It’s a Double Bogey
The game of golf has seen its heyday. The United States has averaged a closing of 137 golf courses every year since 2011 reports the golf-industry researcher, Pellucid. (The Washington Post, Why American Fell out of Love with Golf, March 5, 2015).
Among those that closed in 2016 are courses that were designed by some of the luminaries in that field. The Falls outside of Houston, Texas was considered one of Jay Riviere’s finest designs, but in an overbuilt market, fewer and fewer golfers were willing to play the course. Windemere Golf and Country Club in Orlando, Florida, was designed by Ward Northrup. The greens and bunkers were recently renovated, but the club was down to just 80 members when it was closed. Plans call for the 155 acres to become lots for 95 single family homes. (Golf Advisor, 12 Golf Courses that Shuttered in 2016 We’ll Miss the Most, December 22, 2016).
Elk Ridge Golf Club in Atlanta, Michigan, was regarded as one of the top 20 public courses in Michigan. It is considered the best work of Michigan-based architect Jerry Matthews, who designed more courses in the state than anyone. Its fate is to become a private hunting preserve. Black Bear Golf Club in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, was a design of Tom Jackson’s. Even after the club had undergone significant renovations, it too has closed. (Golf Advisor, December 2016).
Tallgrass Golf Course in Shoreham, New York, was designed by one of the hottest architects on the planet, Gil Hanse. Its 127 acres are due to become the home of 125,000 solar panels. (Golf Advisor, December 2016). On and on the stories go.
Golf retailers saw the writing on the wall
The giant Nike has bailed out of producing golf equipment. Nike has a huge marketing research department that does nothing but take the pulse of the sporting world. About every number coming out regarding the state of the sport is a negative with millennials—as in, young people, as in, the future of the game. Golf’s high cost to entry and association with an older group has resulted in young people’s sending it to the scrap heap. The decline is a reflection of an overall drop in interest in golf, particularly among the younger generations. The National Golf Foundation has stated that 200,000 players ages 35 and younger abandoned the game over the past year.
“The people sticking with the sport are playing fewer rounds than before, often opting for nine holes rather than 18. In total, U.S. golfers played 462 million rounds of golf last year. That was the fewest number since 1995. Golf has been a crummy business for a long time,” states Paul Swinand, an analyst at Morningstar, Inc. in Chicago. (Forbes, How a Declining Middle Class is Killing Golf, May 23, 2014)
Taylor-Made-Adidas Golf, the world’s largest producer of golf clubs and clothes, saw sales nosedive 28 percent last year. “A decline in the number of active players caused immense problems in the entire industry, and this hit us particularly hard,” stated Adidas chief executive Herbert Hainer. The sporting goods giant has listed its slow-selling golf gear at deep discounts and postponed new launches. Hainer warned of even more “significant negative headwinds” for the game. The number of young people, age 18 to 30, playing the game has sagged nearly 35 percent in the last decade. (The Washington Post, Why America Fell Out of Love with Golf, March 5, 2015)
In 2006, Dick’s Sporting Goods bet big on golf, buying the specialty retailer Golf Galaxy for more than $200 million. Since then they have repeatedly acknowledged their bogey by shuttering stores and ending their experiment of staffing a PGA professional in the golf sections of more than 500 stores by firing all of them. “Golf from a participation standpoint, and how it translates to retail, is in a structural decline. And we don’t see that changing,” Dick’s chief executive Edward W. Stack stated. (The Washington Post, March 5, 2015)
Boys’ high school golf team participation peaked at 167,781 in 1998-99 and has been in steady decline since. At the collegiate level, over 27 schools have eliminated their golf program since 1995. In 2011, Arizona State University eliminated their PGA Golf Management Program. (The Arizona Republic, ASU Ends Golf Management Program, May 3, 2011).
If you are labeling golf as an exercise, then you are only fooling yourself. Crawling into and out of a golf cart is not exercise. If you truly want an aerobic exercise, then you are going to have to get your heart rate up and do some serious body movement. Golf is time-consuming and not aerobic. Golf takes anywhere from three to five hours. Thirty minutes to an hour of aerobic exercise and you are time and money ahead. Not to mention the fact that your heart will love it.
The Pied Piper of Oro Valley
We have a mayor of Oro Valley who is the Pied Piper of Hamelin with six children who blindly follow him around (and we all know what happened to those children). As the citizens of Oro Valley, we are now subsidizing several golf courses that are operating so in the red that it could be called crimson.
We in Sun City continue to subsidize our own golf course, and now we are subsidizing the town’s boondoggles as well, and the ships are sinking. What is next for this group of rescuers: A bowling alley? A roller skating rink?
If I did not learn another thing in my two degrees in history, it is that things change. Lifestyles alter with the times. It is called progress. The horse and buggy gave way to the automobile. No more need for blacksmiths. No more need for buggy makers. Typewriter? Hello computers and printers.
Pull the plug
Grandpa Golf is terminal. You have him on a ventilator and hooked up to a feeding tube. An expensive physical therapist has been hired to turn him over every now and then. But then you have other people footing the bill for all of this. Nonetheless, Grandpa Golf is pleading for mercy to just let him die a natural death, but you are not listening. You cannot revive what is dead. Grandpa Golf is dead. May he rest in peace.
Susan Ross is a former college professor who has lived in Oro Valley for three years. She has a Master’s degree in History. She enjoys swimming. An avid reader, she reads dozens of non-fiction books per year.