I don’t really know what to make of the numbers. Pellucid says that rounds were up 5.7 percent compared to the previous April. NGF says that through May, year-to-date rounds were up 1.6 percent. On the one hand, I’d like to believe that this is the start of something good for the game. On the other hand, those numbers don’t look to me as though they’re statistically significant.
Whenever I see a statistic that claims a rising or falling trend, I always want to know what is being used as the baseline. Yes, things are not as good as they were in 2000 during the heady days of the Tiger Craze. But is that a good baseline? No. Not by any reasonable standard.
Here’s a different, and longer-term perspective. In 1960, there were around five million golfers, and the population at the time was 180 million. Golfers therefore were 2% of the population. Today, various reports suggest that there are around 25 million golfers, while the population of the US is now 320 million. That means that today, twelve percent of the population plays golf.
That’s pretty good. Let’s compare that to soccer, a sport which golf courses are trying to leech for players with footgolf. A FIFA report suggests that 18 million people in the US play soccer. That’s less than the number of golfers — about 9% of the population.
Last year, 17 million people played either softball or baseball. Video games? A 2013 study found that just 37.5 million in the United States are “core gamers” — those who play videogames 5 or more hours a week (or, in other words, about the same amount of time as a round of golf).
Golf participation is higher than either of those.
If golf really wants to increase participation numbers, all the sport has to do is create some gender equity. Women represent 50% of the population, but only 20% of the golfers. Suppose that the industry were to treat women with respect (instead of the incessant T&A photos from the golf media and the shoddy treatment by manufacturers and courses), and achieve something like parity in the game. The result would be some 40 million golfers in the United States.
And THAT would be more than enough to satisfy everyone.