This item, from the Washington Post, discusses declining participation (mostly from a business point of view: fewer participants = bad times for sporting goods companies, course developers, etc).
But the business behind one of America's most slow-going, expensive and old-fashioned pastimes has rapidly begun to fall apart. TaylorMade-Adidas Golf, the world's biggest maker of golf clubs and clothes, saw sales nosedive 28 percent last year, its parent company Adidas said Thursday.
"A decline in the number of active players ... caused immense problems in the entire industry, and as a market leader, this hit us particularly hard," Adidas chief executive Herbert Hainer said on a call with analysts.
It's been years since the increasingly unpopular sport of golf plunked into the rough, and the industry now is realizing that it may not be able to ever get out. All the qualities that once made it so elite and exclusive are, analysts say, now playing against it.
The game -- with its drivers, clubs, shoes and tee times -- is expensive both to prepare for and to play. It's difficult, dissuading amateurs from giving it a swing, and time-consuming, limiting how much fans can play. [...]
Even Jack Nicklaus, perhaps the greatest golfer in history, makes a strong argument for why new players aren't flocking to golf.
"I'd like to play a game that can take place in three hours," Nicklaus told CNN in January. "I'd quite like to play a game that I can get some reasonable gratification out of very quickly -- and something that is not going to cost me an arm and a leg."The number of young people (18-30) playing golf has dropped 35% in the past ten years. Fewer women and minorities are playing as well, and those who play are playing less often.
That drop-off has hit America's greens and links hard. More golf courses closed than opened in 2013 for the eighth straight year, according to the National Golf Foundation. And the number of course closures has sped up, averaging 137 closings every year since 2011, data from golf-industry researcher Pellucid show.That's the sport from a participation standpoint. As for fans watching the game – well, that's more bad news, with the problem there being that fans seem to be interested only in Tiger Woods not in the game itself, and Tiger looks like he's nearing the end of the line.
Consider these words about Woods from PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, who spoke with reporters the day before the tournament began at Torrey Pines:
“Candidly, I think when [Woods] tees it up this week, everybody in the world is going to want to see how he’s going to play, because here you have a guy who was so incredibly good for such a long time and he’s struggling out there. [Even] if he’s not winning golf tournaments, people still want to see Tiger Woods play golf. As long as he’s playing, he’s still going to have the same impact.’’
Finchem’s words were equal parts arrogant, insensitive and truthful.
Woods’ presence in the game has made Finchem, the players on the PGA Tour and everyone else surrounding the game countless millions of dollars and opened up endless opportunities for many.
For nearly 20 years, Woods has been a crutch — for Finchem, for TV, for those of us in the news media, for equipment manufacturers and everyone else involved in the game. That crutch is splintering and weakening.
With Woods’ age (39), increasing list of surgeries, swing changes, new coaches and health-related tournament withdrawals, we are fast approaching a time when we need to come to this realization: If we like golf, we had better get used to taking interest in the PGA Tour pros out there who are not named Tiger Woods.I wonder how long people will continue to watch Tiger Woods suck. The PGA and the TV people who are deeply invested of course hope that this strange fascination will continue indefinitely, but I suspect fans will tire of it fairly soon.