Friday, February 29, 2008

Why Not Pile on Golf Participation More?

Larry Bohannan covers golf for the Desert Sun out in California and normally covers pro golf. He took a look at the data from NY Times piece, though, and decided to pen his own short thoughts on why the game is not growing.

First, to my point in a post earlier today...

The New York Times did a story on how the game is shrinking. Pellucid Corp. released its latest golf report saying that not only is the game not growing, but the Generation X and Generation Y folks are staying away from the game in droves.
That is probably the source of some data from the NY Times piece in addition the the data from the NGF itself that seems to indicate a negative trend.
This can hardly be news to the people who run the game. Rumbling of problems have been around for years, from drops in the number of rounds played to the closure of golf courses in meccas like Myrtle Beach, where land was more valuable for homes than for golf holes.
Like I mentioned in my analysis (I hadn't seen Bohannan's work beforehand), these all seem to be clear indicators of decreased wholesale numbers of people playing golf.

Bohannan takes a crack at the reasons for the decline, especially among youth golfers.

Access to the game: Sure, programs like The First Tee and junior golf programs are great in teaching youngsters to play. But once they have learned the game they still have to get on the course. Can you afford to join a private club? Can you get access to daily-fee courses, especially as a youth who might not be that proficient yet? Is the intimidation factor of the game enough to stop you from playing?

Cost: Face it, few recreations are as expensive as golf. Start with equipment, where manufacturers are not interested in growing the game as much as they are in growing their stock prices. Private clubs cost tens of thousands to join, if not more. And public courses are still expensive, especially if you and your spouse play together. Let's see, a $75 green fee means $150 for a twosome, figure once a week for a month is $600 for eight rounds of golf.

Pace of play: Like the weather, everyone loves to talk about pace of play, but nothing ever seems to get done about the problem. A five-hour round pretty much kills a day, weekend play can be deadly slow and for all the talk and plans and GPS systems and clocks put on golf courses, things seem just as slow as ever. For starters, blame amateurs who copy pros' pre-shot routines. And blame pros who play agonizingly slow on television. A lot of people just won't commit that much time to the game, even if they like the game.

You can see some of these running themes through a couple of articles I have done on golf participation in the past couple of years.

Golf's Identity Crisis
Race and Golf: Let the Discussion Begin

Larry has got it. It costs too much, takes too much time, and can be hard to access. Until those three things are fixed, things look bad for golf.

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