Country Clubs and Golf Courses Are Struggling, Why?
“Golf is a good walk spoiled.” Mark Twain
Country Clubs and Golf Courses across the United States are struggling, but why? Are people not interested in golfing? Are costs too high? Or maybe Country Clubs and Golf Courses are their own worst enemies, not keeping up with the times.
According to the National Golf Foundation, the number of golfers in the United States has dropped by almost one-fifth since 2003. And golfers are playing fewer rounds. In 2013 U.S. golfers played four hundred and sixty-two million rounds; this might sound like quite a lot but Golf Datatech reports that is the lowest number since 1995.
Only fourteen new golf courses were built in the United States in 2013, yet one hundred and fifty-eight closed. Things have been going downhill since the global financial crisis hit in 2007. But that’s not the only reason.
Baby boomers were expected to tee-off in droves but they seem to prefer other pursuits, like trekking the Andes or surfing the breaks in Hawaii. As for the millennials: who needs to spend six hours glad-handing on a golf-course when you can do your networking with a hand-held device? Gen Xers have been squeezed every which way financially so an expensive, elitist sport that takes all day isn’t for them either.
Gone are the days when Dad could disappear on Saturday and leave Mom with the kids. These days, fathers are more likely to be the chauffeur who takes their offspring to their various sporting activities.
It is not just the clubs that are struggling. Sellers of golf clothing and equipment are also feeling the pinch. Earlier this year national retailer, Dick’s Sporting Goods, laid off hundreds of employees in its golf division. Sporting goods manufacturers like Nike and Adidas have taken a hit in earnings due to the slowdown in recreational golf. Television ratings for golf have also declined.
Country Clubs, once the holy grail of middle-class aspiration, are suffering too. People no longer join because their parents belonged or to get a foot-hold in local business networks. Once the bastions of old money and gracious living, surviving clubs are relaxing dress codes and dropping fees in an attempt to attract new members. While some of the very top clubs may be holding the line, those that were built to appeal to corporate middle managers are in desperate competition for survival. With retrenchment cutting a swathe through corporate ranks, many clubs have lost their base.
Not all commentators see doom and gloom in this situation, some believe that it’s just about recalibrating an oversupply problem. Ed Weathers, former senior editor at Golf Digest believes that the high end clubs with swathes of emerald grass and top-dollar fees will survive, as will the smaller courses, with low annual fees where people go with only one thing in mind: to play golf.
And while golf might be declining in popularity in the United States, it seems to be on the up in China. Despite an official ban on building new golf courses, Chinese state media reports that the number of courses in China increased from two hundred in 2004 to six hundred in 2015.
Seems the burgeoning Chinese middle class have gold-plated aspirations too.