But seriously, though.
I’m relatively new to the sport – around two years watching the pros and a little under a year since I began lessons myself – but there’s been a weird shift in that time. I can’t tell if it’s just me noticing more as I become more involved (like seeing a Dodge Dart everywhere after your sister buys one) or if I was the bad luck charm.
Before I’d accidentally found my way into the golf world, the sport existed as its own universe. Old men playing the sport on Sundays. Young bros drinking away an afternoon and trying to out-drive each other. Pro athletes doing (what I thought at the time was) a very long, very fancy and very annoying walk every weekend for a boatload of money. But, though it was separate from my world, it was definitely alive and well.
When I worked for a sporting company, all the bosses golfed. When I worked at an upscale restaurant, we hosted charity golf tournaments. My high school prom was at a golf club, and had to be scheduled around large golf events. People played it, watched it and invested enough money into it that a PGA Superstore was built down the street from my apartment.
But then I stumbled upon an interest in the sport. And all of a sudden…IT’S DEAD. I started seeing articles about the death of golf or the decline of the industry. I heard analysts talking about how things have changed and what could be done about it. I read statistics on courses closing all over the world. It seemed like I hopped on the bandwagon just in time to miss the boat.
As I become more invested in the sport, I see more end-of-the-golf-world stories. Some tout TopGolf as the savior we need in the land of the millennials. Some lament the advances in equipment, saying that the game isn’t the same as it once was. Some love (or hate) the young guns who lift weights and Snapchat their extravagant vacations, bringing more attention to the sport. The fact that we’re even talking and arguing about these things indicates that the sport isn’t truly dead, but I can’t help wondering what I missed out on in favor of the new era.
Fewer booked tee times, a decline in new equipment purchases, etc., seem to indicate a drop in profits. Even viewership of big tournaments is lower than it has been in previous years, and all you have to do during a major is watch. All signs point to “I hope you have a back-up hobby because golf is struggling.”
It’s not fair, though. Considering how obsessed I became with the sport (very quickly), part of me questions what it could have been like for a beginner ten, twenty, fifty years ago, and how these changes have affected the overall perception of the game.
Like anything, there are skeptics…and realists. Some think the sport is just fine, because the doors are still open at their clubhouse every Sunday and the beer is still cold at the 19th hole. Some are holding signs tied to old drivers saying “THE END IS NEAR” written in putt-putt pencil. Then there are those who just brush off the downturn as a temporary valley in an otherwise peak-y sport. I would generally side with the what-goes-up-must-come-down realists, but then again, even I’ve noticed after barely scratching the surface in the grand scheme of golf.
Either I have ridiculously bad timing or the downswing was starting years before I ever stepped foot on a driving range. Whichever is the case, my emotional (and financial) investment has me rooting for an upswing soon – I have a bag full of clubs named after favorite golfers, and I can tell you confidently that that kind of devotion doesn’t translate well to any other sport.
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