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Is Golf in trouble?

post #1 of 40
Thread Starter 

First time I have seen Yahoo report on this...

 

http://finance.yahoo.com/blogs/breakout/bigger-holes--golf-industry-hunting-for-options-in-quest-for-survival-193946652.html

 

Quote:

Remember when golf was the next big thing? Less than a decade ago Tiger Woods was the coolest man in the world. A one man course-destroying army, this Mozart in soft-spikes would, in the words of his father Earl, “transcend the game and bring to the world a humanitarianism which has never been known before.”

No one took Earl Woods very seriously about humanity, but corporate America and the sporting public were fully on-board with the democratization of golf. Nike (NKE) signed Tiger to a stunning 5-year, $40 million contract in 1996; two years before the company even had a free-standing golf division and five years before Tiger actually played with Nike gear on tour.

It wasn’t just Nike or all about Tiger. Golf’s post-Cold War boom was driven by a decade of prosperity and technology that made all the hurdles between golf and mainstream acceptance seem puny. Sleepy Callaway golf (ELY) developed a driver called Big Bertha and saw its shares more than 1,500% in less than 5 years. By 2003 the number of golfers in the US hit 30 million and courses were being built at a record pace.

Sub-Par Decade

The ten years since have been unkind to the sport. Tiger has performed admirably on the course and generated hundreds of millions for his foundation, but the generation of “Tiger-cubs,” golfers of all ethnic and financial backgrounds, hasn’t materialized. More than 77% of golfers are males and most of them are over 40. Between 5 to 10% of the country’s more than 11,000 public courses are expected to close over the next decade; a geographic space equal to 10x Manhattan.

With Tiger entering his athletic dottage, TV ratings are crashing. The economic condition of the game looks very much like a chart of Callaway’s stock; peaking at the turn of the century and moving lower in fits and starts ever since.

.

Golf fights back

Now golf is fighting back. Disparate forces within the game are trying to make it more approachable. From dropping the price to shorter rounds, efforts are being made to turn this devilishly challenging sport into something closer to a national pastime.

Among those leading the charge is the PGA of America. Representing some 27,000 golf professionals, the PGA has formed a 10-person task force charged with creating pathways to the game. In the attached clip, panel member and Golf Digest Senior Editor Ashley Mayo says that despite the daunting data golf isn’t dead just yet, though old-timers might not recognize it.

“At Golf Digest we’ve identified this segment of millennial golfers who are totally into the game.” Mayo and her team are trying to retain the virtues of golf (tradition, honor) while pruning back on the stuffiness.

Among the initiatives being rolled out now are more flexible scheduling, reducing the number of holes played from 18 to a more manageable 9 or even 6 holes. Cutting the time and expense of play by one-third would immediately address the two biggest barriers cited for why golfers quit: time and price.

Other ideas are likely to be more objectionable to traditionalists. Among these are larger holes being installed in some courses and “Footgolf” which entails kicking a soccer ball from tee to hole, counting the number of kicks along the way.

This is going to take a lot of getting used to for a sport that’s been billed as civil class warfare for centuries. Mayo says the snobs have to understand that the kids who seem to be fooling around on their course aren’t insulting the game.

“They’re idea of what a golf round is might be different,” insists Mayo of younger players. “They don’t keep score and they’re out there to have fun, but they don’t disrespect the sport.”

Snobs against the Slobs

What defines disrespect is more flexible than golf traditions. The PGA doesn’t necessarily see eye to eye with the USGA which establishes the official rules for play and equipment in the U.S. So far at least the USGA is insisting on protecting the existing rule book. This includes regressive moves like banning long putters which have been in the game for more than two decades, but will be phased out over the next year.

As it stands there are too many divergent views of what, if anything, is wrong with golf to expect the sport to be saved. Beyond the PGA and USGA, there’s also the British R&A, which tellingly stands for Royal and Ancient. Many of members of these groups would rather see the sport die than watch it played with soccer balls.

If golf is going to be relevant for another decade it’s going to have to heal these internal rifts. The ghost of tennis, which peaked in popularity in 1978 and has seen participation plunge ever since, is looking for a doubles partner in the graveyard of sport.

post #2 of 40

Few today play the pennywhistle or harpsichord. It's a pity.

 

Maybe golf will go that way too as land, and water, sufficient and suitable for 18 holes of luxury or pleasure could raise food for 1000s.  Nice new resorts in Asia have ruined many families as they were displaced by the Trumps of the World to accommodate dreamy golf layouts. 

 

Suggest you invest in facebook, not ELY. 

post #3 of 40

ELY has struggled for quite some time.  Some of there problems are related to the decline in golf participation but a majority are due to internal mismanagement.  Their 2010, 11 and 12 product lines were uninspired and confusing for consumers.  Callaway got back on the right path last year with the X Hot woods and irons and seem to have wisely followed up with the X2 Hot, Big Bertha woods and Apex irons.  They lost a lot of ground to Taylor Made and Cobra so it's no surprise they are still struggling to regain their market share.  The next three years will be key for them.

post #4 of 40

I believe there will always be country clubs for the more affluent / serious golfer.      It's the public courses that will falter.     If they falter, it will force the serious golfers to join country clubs and they will get stronger.      Golf will become a much more expensive sport, existing for the very dedicated amongst us if it goes this route.   I sure hope it doesn't ...

 

However, the problem lies in securing new golfers (like me - I only started playing at 46 as a result of being guilted into playing a company scramble) ... without many public courses, the pool of new golfers will be dramatically reduced


Edited by inthehole - 4/26/14 at 4:43pm
post #5 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by inthehole View Post
 

I believe there will always be country clubs for the more affluent / serious golfer.      It's the public courses that will falter.     If they falter, it will force the serious golfers to join country clubs and they will get stronger.      Golf will become a much more expensive sport, existing for the very dedicated amongst us if it goes this route.   I sure hope it doesn't ...

 

However, the problem lies in securing new golfers (like me - I only started playing at 46 as a result of being guilted into playing a company scramble) ... without many public courses, the pool of new golfers will be dramatically reduced

In Mass, we had a few private clubs that folded or became public due to the economy.  They picked the wrong time to try to start up unfortunately.  But good news for us is we get to play them now.

post #6 of 40
Just like any other business, false economy has made golf struggle. It is a luxury and obviously a hobby. You don't need new clubs to play or a really nice golf course, you want it. Wants have been cut back. You can get by playing old clubs and average courses.
post #7 of 40

I wouldn't say that golf is in trouble. I would just say that there's a correction going on from the overbuilding during a boom and an inflated viewing audience of non-golfers that Tiger brought in.

 

Courses in highly populated areas are still getting a lot of play and will probably continue on about like they always did.

 

The new normal in the future may be many less rural courses and less manicured courses than we have grown accustom to. Things like the elimination of bunkers, less wall to wall mowing, smaller greens, more "native areas", and less spraying are already being done in attempts to stay afloat.

 

Golfers in lower populated areas may have to just get used to being less spoiled and quit thinking that any course worth playing has to look like Augusta.

post #8 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by boogielicious View Post
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by inthehole View Post
 

I believe there will always be country clubs for the more affluent / serious golfer.      It's the public courses that will falter.     If they falter, it will force the serious golfers to join country clubs and they will get stronger.      Golf will become a much more expensive sport, existing for the very dedicated amongst us if it goes this route.   I sure hope it doesn't ...

 

However, the problem lies in securing new golfers (like me - I only started playing at 46 as a result of being guilted into playing a company scramble) ... without many public courses, the pool of new golfers will be dramatically reduced

In Mass, we had a few private clubs that folded or became public due to the economy.  They picked the wrong time to try to start up unfortunately.  But good news for us is we get to play them now.

 

It must be different depending on where you live.    Here's in the Pocono's of PA, we've lost 4 public golf courses in the past few years & the signs are in place that we could lose a couple more very soon.     Private courses are always around, and seem to have their clientele established ... I've only ever heard of one of them here having trouble & forced to go public.    Who knows, that could become a trend here as well ... seems golf of either flavor has a lot of obstacles to overcome from a financial viability standpoint.

post #9 of 40
We have several courses around me in rural areas that just operate differently.

- no dress code
- no alcohol license so you can bring your own 12 pack of beer
- $9 for 9 holes with cart
- fairways aren't much different than rough
- greens aren't the fastest
- not a lot of bunkers
- cheap food cart, $1 for hotdogs and pop
- no tee times

These places really hit home runs too. You get in line of about 10 carts at first tee.

To be honest, I like golf like this, not to say I don't like country club quality courses too, but this adorable blue collar game is what more places need to focus on.
post #10 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by clutchshot View Post

We have several courses around me in rural areas that just operate differently.

- no dress code
- no alcohol license so you can bring your own 12 pack of beer
- $9 for 9 holes with cart
- fairways aren't much different than rough
- greens aren't the fastest
- not a lot of bunkers
- cheap food cart, $1 for hotdogs and pop
- no tee times

These places really hit home runs too. You get in line of about 10 carts at first tee.

To be honest, I like golf like this, not to say I don't like country club quality courses too, but this adorable blue collar game is what more places need to focus on.

I need to find some courses like this in my area. The closest thing is $7 for night tee times at a local par 3 course. Hot dogs are $2.50, soda is $2.00. Walk on.
post #11 of 40

Around here, the golf courses have been packed so far this season, so Id say golf isnt struggling in my neck of the woods.  As with everything else, the downturn in the economy has hurt golf but I wouldnt be so quick to jump to the conclusion that golf is dying.

post #12 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lihu View Post

I need to find some courses like this in my area. The closest thing is $7 for night tee times at a local par 3 course. Hot dogs are $2.50, soda is $2.00. Walk on.

They are few and far between, most are more like $15 - &20 for 9, but there are a few gems here and there.
post #13 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by clutchshot View Post



They are few and far between, most are more like $15 - &20 for 9, but there are a few gems here and there.

 



I started out playing at a course out in the boonies where you could play from daylight to dark with a cart for $25 (and I often did just that). a2_wink.gif
post #14 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by MS256 View Post
 

I wouldn't say that golf is in trouble. I would just say that there's a correction going on from the overbuilding during a boom and an inflated viewing audience of non-golfers that Tiger brought in.

 

Courses in highly populated areas are still getting a lot of play and will probably continue on about like they always did.

 

The new normal in the future may be many less rural courses and less manicured courses than we have grown accustom to. Things like the elimination of bunkers, less wall to wall mowing, smaller greens, more "native areas", and less spraying are already being done in attempts to stay afloat.

 

Golfers in lower populated areas may have to just get used to being less spoiled and quit thinking that any course worth playing has to look like Augusta.

I agree with you....In every aspect of society, we are constantly going through "new normals".  Some are good, some not so good.

 

I am a 20 hdcp and enjoy playing a good course.  But for me, I try not to pay more than $40 for a round of golf, but will pay more to play on a well cared for, well managed course.

Example:  Where I live, there is Abita Golf Club and I think I pay about $30 bucks.  It has a membership (I have not joined because I do not see the value as of yet).  It is an okay course but some that are used to playing on finer courses may refer to it as a "Goat Trail"  About 5 miles down the road is Money Hill.  Very nice course, very well kept and all the amenities.  I guess it cost a $100 to play.  There is a different cliental at Money Hill and the course shows it.

 

What I see at the less expensive courses is a bit less maintenance, greens that are not as dressed, sand bunkers that are not always sand, golf carts that are not newest and in the best of shape, fewer amenities, and practice facilities are lacking.  However, as I am about to retire and be on a fixed income, I will more than likely frequently those courses that provide a discount to seniors and are not top end.  I just want to play golf for the fun and opportunity to enjoy a game that is filled with tradition.  It is always a challenge to compete against the course and try to make my game better--well at least a little more consistent.

 

As an aside, I would like to see all courses adhere to a uniform scheduling format.  The penalty for playing on the lesser costing courses is frequently you see groups of 5 or 6 playing together.

I would like to see mandatory tee times required--maybe you can walk up and play, but maybe it should cost $5 more because you did not have a scheduled tee time.

 

I would be against reducing the number of holes.  Right now, you have a choice to play 9 or 18.  Keep it that way.  Time and price should not be the prime drivers that would change a age old tradition. If you do not have time to play a round, hit balls on the practice range, chip, or putt.   Maybe you end up doing what I have to do, play one time per week instead of 2 or 3.  

 

I am totally against the use of larger holes for golf.  Man, golf is golf and if those in the generation of everyone must win can't just play by the rules already established, they probably will not be happy with any changes.  Use a 15" hole now, and in a couple of years make in 18" or keep going until everyone can shoot par.  With 15" holes my handicap may go down to a 10, but will I be any better at golf?

 

As for soccer on the golf course, a great big NO....create something new for the soccer ball kickers--use their current soccer fields and develop some obstacles for them, but they do not have a place on the golf course unless they have a bag with clubs and hit the ball into the regulation hole.  If they do not want to play golf as golf is meant, there are many opportunities to play Disc Golf all over the place.

 

I know I am a bit older, but I assure you I am not anti-change.  I just do not agree with "change for change sake".

 

 

post #15 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by MS256 View Post
 

I wouldn't say that golf is in trouble. I would just say that there's a correction going on from the overbuilding during a boom and an inflated viewing audience of non-golfers that Tiger brought in.

 

Courses in highly populated areas are still getting a lot of play and will probably continue on about like they always did.

 

The new normal in the future may be many less rural courses and less manicured courses than we have grown accustom to. Things like the elimination of bunkers, less wall to wall mowing, smaller greens, more "native areas", and less spraying are already being done in attempts to stay afloat.

 

Golfers in lower populated areas may have to just get used to being less spoiled and quit thinking that any course worth playing has to look like Augusta.

 

This pretty much mirrors my thoughts.

 

Also, I don't agree at all with the poster who suggested that private clubs will grow stronger.  Quite the contrary.  The golf contraction and changing attitudes about belonging to clubs have forced many to go semi-private, public, or even close at a faster rate than public courses.  

post #16 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by Aguirre View Post
 

 

This pretty much mirrors my thoughts.

 

Also, I don't agree at all with the poster who suggested that private clubs will grow stronger.  Quite the contrary.  The golf contraction and changing attitudes about belonging to clubs have forced many to go semi-private, public, or even close at a faster rate than public courses.  


The Club I used to belong to went from private,to semi private, to public back in the 90's. Conversely, what was once a higher end public course is now a private club. I'm not sure when they switched but it's been in the last few years.

 

There's been at least 4 courses within 25 miles of me that have closed in the last 10 years. One of them was private a long time ago the rest were all public.

 

High end private clubs will be fine. The private clubs at the low end of the cost scale may be the ones that suffer due to lack of new members. They are typically the clubs that get the players from the public courses that want a better golf experience.

post #17 of 40
Agreed that bad golf economy leads to less private courses, not the other way around.

Seen lots of country clubs turn public, never seen public turn private.
post #18 of 40

Here is my take for what it's worth. I've seen work patterns changing drastically over the last 5 or so years. I see professional people (self included) working more and more and having less time for golf and other outside activities. I've wanted to join a private club for several years, but have trouble justifying the high cost with the little time that I have available. I've only been on the course once this year as a matter of fact. I just joined a private club with a new owner and business model. They still offer traditional memberships, but they also offer a provincial membership where you pay an annual fee to join and then pay for each round played. The fee is $250 for an individual or $450 for a family and the per round rate is $35 or $25 after 3PM. My son pays the student rate of $15. They did away with food minimums and even opened the restaurant to the public. In turn, they hired an outstanding chef from Memphis who makes awesome food. The way the calculation works, you are better off with this membership if your family plays less than 6 times a week.

 

Time will tell, but I think this is a model that will work with the way people work today. Curious what y'all think about this model and whether it will work. So far, it seems to be drawing in serious golfers who have wanted to join a private club but didn't have the time.

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