A few days ago Golf Week announced the number of rounds of golf decreased in the United States, again. The total number of rounds fell 3.8% throughout the country marking the fifth consecutive year golf has gone down. The report breaks down the percentages into eight geographic regions which allows us to see the areas of the U.S. who are struggling the most.
As a resident of New York the breakdown geographically is especially haunting as the Mid-Atlantic region boasts the largest decrease in the nation, 11.5%. It's followed by East North Central at 9.7% and New England at 6.3% in third. A "freak" snowstorm in October put an end to the season earlier than we anticipated but even with that in mind, the numbers are staggering.
Why Golf Is On The Decline
A few years ago I was trying to convince my dad to play more golf. He comes on our annual trip so I thought he might be interested in playing more before we go. I was wrong. He cited a few reasons but the ones that stood out to me were how long it takes and the rules. I asked about the rules and he said it was too much to learn for someone who doesn't play and it's intimidating when you're new. You have to worry about etiquette, rules and pace of play. It's a lot on someone who is new to the game.
These were all valid points and it wasn't until reading the Golf Week article that it hit me. I expect the critics will point out the recession as the major factor and while it does have an impact, I think it's a great opportunity for golf as an industry to re-evaluate and come out of this with new opportunity to grow.
Five Reasons Golf Is Down
1. Pace of Play: Golf courses blame players for pace of play. Players blame golf courses. I think it's a combination of both but we need a solution instead of finger pointing if it's going to get better.
2. Intimidation: If my father is feeling intimidated to step on the course, my guess is others feel the same way. Golf is one of the greatest games on the planet and in order for it to grow, we need new people to play and feel comfortable out there.
3. Price: The Mid-Atlantic and New England is home to some of the most expensive golf in the country. I'm going to take this beyond price and say it's the value of the round. If I'm paying $150 to play (isn't Westchester wonderful?) a round, I want to get my monies worth and I don't mean by taking a lot of strokes.
4. Time: It ties in with pace of play but if you're playing a public golf course on the weekend it takes about 5-6 hours. That's entirely too long in a time when life moves in 140 characters.
5. Experience: I think golf as a whole is becoming less enjoyable for golfers and new golfers. Taking into consideration all of the items above, golf is no longer an "experience". If we're going to blame the economy, let's take a look inward and see what we can do to make it more enjoyable for everyone who plays.
There are countless articles on what's wrong with the game of golf. This is part one of a two part series where tomorrow I will give a few bold solutions as to how we can fix the game we love.