Is Golf Dying?

As one of the most popular sports globally, it may be surprising to hear that some people believe that a sport with an estimated global player count of over 60 million players is on the decline! So is golf dying?

No, Golf is not a dying sport. While there is evidence to suggest that the popularity of golf, particularly in the United States of America, has declined since there was a surge of popularity between 1996 and 2006 in what some call the “Tiger Effect” created by Tiger Woods, it would be an exaggeration to call golf a dying sport.

While the closure of golf courses and decreasing player numbers are a cause of concern, it is important to analyze these statistics in relation to the factors that may be causing the popularity of golf to decline, while also looking at what measures are in place to keep people interested in the sport. Let’s explore these factors below:

Why Golf Maybe A Dying Sport?

Some of the reasons why golf may be declining in popularity are the following:

  1. The impact of Covid – 19 restrictions,
  2. The rise of technology,
  3. The cost of playing golf,
  4. The time needed to play a round,
  5.  The lack of global sports stars in golf.  

1. How Did Covid – 19 Restrictions Affect Golf?

Like many industries worldwide, the impact of Covid -19 restrictions meant that many golf courses had to shut down for extended periods, but some had to close indefinitely.

The national golf foundation tracks golfers who play in their free time

Not being able to play golf during a lockdown, or after lockdown due to courses closing down, or people having reduced incomes meant that the access and interest in golf both globally and in the United States dropped between 2019 and continues to be going through a recovery phase.

2. How Does New Technology Affect Golf’s Popularity?

As a result of Covid – 19, technology has become a double-edged sword for many outdoor activities; this is because the need for people to spend extended periods at home means that people have become more comfortable with doing recreational activities at home than ever before.

Consequently, even existing golf fans have found alternatives at home, such as playing golf video games, playing on home putting greens, or hitting golf balls in a driving net.

The development of in home simulators in the past few years has made famous golf courses accessible without leaving your home. Meaning those with busy lives can play private clubs, or fantastic public courses, while dinner is cooking.

3. Does The Cost Of Golf Affect Its Popularity?

There’s no secret that between the price of golf equipment, green fees, club fees, caddy fees, and the price of golf lessons, that the golf industry is an extremely expensive sport to get into compared to alternatives such as football or basketball.

Understandably, golf is a difficult sport to enter financially for many people, including those that may be interested in the sport but are hesitant to invest the funds needed to play golf regularly.

The price of golf gear also means that golf still struggles to shape its reputation as an elite sport, typically reserved for older people. Consequently, even if someone has the necessary funds to play the sport, they may be deterred by the idea of being among elite social circles that are not in line with one’s values or upbringing.

4. Does The Time Needed For Playing Golf Affect Its Popularity?

Unlike other sports, which can usually be played intuitively or with a bit of practice/studying the rules, such as football or basketball. Golf requires extensive knowledge of equipment, courses, and rules and plenty of practice in all conditions before someone is equipped with the skills and knowledge to play a round of golf.

golf green fees for nine holes has increased over time for new players

Investing time into lessons with a golf instructor before golfing public courses is a smart move for your emotions. While it is a great game, it takes work to not look foolish! So learning how to play golf before you start can help make it more immediately rewarding once you do step on the course.

The high barrier to entry of golf and a steep learning curve means that a lot of people, especially children and teenagers, may opt for simpler sports that do not require such a long time commitment.

5. Does The Lack Of Golf Superstars Affect Its Popularity?

As mentioned above, the boom in golf’s popularity during 1996 and 2006 is in large part due to the overwhelming success of Tiger Woods and his impact on popular culture from on the golf course.

Tiger Woods victory at the ’97 Masters catapulted his reach in the golf industry and started a wave of avid golfers around the country. The explosion was seen in golf equipment as well as from country clubs to small clubs with only nine holes. For the first time the game of golf became very exciting to younger people and many kids started playing golf for the first time.

This gave the game of golf a next generation boost as a sport with kids and adults.

Although there are plenty of golfers on the PGA tour that are immensely talented and figures in the public conscious, golf post-2010s does not have the ubiquitous superstars of other sports of the era, such as LeBron James, Michael Phelps, or Cristiano Ronaldo. 

With Tiger Woods playing golf less and less, the

Why Is Golf Increasing In Popularity?

Some of the reasons why golf may be increasing in popularity are the following:

  1. Shifting perceptions and accessibility,
  2. The rise of golf-related entertainment,
  3. Renewed interest in outdoor activities.

1. What Are The Shifting Perceptions Around Golf?

Although golf continues to have an image problem as a sport for elite, wealthy people, there has been a significant push by clubs and organizations to diversify golf membership through community programs and promotions.

using a golf cart on the course helps golfers spend less time at the golf club

Consequently, there has been a significant focus on promoting golf to areas and people who previously may have felt excluded from the sport, meaning the future will likely produce many keen golfers from lower-middle-class households while improving the representation of women in the sport.

2. Does Golf–Related Entertainment Affect Its Popularity?

Although a lot of young professionals find they do not have the time to play golf seriously, there are a lot of young people who enjoy the unique combination of virtual golf and nightlife entertainment provided by companies such as Topgolf and Drive Shack BigShots.

In turn, this fun introduction to golf to people of all backgrounds will most certainly see a lot of young professionals take up golf as a full-time hobby later in life once they have improved finances and flexible work schedules.

3. Is There A Renewed Interest In Outdoor Activities/Golf?

While Covid – 19 restrictions continue to keep people confined to their homes, the opening up of outdoor activities has led to an increased interest among people to become more active in sport and other outdoor activities.

Naturally, golf is a great way to be outdoors, exercise, and socialize, whereby all three of these aspects are what people coming out of lengthy lockdowns are hoping to find going forward!

Is Golf Dying Conclusion

In conclusion, although there is evidence to suggest golf may have declined from its peak player count and course development in 2006, recent metrics suggest this decline is a reduction to normal levels of popularity.

Meanwhile, the introduction of new and exciting ways to engage with golf means, along with a renewed focus on sports post – Covid suggests that a resurgence of interest in golf from the younger generation may see golf gain renewed popularity in the future.

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