Golf is in decline. I say the answer is in marketing (I'm a marketing consultant). What do your local courses do to encourage participation? Do they ever reach out to the community? Host events? Offer incentives to first timers to come to a free clinic? Do the courses we play at recognize and appreciate our patronage? Have you ever received so much as a "thank you" card or birthday greeting with an offer for a discounted or even free round? How about programs to encourage you to bring others to the game?
Golf courses are small businesses. And like most small businesses that see their sales falling off, they do nothing proactive or, God forbid, aggressive to change the situation. They blame the market and the "kids these days". I say nonsense. Get the message out. Educate the public about the virtues of golf. Kill the "fuddy duddy" image. Get off your butts (course owners) and DO something.
If you need help, let me know...
Oh, and another thing: what kind of "customer service" do you receive at the courses you play? I rank my experiences between Indifferent and Appalling. No greeting by the cart attendants, curt pro shop staff, a bombardment of signs telling me what I can't do, surly starters, ill-tempered rangers... I constantly ask myself, "I paid (insert fee here) for this?"
Just recently, I was playing by myself and was accosted by a ranger telling me to "pick up the pace", then demanded to see my receipt as if I just stole the cart and tried playing for free. There was no one in front of or behind me, and I play there frequently. Not once have I been greeted with "Good to see you again!" or anything like it.