Why is golf shrinking?

Hi, it’s The Golf Gadfly here and today we’re going to talk about a potently upsetting question.


The number of golfers and number of rounds of golf played per year has been slowly but steadily declining since 2000.  If golf is the greatest game ever invented (a premise many of us believe), why isn’t the game growing at a healthy pace?

My perspectives on this issue are those of a golfer… someone who enjoys the game and tries to play as often as I can.  I’ve never operated a golf course and have never been an insider in one of the big golf associations.  But I have played over 200 different courses over the past four years.  I’ve visited with/talked to hundreds of golf course operators and believe it or not I have visited the website of every golf course on the planet at least once (over 36,000 of them).  Let me apply those experiences to take a shot at answering the question of the day.

In these posts, I will always state my own opinions but I am a great admirer of the Dennis Miller style of rants so I always begin or end my arguments with “these are just my opinions… and I could be wrong.”  It would be highly interesting to hear some of the other deep thinkers and/or grass roots operatives of the golf industry weigh in on this topic.

IMHO, the #1 reason golf is shrinking is because it is inconvenient, and that’s a deadly sin in today’s world.

Golf requires golfers to fit into its schedule… to grow, golf needs to fit into golfers’ schedules.

In survey after survey, the #1 reason that golfers say they don’t play more often is “not enough time”.  We can’t give people more time, but we can help people make better use of the opportunities they have to play.

I have a passion for this topic because I frittered away my prime playing years and I’d like to help others avoid that fate.  After playing a lot of golf during my teens, I drifted away from golf when I was in college and didn’t return until leaving the corporate rat race at age 52.  For over 30 years I played an average of 3 rounds of golf per year.  Looking back, I know that even with a hectic family and business schedule I would have played another 10-20 times a year if only someone had thrown me a lifeline.  So, the industry lost out on 600 rounds of golf that I would have happily paid for.

Even in the last several years, with a much more flexible schedule, there are at least 10 days a year when I woulda/coulda/shoulda played… but didn’t.  If industry operators were being a little more welcoming, those rounds would have been played.

Most golfers want to play more… let’s help them squeeze more juice out of the orange.

With 24M golfers in the US, if we were successful in getting them to play an average of just one more round a year, the industry would grow by 5%… five more rounds a year is 25% growth.  And that’s without even attracting any new players.

This is a golden opportunity that the industry has failed to grab on to… and it’s not pie in the sky rhetoric… there are some very tangible things that the industry could do to help people play more often.

I’m not talking about shoving more emails in their face with hundreds of “hot deals” at times when they aren’t available to play or at courses where they have no interest in playing.

I have a list of 10 ways that golf course operators could help golfers play more often.  I only stopped at 10 because it’s a round number… with a little thought I suspect we could create about 40 more.  NONE of these ideas involve discounting your prices.

I’ll share that list with anyone who wants it… just send a request to [email protected].

But what do I know?  I’m just a golfer who wants to play more often and needs a little help from time to time.

Perhaps some of you course operators would be willing to post a comment on this post with your own methods for solving this problem.  What do you currently do to make golf more convenient for golfers??

Your customers need Help!



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