Golf Play Decline

The number of golfers playing 8 to 10 rounds of golf a year has been decreasing every year since 2006. So YES … golf play decline is a very real issue here in the US, and it has many industry experts scrambling to develop new strategies to recapture the high growth days of the 90s.

Emerging analysis of possible causes of this trend indicate that millennials are contributing to a generational shift in the popularity of golf. They seem more occupied with social networking in this digital age than playing a round of golf in their spare time. It is reported that over 200,000 golfers from this group, who turned 20 in the year 2000, gave up the game in 2013.

This golf play decline in the US started about the same time as the recent Real Estate and Financial crises, which makes it appear as though the cause might be economically driven.

 

Financial Causes? ... Maybe

Certainly the Great Recession that followed the RE/Financial bust has had it's greatest impact on the middle class, causing extended, high rates of unemployment, and significant reductions in net worth. This has caused much of the American middle class to dramatically reduce it's discretionary spending, and playing a round of golf is definitely a discretionary expense.

The middle class is shrinking, but it still is the largest source of golfers most likely to play a round of golf, perhaps not at a country club, but at a public golf course.

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And while economics plays a big role in this downtrend, it may not be the primary cause. The general consensus is that both the cost of play and the time commitments it takes to play a round of golf are causes of the decline.

Prior to 2007, it was the nine-to-fivers with a little extra money in their pockets who enjoyed going out and playing a round of golf, often with friends, that was driving the growth of amateur golf in America.

17th Annual Chamber Golf Classic - Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce(2)

So the bigger issue just might be that this large class of players simply may not have enough time to play golf.

Changing Life Styles? ... Maybe

Commuting(3)     Now that the economy is picking up a little more families again have two wage earners.  They are working longer hours and the traditional 9 to 5 job hardly exists anymore. Fifty hour work weeks are common in this group and long commutes often add to the time  away from home. American workers average considerably more time on the job than their counter parts in Europe and Australia, where golf remains the number one "participant" sport.

In America, busy Moms and Dads have their hands full balancing work and family.  Taking a day off, say Friday, to play a round of golf at the local public golf course is just not done very much by the middle class group anymore. This is now pretty much reserved for country club players. So ... yes lifestyles are changing here inSoccerFamily the US.   Work/Life balance seems more complicated and very busy.    Both husband and wife work, and share the expanded chaperoning duties of the active, modern day family. Soccer Moms are often joined by Soccer Dads, especially when there is more than one Soccer Kid in the family.                                 (4)

As the middle class in the US struggles to recover from the Great Recession, working Moms are often becoming the primary bread winner in the family as they realize more upward mobility in the current job market than some working Dads.  Stay at home Dads are often the best option for busy US families.  Stay at home Moms still represent the largest percentage of stay at parent, but the ranks of stay at Dads are increasing ... more than doubled in the last 10 years.

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These changing times and lifestyles leave very little time for a quick nine holes of golf after work or even 18 holes on the weekend. Because there is so little extra time during the week, working middle class families in the US need those precious 48 hours on the week end to catch up and prepare for repeating the cycle during the coming work week. It's not entirely clear whether this apparent devotion to work is a necessity or simply part of America's changing life style, giving credence to the notion that Americans "live to work".

 

This changing American lifestyle affects more things than golf for sure ... time with family, helping the kids with their school work, taking part in after-school activities, time to exercise and stay healthy ... the list goes on and on. But make no mistake about it, golf is being affected by this growing American culture of living to work, and it has golf course operators scrambling to find a solution.


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