Golf continually follows the ebb and flow popularity. If you as the pundits, they will offer a very long and detailed answer about costs, environmental issues or the lack of interest from the millennials. I am sure there is logic in their answers, however let’s be clear: “It is a nearly $70 billion industry, supporting two million jobs and $55.6 billion in annual wage income. Golf has a long history of giving back to society and provides an annual charitable impact of about $4 billion per year through 143,000 events and 12 million participants.” (Forbes 2015)
There are many reasons for the wax and waning of golf interest. The fundamental reason is complex and I am not really interested in solving because I am a consumer. I let the golf professionals figure out the details; I only want to play golf and support charities as much as possible. Since I started writing a golf blog, I notice a sharp decline in interest starting right about now until April when the Masters peeks it head up from a long winters nap. And when the interest returns in the spring, it does so with a vengeance.
After 5 years of writing, I pondered several hypothesis that were out of the twilight zone. It is interesting that as my knowledge grows, so does my ability to analyse all sorts of golf facts. And the reason for the drop in interest of golf in the fall is no different.
My first theory focused on the start of other professional sports pulling the interest of golfers away from the links. With the MLB playoffs, NFL, College sports, NBA, WNBA, and Rugby ramping up, the choices of sporting events hurts the golfing industry. However, after running a little poll I am not so sure:
My next theory involves the younger players starting their journey into golf. The time, cost, availability and sense of community are touted as main detractors for younger players. After 5 years, I am not sure this is the case. All sports have hurdles when first starting. Golf might appear to have a few more, however that is just a false perception. Unfortunately, perception is reality and as such, golf appears as a difficult sport to start. After a bit of searching, I believe these entry issues have not changed over the years. They were present when I started golf 40 years ago; only my friends who were very interested in golf joined me on the links back then and in my opinion, things are no different.
After much consideration, I think that the drop or increase in interest deals with geography. Depending on where you live, depends on the interest in golf in your region. In Canada, specifically Northern Ontario, we have a shorter golf season. Therefore, for 7 months our interest in golf is through the roof. The other 5 months, we shovel snow, snowshoe, play hockey, and other participate in other winter sports. In locales where golf is available all year around, their interest is steady; more of a flat line with a few blips from time to time. The growth in the golf industry ebbs and flows, but overall I believe where the sample group is taken will skew the results.
Of course, we cannot forget the economy. Golf is perceived as a sport for the affluent (there is that perceived word again) and this might be true, however all sports feel the same pinch as the national economy grows or shrinks. This is a constant and in my opinion a fixed cost of the golf industry. I am sticking with my geography theory this year.
Interest in golf does change over the year. I notice it on the number of visitors at The Grateful Golfer, but I do not panic. It is the cycle of golf for my region and as such must be weathered. If you use my site as a microcosm of the golf industry, lean times are ahead with the hope of great interest resurfacing in late March of 2018!
Does your interest in golf wane this time of year?
I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links!
Written by Jim Burton from The Grateful Golfer blog.