You would think that with all of the baby Boomers Retiring. One complaint that I’ve heard is that with the Pros designing courses that they have gotten too hard for the average golfer to enjoy. (Picture of Tigers new yacht)
The disappearance of golfers over the past several years is part of a broader decline in outdoor activities — including tennis, swimming, hiking, biking and downhill skiing — according to a number of academic and recreation industry studies.
“The man in the street will tell you that golf is booming because he sees Tiger Woods on TV,” Mr. Kass said. “But we track the reality. The reality is, while we haven’t exactly tanked, the numbers have been disappointing for some time.”
A 2006 study by the United States Tennis Association, which has battled the trend somewhat successfully with a forceful campaign to recruit young players, found that punishing hurricane seasons factored into the decline of play in the South, while the soaring popularity of electronic games and newer sports like skateboarding was diminishing the number of new tennis players everywhere.
Rodney B. Warnick, a professor of recreation studies and tourism at the University of Massachusetts, said that the aging population of the United States was probably a part of the problem, too, and that “there is a younger generation that is just not as active.
The total number of people who play has declined or remained flat each year since 2000, dropping to about 26 million from 30 million, according to the National Golf Foundation and the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association. More troubling to golf boosters, the number of people who play 25 times a year or more fell to 4.6 million in 2005 from 6.9 million in 2000, a loss of about a third. The industry now counts its core players as those who golf eight or more times a year. That number, too, has fallen, but more slowly: to 15 million in 2006 from 17.7 million in 2000, according to the National Golf Foundation.
“The answer is usually economic,” Mr. Kass said. “No time. Two jobs. Real wages not going up. Pensions going away. Corporate cutbacks in country club memberships — all that doom and gloom stuff.”
In many parts of the country, high expectations for a golf bonanza paralleling baby boomer retirements led to what is now considered a vast overbuilding of golf courses.
Between 1990 and 2003, developers built more than 3,000 new golf courses in the United States, bringing the total to about 16,000. Several hundred have closed in the last few years, most of them in Arizona, Florida, Michigan and South Carolina, according to the foundation.
About three million golfers quit playing each year, and slightly fewer than that have been picking it up. A two-year campaign by the foundation to bring new players into the game, he said, “hasn’t shown much in the way of results.”
“Years ago, men thought nothing of spending the whole day playing golf — maybe Saturday and Sunday both,” said Mr. Rocchio, the public relations consultant, who is also the New York regional director of the National Golf Course Owners Association. “Today, he is driving his kids to their soccer games. Maybe he’s playing a round early in the morning. But he has to get back home in time for lunch.”