The Decline of Golf: 5 Ways to Turn Around the Sport

Dating back to the 15th century, golf is a storied and respected sport. Prominent golfers like Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus are household names. However, golf numbers are declining. These declines range from the number of golf courses to active players and even golf gear sales.

Golf courses are closing at astonishing rates. The National Golf Foundation reports that since 2006, approximately 499.5 gold courses have closed. In 2012 alone, 154.5 courses closed. The number of golfers has fallen off a cliff too.

In 2006, there were almost 30 million golfers in the US compared to 25 million golfers in 2016. Similarly, England Golf affirms that in 2006, 4 million Britons played golf as compared to 2.78 million in 2016.

Sadly, the decline of golf is resulting in the laying off of employees in golf-related roles. Golf has undergone a steady and steep decline that needs speedy intervention before it slides to obscurity. 

What is driving golf’s decline?

It’s not uncommon for sports to flow in and out of popularity. But golf’s decline has been fast and hard. Below are a few reasons for the decline in golf.

People are too busy

Nowadays, people are so ‘crazy busy’ that their leisure time has shrunk significantly. They barely have time to engage in sports. The few hours they have to spare is not enough to play 18 holes.  

Too expensive

Golf has a reputation for being too pricy and a reserve for the elite. A golfer must buy or hire expensive golfing equipment and pay costly club initiation fees.

Most laymen cannot afford such expenses. Also, the perception that golf is for rich suburban men hinders many people from engaging in the sport.  

Competition from other forms of entertainment

Currently, people have many types of entertainment, ranging from surfing to cycling and extreme sports at their disposal. They have many activities drawing their attention away from sports like golf.

Too difficult

Golf is among the most frustratingly difficult sports for both beginners and longtime players. Most sports are immediately rewarding, but golf is not. Expertise in golfing is not developed overnight, and you have to toil away to attain it.  

Aging population

The aging population no longer enjoys golf. The members of a majority of golf clubhouses are elderly -aged above 60. With time, the physical, emotional, and mental changes in their body no longer allows them to play golf.

Ways of turning golf’s decline around

While the outlook isn’t good, there is still time for the sport to save itself. With a few tweaks to both the game and the experience around the game, golf might position itself for a major comeback. Here’s how that can happen.

1. Improve customer experience

Golf clubhouses should ensure that a course’s design, character, and appearance have a positive effect on the customers’ experience. They should meet the needs of members and visitors while appealing to many customers. 

Country clubs with facilities such as spas, gym, children play area, and coffee shops have a big customer base. For example, a country club with a children’s play area attracts families. Parents can play golf while the kids have fun in the play area. A golf clubhouse with a coffee shop allows golfers to catch up and relax after a game.

2. Invest in marketing

The decline of golf calls for golf courses to market more extensively. They should have a marketing budget and a strategic marketing plan.

Country clubs should use both traditional and digital methods of marketing. Importantly, they should invest in digital marketing and use social media, blogs, and websites for marketing themselves.

3. Make golf more inclusive

Over the years, golf has been perceived as a sport for the wealthy and elite. Presently, wallets are squeezed, and many people can’t afford expensive games like golf.

Additionally, golf is nowhere close to inclusive. Making golf more inclusive and cheaper can go a long way in turning the sport around for the better.

4. Meet customers’ needs

Golf should be dynamic to meet changing customers’ needs and wants. Among the ways of meeting customer needs include improving clubhouse facilities, revamping membership packages, and providing different formats of golf.

Flexible packages would appeal to time-crunched golfers and golf enthusiasts alike. Importantly, eliminating the stuffy members-only clubhouse barrier would see the flourishing of many golf clubhouses.

5. Change people’s perception of golf

Golf is overridden with a negative perception. In movies, for example, they depict a person who plays golf as a bad guy, crook, or wealthy. With such perception, many people keep off the sport.

To avert the decline of golf, you must change its negative perception. Golf should be presented as a good sport for all people regardless of socio-economic status. Also, country clubs should show that golf is fun, and an excellent family sport with numerous health benefits.  

The decline of golf can be perceived as a perfect storm for golf clubhouses. It is a way to get clubhouses out of their comfort zone to chart a different course than its competitors. The clubs that capitalize on the opportunities the storm presents will survive and thrive.

A golf clubhouse can’t do the things it has always done and expect different results. It will gradually and surely head to its death bed.