows.

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#12 John9213

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Posted 21 August 2017 - 02:09 PM

In my opinion, I don't see golf slowing down much at all. I played when I was 10-15 years old and was hooked. Wanted to join the tour one day and play at the elite level. But my school did not have a golf team and there wasn't any options in the area for younger players so I lost interest and continued with baseball. Now that I picked the game back up in my late twenties, I see a lot of guys my age on the course. My high school now has a very successful golf team as does most of the other schools in the area and I see these youngsters out all the time.
Golf for a lot of players is a social experience. The teeneager to early 20s crowd doesn't have a great showing on the courses because most people in those age groups are tied up with school, work, other sports and chasing the opposite sex around. But as you move into your late twenties, most of those same people have careers and their lives have slowed down from the bar scene and look towards other venues for fun. That's where golf comes in.
I loved baseball and wish I could continue with it but I didn't have the skill level. Golf is something I can play for the rest of my life and have fun doing so! Will I ever make the tour, highly doubtful. But I'll be out there every chance I can, spending money on new gear, and enjoying my time with friends and family. Some of my most successful business deals have come on the golf course and that's just the cherry on top of this game. A happen chance pair up with an individual and by the 19th hole, we've struck a deal that is lucrative for the both of us. These reasons are why I don't see golf disappearing anytime soon.
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#13 Mario Good Times

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Posted 21 August 2017 - 02:13 PM

Golf needs a Mia Hamm of the golf works to spark the little girls in America to come out.  That will start a small spark, little girls soccer is booming, golf can boom with the little girls on a smaller scale also.  Golf has its problems with growth, money, equipment but getting interest from the young ones is key.  

One huge problem golf has, and I'm seeing miner improvements over the last 5 years is equipment.  A lot of non hard core players buying clubs from the golf shops, (local courses, golfsmith,Golf galaxy, dicks etc) and don't have a clue about swing weights, flexes, lie, loft and so on.  I'm hoping more custom fittings and education of these things can really help golf for its future.  Golf equipment is to expensive to not have what's right for each individual player.

Edited by Mario Good Times, 21 August 2017 - 02:18 PM.


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#14 uitar9

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Posted 21 August 2017 - 02:33 PM

At least its not going the way of newsprint and paper backs. LOL

Golf courses-I'm only 6 years into golf and I'm 64. From what I've seen and read, golf really took off with the advent of the likes of Palmer/Nicklaus and color TV, (isn't that why every US course looks so green) then really prodded by the likes of Tiger. Pre boomers chugged along with the courses they had. Course Building took off exponentially, golf flourished, now boomers are passing and I suppose a number of courses will fail/close. Lack of money to keep up maintenance, lack of players. Private courses are already starting to get innovative with share purchase/annual/monthly fees to try and get younger folks. Theoretically, older, kid free millennials will possibly create another boom, possibly even taking up golf. Some Courses may/will fail until they are picked up cheap enough to succeed as golf courses or the developer picks them up cheap and the bulldozer turns them into something else

Where I live, My wife and I play weekly, usually on the same muni course. We see no change.

Golf equipment manufacturing appears to be a whole different perspective. Short life products like three taylormade drivers a year can compete for only so long.

Golf vacation Industry etc etc etc.

Every industry will have ebbs and flows. Some industry's will disappear. Playing golf appears to have a bit of history and may hang around in some form. lol

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#15 cwglum

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Posted 21 August 2017 - 02:33 PM

Local tournaments in our area are being affected.  When I started playing events 10-12yrs ago, there were participants in their 20's through 50's and up.

Now that I'm in my 40's, I don't see very many younger entries into the events.  Very rarely see a new face around, mostly the same group of guys at each event.  The next group of 20-30 somethings aren't in many events in our area.


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#16 melo

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Posted 21 August 2017 - 02:39 PM

Thank you all for your opinions and insights. I see a couple of trends in the posts...

Some people don't think golf is really declining, or at least nothing other than a typical ebb and flow.

Others of you think the cost of playing/equipment/etc is affecting play

Some of you think courses will close.

Do any of you think the following things are disrupting the market?

The length of time it takes to play (not whether it takes 4 hours or 4:30, I simply mean the fact that it takes anywhere over 2 hours to play)

The difficulty of learning and playing well

The cost of lessons/instruction and lack of access to quality practice facilities?
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#17 dbleag

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Posted 21 August 2017 - 02:49 PM

Golf will always flourish for the older crowd - what other game/sport can you play for exercise as you age that won't give you a heart attack.

For kids, I'm not sure if golf is strong enough to compete with their mobile devices.



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#18 sailfishchris

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Posted 21 August 2017 - 03:02 PM

I see golf becoming lawn darts ....an underground sport too dangerous for most to play. You'll have to borrow your grandfather's clubs to play in a few years to even play. LOL!
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#19 2putttom

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Posted 21 August 2017 - 03:09 PM

View Postdbleag, on 21 August 2017 - 02:49 PM, said:

Golf will always flourish for the older crowd - what other game/sport can you play for exercise as you age that won't give you a heart attack.

For kids, I'm not sure if golf is strong enough to compete with their mobile devices.



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#20 azkaevolution

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Posted 21 August 2017 - 03:24 PM

i know courses aren't quite laid out for this...but my proposal to get new players into the game (or bring back ones who have left), is to start breaking courses up into 6 hole blocks that people can play in combination...for me, I tend to play 9 holes at a time (time constraints), but sometimes that isn't quite enough.  if one could book a tee time for 6 holes and take an hour out of their day, i think it would be helpful.  have a little more time?  play 12.  want to go the full 18?  or play 24?  30?  36?  all options on the table.

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#21 MrJones

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Posted 21 August 2017 - 03:27 PM

Yesterday as I was finishing my round the kids Drive, Chip and Putt Championship was having a qualifying sectional. It was cool to see all those kids out there and excited for the game.

One thing I've noticed personally is that parents tend to push their athletically inclined kids into sports like football, baseball, basketball, ect. that take up a lot of the kids time with practice and game play. Golf ends up being something they take up later because of it.

I'd give anything to go back and start playing when I was a kid.
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#22 Ferguson

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Posted 21 August 2017 - 03:38 PM

MARKET DISRUPTION:


The length of time it takes to play (not whether it takes 4 hours or 4:30, I simply mean the fact that it takes anywhere over 2 hours to play)
Nope.  The vast majority of golfers know that it takes ~10-15 minutes to play a hole.


The difficulty of learning and playing well
Nope.  The vast majority of golfers know that getting good at anything takes time and practice.


The cost of lessons/instruction and lack of access to quality practice facilities?
Nope.  The vast majority of golfers know that it takes a reasonable investment to play well.



Our society is shifting from the mentality of hard work + dedication = dividends to one of if I can’t tap my phone and make it happen in 15 minutes, I can’t be bothered.

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#23 Conrad1953

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Posted 21 August 2017 - 03:57 PM

Look at what people invested to see a 3 minute solar eclipse. They
can get a lot of 5 hour rounds for that, lol. Golf will be fine.
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#24 matthewb

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Posted 21 August 2017 - 03:57 PM

Narratives of decline are wonderful blank canvases on which one can project their anxieties. Add in a little fetishization and you've got a heady brew.

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#25 rangersgoalie

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Posted 21 August 2017 - 04:21 PM

Old guy observations
I used to play pick up baseball, basketball, street hockey all the time
When ponds froze, head to the pond and join a shinny game
Combo of touch/ tackle football after baseball season

And we waited til the big hand reached the 12 at 2pm and teed off in groups to play

Now, I see organized practices, play dates, and little of the justbplay I was blessed to do as a child

At the parks near my home the only time I see kids say, on the baseball field is with a dad or coach working on something. Rarely if ever see kids just playing.  

Lessons, tournaments, practicing etc are where I see most kids at our course.  

All sports have devolved into a hopeful scholarship opportunity instead of a game to PLAY, and it is getting too time consuming and expensive in part because we want kids to compete all the time, not just in golf, but most youth sports


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#26 CMCSGolf

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Posted 21 August 2017 - 05:01 PM

As many people have noted, what's the big deal if golf declines a little bit?  Since only a few of us make money on the game, it really shouldn't be a big deal if there are 10 or 20% fewer golfers.  Some courses might close and an equipment company might go out of business, but we'll all still have plenty of great places to play.

I think the desire to "grow the game" largely comes from people making money on it and the organizations in charge.  Do train enthusiasts or Birders or stamp collectors constantly worry about the number of young people enjoying their hobby? I'm sure everyone would like other people to find their past time interesting and should share it with young people if the opportunity exists, but a change in young people's preferences will not mean the end of golf.

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#27 Goredoh

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Posted 21 August 2017 - 05:07 PM

One thing that has worked very well at my club is age brackets for membership a Junior has a membership of 600 dollars AU a year for a 7 day playing rights which is from the age bracket of 18-26 then there is a younger membership 26-30 which is 1200 AU a year and gradually goes up to where you might have a more stable income to afford the costs. it gives a way of younger members not getting reemed by costs and getting to enjoy a decent private club.

Also my club is built on an estate and residents have to pay a membership like most i believe, Also the course is open to the public on sundays and other various times. The club is booming at the moment and has alot of younger members like myself.

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#28 melo

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Posted 21 August 2017 - 05:23 PM

View PostConrad1953, on 21 August 2017 - 03:57 PM, said:

Look at what people invested to see a 3 minute solar eclipse. They
can get a lot of 5 hour rounds for that, lol. Golf will be fine.

People spent a fortune on the eclipse because it is a once in a couple of generations, or even once in a lifetime event depending where you live. Golf is not the same.
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#29 melo

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Posted 21 August 2017 - 05:25 PM

View PostCMCSGolf, on 21 August 2017 - 05:01 PM, said:

As many people have noted, what's the big deal if golf declines a little bit?  Since only a few of us make money on the game, it really shouldn't be a big deal if there are 10 or 20% fewer golfers.  Some courses might close and an equipment company might go out of business, but we'll all still have plenty of great places to play.

I think the desire to "grow the game" largely comes from people making money on it and the organizations in charge.  Do train enthusiasts or Birders or stamp collectors constantly worry about the number of young people enjoying their hobby? I'm sure everyone would like other people to find their past time interesting and should share it with young people if the opportunity exists, but a change in young people's preferences will not mean the end of golf.
The concern is not if golf declines a little bit, it is what if golf declines a LOT. As others have mentioned, there are ebbs and flows. But a dramatically decreased customer base leads to lots of courses closing and the other courses having to increase rates dramatically if they can't fill the tee sheets. We have all seen the impact on lower and mid level private clubs the past few years
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#30 bigchucksr

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Posted 21 August 2017 - 05:29 PM

I don't know where you live but at my home course we could use some "dying"!  We are overrun with younger and younger players--their wives and their children.  I'm not sure what management has done to increase membership but we are absolutely flooded with younger golfers.  Two years ago I could go to the course about 4:00p.m. any Saturday or Sunday and have the place to myself--it was wonderful.
Not this summer!  Matter of fact I went out today, eclipse Monday thinking the working crowd would be working--it was, all afternoon, one steady group after another.
Actually, I am quite pleased--particularly seeing a cart full of pre-teen kids and their parents, both boys and girls--it is quite common now and ten years ago you never saw families playing golf here--swimming and tennis, yes but rarely golf.
So, some places, like my club are having a banner year.


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