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Is Golf really in "trouble"?


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#1 Grapehunter

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Posted 02 December 2012 - 01:53 AM

Serious question... Is golf really in "trouble"? Is there any real quantifiable evidence suggesting that our beloved game is suffering in any way? Any empirical data indicating a major shift in the overall health of this great game?


I've been hearing it for years and yet I still find myself stuck behind groups of 4 and sometimes groups of 5 at a not so cheap golf course on a weekday during peak work hours. So where's the proof? Or is it all a bunch of whining?

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#2 wobgon

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Posted 02 December 2012 - 01:57 AM

i have no proof. I know there are more golf courses closing than are being built.

#3 Grapehunter

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Posted 02 December 2012 - 02:09 AM

View Postwobgon, on 02 December 2012 - 01:57 AM, said:

i have no proof. I know there are more golf courses closing than are being built.

I see that happening as well but how much of that is due to the economy, poor management, unforeseen disaster etc?
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#4 KYMAR

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Posted 02 December 2012 - 02:13 AM

People just making stuff up and whining. There is no truth to any of it. Golf continues to flourish.

On a serious note, if you are really seeking data why not search online for it instead of just asking for opinions? What if you get a bunch of people who share your view that golf can't really be hurting in 2012 because "damn man we waited on every shot last saturday!" ? Well, then you're just gonna be left feeling vindicated and falsely so.
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#5 Grapehunter

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Posted 02 December 2012 - 02:17 AM

View PostKYMAR, on 02 December 2012 - 02:13 AM, said:

People just making stuff up and whining. There is no truth to any of it. Golf continues to flourish.

On a serious note, if you are really seeking data why not search online for it instead of just asking for opinions? What if you get a bunch of people who share your view that golf can't really be hurting in 2012 because "damn man we waited on every shot last saturday!" ? Well, then you're just gonna be left feeling vindicated and falsely so.


I have poked around the Internet for an answer. Albeit not so much in depth but most of what I found talks about the sky falling because of the new anchored putter ruling, which all in all is a different topic but almost as annoying.

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#6 Soloman

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Posted 02 December 2012 - 06:49 AM

The market is what it is, and demand is what it is.

There was a golf course bubble - an oversupply of courses for the demand.

#7 QuickFeet

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Posted 02 December 2012 - 07:11 AM

Have you gone to the National Golf Foundation website.  Some of their data is available for free, some of the reports you have to purchase.

#8 BrianL99

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Posted 02 December 2012 - 07:14 AM

View PostGrapehunter, on 02 December 2012 - 01:53 AM, said:

Serious question... Is golf really in "trouble"? Is there any real quantifiable evidence suggesting that our beloved game is suffering in any way? Any empirical data indicating a major shift in the overall health of this great game?


I've been hearing it for years and yet I still find myself stuck behind groups of 4 and sometimes groups of 5 at a not so cheap golf course on a weekday during peak work hours. So where's the proof? Or is it all a bunch of whining?

There's plenty of empirical data available, how you choose to interpret it, is another matter.   "Golf" experienced a "boom" when Tiger joined the Tour and brought new people into the game ... most of whom finally realized that golf just isn't as easy as it is on TV, so they quit the game.

Unfortunately, the influx of new "players" during the Tiger years, cause the USGA, PGA, PGA Tour, OEM's, golf retailers and golf course developers to expand their operations.  In today's market, all these  entities need to reduce staff, budgets and expectations ... "cut backs" !   They don't like it, so half of them are claiming the sky is falling and the others are talking about "growing the game".

Who really cares?  All sports (particularly "lifestyle sports") are cyclical ... they go up, they go down.  It wasn't long ago, that Racquetball was the hottest game in town and no one was riding a bicycle.  Now, you can hardly find an operating Racquetball Club and can't drive (2) miles, without getting cut off by some dope, wearing a billboard made from skin-tight spandex.

Edited by BrianL99, 02 December 2012 - 07:15 AM.


#9 Sean2

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Posted 02 December 2012 - 08:59 AM

This is old information, but according to the National Golf Foundation, in 2010 475 million rounds were played 43 million less than in 2000. In 2010, 46 golf courses opened and 107 closed.

From June 2010 to June 2011 the number of rounds played in the US dropped 5.9%, this is according to a joint research report produced by Golf Datatech, the PGA of America and the National Golf Course Owners Association.

If that's not enough, Jack Nicklaus can't even get his grand kids to try golf. :-)



Hey...be nice.

#10 Llortamaisey

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Posted 02 December 2012 - 09:13 AM

View PostSean2, on 02 December 2012 - 08:59 AM, said:

This is old information, but according to the National Golf Foundation, in 2010 475 million rounds were played 43 million less than in 2000. In 2010, 46 golf courses opened and 107 closed.

From June 2010 to June 2011 the number of rounds played in the US dropped 5.9%, this is according to a joint research report produced by Golf Datatech, the PGA of America and the National Golf Course Owners Association.

If that's not enough, Jack Nicklaus can't even get his grand kids to try golf. :-)




That's pretty strong info right there. Thanks for posting.

What I want to know is who are the 46 dummies who opened golf courses. I could have saved them lots of money with my "Don't do it" consulting strategy.


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#11 Petethreeput

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Posted 02 December 2012 - 09:26 AM

No, golf is not in trouble, but the business of golf is.

There has to be a contraction, which we are already seeing as larger companies have begun to purchase the golf only mfrs.  In the '90s "A River Runs Through It" brought a lot of people to fly fishing.  Most of those people attracted by the allure are gone.  Tiger did the same thing for golf.

BrianL is correct.  Those whose livelihood rely on the continued growth of golf will claim golf is dying.  This includes professionals who require TV audiences (as well the Golf Channel), course designers, eq't manufacturers, teachers, writers, swing coaches, and the educators in the PGA schools.  I suspect the biggest difference to the golfer will be the lack of new products being released (not clubs per se); but the $85 golf towel with patent pending properties, golf tees made of titanium, and buying a soft spike will no longer require hours of reading the packaging to see if it fits in your shoe and why their technology makes them the "grippiest."    

Anecdotal evidence about crowded courses is not an indicator of golf's health.  As courses close, those remaining need to play somewhere.  Volume is what keeps a course open.



#12 Fade

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Posted 02 December 2012 - 09:33 AM

Ups and downs are normal in most businesses, yet the good years often become the new standard in some people's minds. I don't think a business is necessarily in trouble when its best year isn't replicated.

#13 oregongolf

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Posted 02 December 2012 - 09:45 AM

View PostLlortamaisey, on 02 December 2012 - 09:13 AM, said:

View PostSean2, on 02 December 2012 - 08:59 AM, said:

This is old information, but according to the National Golf Foundation, in 2010 475 million rounds were played 43 million less than in 2000. In 2010, 46 golf courses opened and 107 closed.

From June 2010 to June 2011 the number of rounds played in the US dropped 5.9%, this is according to a joint research report produced by Golf Datatech, the PGA of America and the National Golf Course Owners Association.

If that's not enough, Jack Nicklaus can't even get his grand kids to try golf. :-)



That's pretty strong info right there. Thanks for posting.

What I want to know is who are the 46 dummies who opened golf courses. I could have saved them lots of money with my "Don't do it" consulting strategy.

I agree, that info kinda tells the story - but I guess there's more than one way to look at it.

Mike Keiser is one of the dummies who opened golf courses during that time... seems to be working out for him. I would be curious to see how many of the 107 courses are 20+ years old and how many are <10.

#14 drpino

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Posted 02 December 2012 - 09:51 AM

Petethreeput and BrianL have the proper perspective on the "in trouble" claims.

Mike Davis of the USGA fielded a question during the Anchoring announcement about the state of the game and he quickly pointed to the growth rates in Asia. The game is bigger than just the consumerism aspect in a single country (ie the US).

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#15 Petethreeput

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Posted 02 December 2012 - 12:19 PM

I was aware of the statement you reference, and I don't have the stats that Mr Davis would have, but I wonder a few things, which is why I was not completely on board.  And I cannot speak to all of Asia, clearly S Korea is growing, but they have a fairly mature middle class and a connection to western trade and ideas, which makes it a good fit.  Sports is not a given, but rather a reflection of a culture, so in my eyes growth is a tough concept.  Two examples come to mind immediately.  NFL Europe and the MLS as American examples.  And what about India, their celebrated professional league is Cricket, yet the rise of their middle class was also going to be boon to western sports leagues as they became more visible in India.

So what about China.  It strikes me the Chinese tournaments do not equate to growth.  There most assuredly is an increase, but is it sustainable?  No one knows, and we can't truly know, but because there is a Shanghai Open does not mean there will be an upswell in committed golfers, just as the Munich Express did not lead to a huge increase in football players.  Add to this the tenuous grasp on middle class in China and the fact it is not a mature class ready to concentrate on 5 hours hitting a white ball.  They have bigger fish to fry like a political voice, human rights, corruption, and ownership rights.  All of these ideas could potentially be written away by the new president at any moment.  Golf is growing there, but is it true growth, or are these the lines at the new restaurant in town before it becomes normal, and then goes out of business.

We cannot assume our cultural past-times will be embraced by other cultures.  Particularly cultures that are 1000s of years older than ours.  So yes, I agree with you that the growth may occur outside the US and Europe, but this question won't be answerable for a long time.


#16 Grapehunter

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Posted 02 December 2012 - 12:22 PM

A lot of these posts make sense. Golf, like any other business, will experience ups and downs. The Tiger era certainly added some new highs to the game but the game as a whole is doing just fine despite the drop. I wonder what will happen if Tigermjust quit the game completely. Though that is highly unlikely... We need another dominant force in the game.
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#17 Llortamaisey

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Posted 02 December 2012 - 12:48 PM

View Postjon2, on 02 December 2012 - 09:45 AM, said:


I agree, that info kinda tells the story - but I guess there's more than one way to look at it.

Mike Keiser is one of the dummies who opened golf courses during that time... seems to be working out for him. I would be curious to see how many of the 107 courses are 20+ years old and how many are <10.

Keiser doesn't fit in those statistics. Bandon Preserve isn't a "new golf course." It is an "addition" to an existing successful golf course. It's apart of Bandon Dunes.

Cabot Links is not in the US so it wouldn't qualify on US National statistics either.

If he did open a completely new independent golf course in the US recently, I am not aware of it. I would still tell him not to open new golf courses when he can buy existing ones for a lot less.

Hopefully Bandon will continue its success. I have been very fortunate to play many prestigious courses and resorts. Bandon was easily the worst golfing experience I've ever had. I'm sure there are plenty of people who enjoy it but under no circumstances would I ever go back.

Edited by Llortamaisey, 02 December 2012 - 12:49 PM.


#18 jhscott1

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Posted 02 December 2012 - 12:54 PM

I wouldn't say it's in trouble. There are reports that the growth of the game has stalled.

#19 HoosierMizuno

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Posted 02 December 2012 - 02:42 PM

as others mentioned when the game has grown at the level it has in the last decade it is eventually going to slow or retract. combine that with a horrible economy and its isn't all that bad. this is why courses need to find way to lower prices.

Golf is in trouble if we continue to get droughts and focus is turned to water preservation. Golf courses might be the first to get attention for 'waste'. The past summer, every tree and and yard was dried up, except for the private course you drive by that is bright green. This is just coming from someone who thinks water supply is going to be a huge issue in 10-15 years
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#20 Thrillhouse

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Posted 02 December 2012 - 02:56 PM

Is golf in trouble? If you make your living from the game in some capacity then yes, the game is contacting and the economic pie that you draw your income from is shrinking as well.

Is golf in trouble for people like me who just like to play it? No, not at all. I'll continue to play and enjoy the game, I might have a few less courses to choose from but on the flip side of that if everyone in the business has to compete harder for my golf dollar I can look forward to things like better course conditions and better service to ensure I come back. So it's all relative.


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#21 MtlJeff

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Posted 02 December 2012 - 04:19 PM

During a boom, everything over expands, when the bubble pops companies get bought out or fail and courses close. The market self corrects. This is happening now around where i live, golf stores are shutting down but Golftown will still be around. Courses are charging ridiculous assessments, will lose members and eventually fail and be sold to develop condos. But a lot will remain.

you see this same thing in all industries. If you are in a tech industry i'm sure you've seen this too. At first it seems like there's no limit to the growth. Then you find out there is and business fail

But it's not like golf is going anywhere
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#22 TexasAg

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Posted 02 December 2012 - 04:52 PM

View Postdrpino, on 02 December 2012 - 09:51 AM, said:

Petethreeput and BrianL have the proper perspective on the "in trouble" claims.

Mike Davis of the USGA fielded a question during the Anchoring announcement about the state of the game and he quickly pointed to the growth rates in Asia. The game is bigger than just the consumerism aspect in a single country (ie the US).

IMO, Mike Davis should pay less attention to China.  If Peter Dawson wants to talk about growth rates in China, fine.  But Davis is head of the USGA.

#23 sunbeltgolfer

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Posted 02 December 2012 - 05:03 PM

The Club I am a member of, and, also run my business from, has seen three straight years of declining membership and rounds of golf played. My sales have seen the same pattern during this period. Our golfing demographic is mainly older couples that are retired and spend the Summer here, in second homes, to flea the heat.  Many have mentioned that declining stock income, which is their main source, and, rising cost of living is making them alter where funds considered "discretionary" are spent. The members that are still working class with second homes are spending less time here. I can't say that golf is in dire straits, but, I would think that this scenario is not specific to this small community in the mountains.

#24 WUGolfer3118

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Posted 02 December 2012 - 05:13 PM

I agree with the previous sentiment in this thread that there's nothing for golfers to fear, and that it's those who rely on making money off of the game that are crying foul. However, one only needs to look at the bowling industry to see where the future of golf could go. Bowling was the hottest and biggest sport/recreation/hobby during the 1950s through the 1970s. However due to changes in consumer tastes and (especially currently) other avenues of bowling within your home (think the Wii), bowling has become a declining industry all over the world excluding Asia. Perhaps this is leading to the concern by major players in the game, and why I think Asia growth rates are overrated (they're just now beginning to acquire leisure time and so other sports/recreations will try to jam their way into the marketplace as well *cough NBA/NFL cough*). I don't think golf's demise or significant decline is imminent, but I don't think these talking heads are exactly Chicken Little either.

#25 HoosierHacker89

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Posted 02 December 2012 - 05:41 PM

In my town (muncie, Indiana- once known as middletown USA) the number of factory jobs had declined to almost none. We used to have tons of factories that employed what seemed like half the town. I am not exactly sure on the percentage, but it was huge at one time. All of the factory jobs have left, and it has really had a negative impact on the businesses of the golf courses for sure. There are roughly 70,000 people in my county. There are 9 courses in  my county, and i really think several of theme will close in the next few years. There are 2 private clubs, one which is struggling to get any members and offering crazy discounts for a years membership and the other course which is the high end club of the county which is where most of the Doctors, lawyers, etc. play which i believe will be fine. There is also a course which was built in 91 in a very nice neighborhood where most higher income families live. This course will be fine too. This leaves the other 6 other ones to account for. There is one decent one south of town that is always busy that i think will be fine, one north of town that is nice but the staff acts like they have the worlds nicest country club and it is just a muni (meaning they are pretty arrogant), but i think they will be fine as well since there is small town where the course is, and the town has tons of traffic that goes through it. I think it would be really beneficial for atleast 3 or 4 of the courses around here to close. 2 of them are goat ranches as is (one is my home course, and i play there since it is like never busy) the other is also in very rough shape.

All and all i think it would be very beneficial for the golf courses in this town to see like 4 of the courses close. I would hate it as a player, but from a business stand point it would be good.

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#26 SurfDuffer

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Posted 02 December 2012 - 05:52 PM

I can only speak from my own experience.  I look around my club and at 43 years old I am one of the young members.  There are fewer than a half dozen teens who play.  20 and 30 somethings are probably less than a dozen.  The average age of the membership is probably 60+.  I would not say that is a good sign for the future.  That's what I see around here.

#27 farmer

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Posted 02 December 2012 - 09:26 PM

Good post, Surf.  In rural areas that's what you see in communities, not just golf courses.

#28 Jamboy72

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Posted 02 December 2012 - 10:28 PM

Depends on your situation...unless it impacts you directly, it probably doesn't seem so...if you don't work in the industry or try to put food on the table as a product of the industry, you probably don't see it...but like other industries, on a macro level, yes the golf industry is contracting...how this impacts you or your course, however, is another matter entirely....

#29 Stick Shootin

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Posted 03 December 2012 - 01:25 AM

View PostTexasAg, on 02 December 2012 - 04:52 PM, said:

View Postdrpino, on 02 December 2012 - 09:51 AM, said:

Petethreeput and BrianL have the proper perspective on the "in trouble" claims.

Mike Davis of the USGA fielded a question during the Anchoring announcement about the state of the game and he quickly pointed to the growth rates in Asia. The game is bigger than just the consumerism aspect in a single country (ie the US).

IMO, Mike Davis should pay less attention to China.  If Peter Dawson wants to talk about growth rates in China, fine.  But Davis is head of the USGA.


Agree here

#30 OldGolfer87

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Posted 03 December 2012 - 07:08 AM

I know where i live there are 3 courses that were private that are now public , 2 more that are up for sale and may become housing plans . A 2 more that lowered their membership fees by 1/2 and 1 that is offering a all inclusive with carts for 1 price ,It seems people are going away in droves


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