February 20, 2008

Golf's long recession

The NYT headlines:

More Americans Are Giving Up Golf

In many parts of the country, high expectations for a golf bonanza paralleling baby boomer retirements led to what is now considered a vast overbuilding of golf courses.

That was a mistake. Golf is not young man's game, but it's a youngish man's game: something like 30 to 50. Back in 2003, I wrote a 4-part series on why golf was in for a long stretch of economic hard times. In "The Golf Industry's Demographic Dead-End," I said:

According to the National Golf Foundation, the great leap forward in the number of players actually occurred between 1985 and 1990, when baby boomers, growing a little too old for contact sports swelled the ranks of golfers by 31 percent. Since 1990, however, the total is up only 14 percent.

The number of people turning 30, an age at which golf starts seeming more sensible than basketball or mountain biking, has been in decline since the mid-1990s. It will turn upward toward the end of the decade, but that growth will be driven heavily by minorities.

The urge to play golf appears related to testosterone levels. When they are at their peak, say age 15-25, you want to hit somebody, so contact sports are most appealing. Later, you want to hit something, so hitting a golf ball sounds good.

The funny thing is that the ability to hit a golf ball a long ways declines quite slowly with age. Typically, what goes first is putting ability.

Here are my four 2003 articles:

1. The Golf Recession

2. Why Golf Has Gotten So Expensive

3. Will Less Expensive Golf Courses Catch On?

4. Golf's Demographic Dead-End

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

16 comments:

DYork said...

I prefer to watch golf rather than to play it.

That way I can experience the thrill of the game without the physical stress of walking, standing around and occasionally trying to hit a small stationary object.

The future of the sport is topless women's golf. I'm serious. Not with top pros but well built attractive women with some golf skill.

Anonymous said...

Private golf courses come with alot of gated communities near where I live as an added perk replete with a clubhouse, removing the necessity to have to find a course to play. Perhaps this also plays a role.


Asians might pick up golf somewhat, but I really can't see many hispanics doing so, and we never really did get that big "Tiger" bump amongst blacks that I expected. Perhaps golfing with two other guys just doesn't provide enough of an opportunity to "show out" amongst large enough numbers of peers to really be satisfying for them as basketball courts are.


I guess the "wii" is going to be the white entertainment of the "bowling alone" future as less and less of them venture very far outside areas where they feel "comfortable". Im sure Michael Moore will call them "chicken" for it.........

bjdoible said...

Tennis started to decline in 1973, right at the moment metal racquets started to be more widely used. The new rackets are easier to use, but they speed up the game. The problem may be that the sport got too fast.

Anonymous said...

Are you serious about the 30-50 bracket?
I knew of a doctor in my hometown who played tennis until a few years before his death. He turned nearly 100.
I always thought golf to be no harder than tennis. What am I missing?

ziel said...

It was particularly stupid to believe that retirees would relish paying $125 a round. My father still plays a fair amount of golf even at 89, but he's happy to play at a county course at the $25 senior citizens rate.

jody said...

this is why the talent pool in competitive golf is small, and why woods is not nearly as good at golf as other athletes are at their sports.

almost nobody plays golf everyday when they are 13, whereas daily play is the level of dedication that is standard for high level talents in most major sports.

perhaps the main reason woods is so good at golf compared to his peers is that he trained for golf the way most serious athletes train for a major sport. from a young age, daily.

anybody can play NCAA DI golf just by having their parents start them in golf at age 8 and making them play every day.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, sure, its because of the testosterone. More like, the kids would rather do something that elevates the heart rate or makes them break a sweat, even.

Golf isn't a sport. Its a glorified parlour game along the lines of pool, darts, bowling or wii. And a very expensive, wasteful, and silly one.

Anonymous said...

The problem may be that the sport got too fast.

Try playing on clay, the game is slowed down a bit and the ball often "sets up" a bit better. The only problem is that at least around me, for every 20-30 hard-top courts, there is maybe 1 clay one. Clay just needs more maintenance and it can get you dirty. Of course if you fall, I rather get some clay on my knees than leave some skin on the court.

Dutch Boy said...

It's an expensive hobby in a declining economy so it has no place to go but down.

Anonymous said...

Golf is also something of a native-born status sport which leaves most the fastest growing demographic (poor, broken family, uneducated legal and illegal Hispanics) as unlikely to pick up the sport.

Japanese and Koreans seem to take to golf and the Chinese somewhat as well. Unfortunately, they are are also a relatively small demographic. Most of the population growth here is with Chinese immigrants who are also unlikely to take up the sport.

An interesting question, what products/services also face this collapsing demographic? Have Scientific American and National Geogrphic anticipated this trend by dumbing down their product.

dearieme said...

I've played little golf since someone stole my clubs. In 1965.

Anonymous said...

"An interesting question, what products/services also face this collapsing demographic? Have Scientific American and National Geogrphic anticipated this trend by dumbing down their product."

Yes, big time. SA is now devoid of math and NG has about 1/4 as much writing in it as it used to.

Antonio said...

Good news for those of us still interested, prices should go down. Look for me on the courses in Central North Carolina and Central Florida. I'll be the only Hispanic guy on the course.

Anonymous said...

Slow play certainly doesn't help the sport. Nothing more annoying than some A-hole taking 3 or 4 practice swings EVERY shot.

In Socal, many Asian players hit from the blues when they'd (and the rest of us waiting for them) would be better off playing from the whites.

Anonymous said...

I was sadly shocked to see how low the scientific magazines of my childhood like SA and NG have sunk.

SA used to read like an intro college textbook for the soft sciences when I was in HS now it's pap for People Magazine reader types.

This month NG is running an over the top PC propaganda piece on the Black Pharaohs. That is the world never knew racism until white colonialism and the relatively brief span of Black pharaoh rule was a uniquely magical utopia filled with rainbows and unicorns.

We're not quite to ButtF*ck*rs from Fudruckers, but we're getting there.

Truth said...

"That is the world never knew racism until white colonialism and the relatively brief span of Black pharaoh rule was a uniquely magical utopia filled with rainbows and unicorns."

I read the piece and I gathered nothing of the sort, yet if you were alive back then, please give us your informed impressions of where they went wrong.

Just because racial prejudice is well ingrained into modern day life does not mean it always was.