The question we are going to look at answering here is pretty important. Is golf actually a dying sport?
Of course, you probably love the sport, and you see how busy your club is on a regular basis, but what is the bigger picture like?
That is what we are going to examine here, and try to determine if golf, as a sport, has remained stagnant, or if we need to be worried about things.
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The Current State of Professional Golf
The professional game of golf appears to be going from strength to strength especially after a difficult time due to Covid-19 restricting access to tournaments for spectators. However, with people allowed back onto the course, it seems there is still a real appetite for the game.
But here’s the problem.
People are always drawn to watching the pros go head to head in tournaments with huge prizes on offer. The excitement is second to none, but that’s not where there is some concern.
Instead, we are talking about the grassroots of the sport.
The Grassroots Picture
When you look at the grassroots picture, then you do tend to see something a bit different happening, and it’s clear that all is not so rosy and perfect at every single club.
Sure some are doing well with waiting lists to become members, and full courses on a regular basis, but that’s not something that applies to each and every club.
Instead, what we see is that some clubs are struggling. That’s not to say they are going to the wall, or that they will need to close, but it’s not as good as it could be.
One of the key areas is the number of kids that are taking up the sport. Kids memberships are on the decline, and that’s not going to be a good sign for the future.
Keep in mind that kids are going to hopefully fall in love with golf and continue to play throughout their life. They can encourage their friends to come and try it out, and build golfing friendships that will take them through life.
The idea of fewer kids picking up clubs and playing a round is disappointing to say the least.
A Few Stats
There aren’t stats available for every part of the world, but in Europe, it seems that golf membership has dropped by 0.6%, which may not sound like much, but it all adds up.
The problem is that some areas are falling behind. In Wales, as an example, some areas have witnessed a drop in membership of around 4%, and that’s huge.
If you then look at the States.
Back in 2002, it was believed that there were in the region of 30 million members at golf clubs across the country. By 2016, that number had dropped to 21 million, and that’s a big difference.
However, there’s more to this than simply stating that memberships have decreased. Instead, we need to look at what’s behind the decrease to see what can perhaps be done to reverse what is going on.
The Reasons Why Membership is Declining
While there’s nothing concrete, we can look at a few different reasons that could potentially be causing a bit of a decline in memberships.
Getting started in golf can be expensive, and it’s known that the level of disposable income people have available has dropped over the years. That means people need to cut out certain things from their budget, and there’s a tendency to look at the expensive things first.
Membership fees have even become stagnated at a number of clubs to try to encourage people back into the fold. This may have at least tempered the decline a bit, but it has not managed to reverse it. At least so far.
But then, the cost of getting some basic clubs does make it that bit more affordable compared to before.
However, it’s also due to the fact that the decline started in earnest when there was a global crash in money. People stopped even going to driving ranges, so parents would not teach their kids or take them there.
That meant there was, in effect, a break in lineage of playing golf, and that has had a continued negative impact on how golf clubs are performing.
Kids Prefer Technology
Another factor is the way in which kids prefer to use technology as opposed to getting out onto the course. They can ‘play’ golf via technology, and it gives them some pretty instant results.
These instant results are preferred to having to work at something, practice, and see some gradual progression.
That means there must be a need to change their perspective. Golf has to become enticing to kids once again to get them off their Playstation and back out onto the course.
Golf isn’t the only sport that is suffering in this way as general inactivity is having a negative impact in different sports.
People prefer to have their noses buried in their smartphone instead of getting out there and being more active. Once again, golf has to make itself more interesting to get people back to the course and off their smartphone or just generally being inactive.
So, on the face of it all, it does seem that golf may not be a dying sport as such, but it is on the decline. Referring to it as dying feels like it goes over the top in explaining what is going on. It paints a worse picture than is actually happening.
But golf does need to do something to halt the decline. While the game will never completely vanish, it could get to a point where some courses are unable to continue to exist, and that would be a sad thing.
The game has to entice new blood to it. The game needs to get people active once more, and to make sure that people feel inclined to hit the course, and to even learn the game in the first place. That is the only way in which it will reverse what has been happening in the last decade.