More or Less?

I just read a shocking (but maybe not) statistic.  "Golf play is down for the 5th year in a row. 2.5% down from last year alone.  Every 48 hours, another golf course closes.  Over 400,000 golfers have left the game from a year ago."  Wow.  Is it really this bad?

Have you guys and girls played less or more this year?  And what about your friends and people you know.  Just curious...

Thanks for your feedback!

Vern

The number of rounds that I have played is down about 90% from last year. My son started playing on multiple baseball teams. His sports take precedent over my leisure time activities.

I'm playing about the same amount that I have in years past, although after I retire tomorrow (25th) my rounds played will increase. I have noticed though that the course where my league is at has much less play now and a lot of the other local courses I play at during the week are not as busy as they were in the past.

Barry

In my case, I'm playing more, but also the kids have left home and the dog is not quite dead yet, but a lot less active. "Life begins..." I work with a lot of young adults, and after the first 2-3 years out of college, their time on course is down as they spend more time with their families. I guess between the arms race to obsolete clubs every 6 months and the pace of play, the expense and time can be discouraging. At my club last night I played 12 holes to practice, including playing most holes with 2-3 balls and finished in just about 2 hours. At the local muni courses, it would have been close to 2.5 hours for nine. I would have passed on that.

I'm playing alot more this year simply because there aren't alot of people out there playing.  It seems like Saturday is still a bit busy, but during Men's and Senior Men's, we are not pushed at all.  My home course is starting to feel the pinch, however, they offer specials through multi media and they are not afraid to lower rates significantly to push people to get out and play.  We have experienced a huge fall off at a couple of the local Country Clubs.  They are hurting so bad, that they have reudced rates to get people to join.  I'm waiting for them to get to zero, then I might think about it.  In the meantime, it seems that the courses who have a strong history of being great, aren't struggling as the ones who have problems and have to cut corners.  The weak in this case, will probably be trimmed...

Hey everyone, 

This is a very important discussion and one that can lead to some really good ideas about what can be done to grow the game. With that said, what do you think can be done to help increase participation? Would it be faster rounds? More affordable access?

Personally, I love the game of golf as it is. I do not want to see it made easier, or less challenging. However, I would like to see a continued focus on faster rounds. 

I would love to hear your thoughts. 

Thanks again for the great participation.

Bubba

I have been retired for several years and I play year round on a regular basis weather permitting. Golf is an expensive sport and it is not easy to become a good player. The upkeep to maintain a good course is very expensive. I have been playing golf for most of my life and it is an enjoyable sport that one can play from an early age to the grave. I have met thousands of people through the sport of golf and the vast majority have been very pleasant and friendly. I joined a private club a number of years ago because the local muni's in the area just did not have the money to maintain a good course. As most golf courses across the country have felt the pinch from the decline of our economy and high unemployment rate, maintaining a good golf course takes money. Our club decided that a higher monthly cash flow from a higher membership number was more important than restricting our membership with a high initiation fee. We dropped the initiation fee down to zero for a limited time and increased our membership to over 200 members. I would say the vast majority of these members are young working people who have children and would like to enjoy the amenities that a good private club can offer e.g., golf camps for children, swimming pool, gym, casual and coat and tie dinning, tennis and live bands and dancing on the weekends. Being a member of a country club involves not only the golfer but the whole family. So to answer your question Vern, in my world I would say that golf is stronger than ever and on the weekends you cannot hardly find a place to park, but I also realize that to enjoy the great golf course that I am able to play, takes an effort of many people and the cash flow of monthly dues to maintain a enjoyable atmosphere that sadly most muni's cannot afford.

Bubba,

I think that growing the game is a good goal, but there is a lot of complaining about the pace of play and I would think that more people would mean that things would get even slower.  That being said, I have some ideas that would make things more enjoyable (and popular).  First, players need to know their game and play from the proper tees for their ability.  Second, players should play "ready golf" so as to keep the pace moving. Third, there are things that courses could do to speed up the pace as well as make it more enjoyable.  I have played many courses where the tee boxes are pitched sideways causing slices or hooks and it always seems that the most "trouble" off the tee is on the side that the ball will fly.  If courses would level their tee boxes, there would be fewer players being in trouble and thus speeding up the pace as well as giving the player less frustration and more success and enjoyment.  This process also applies to signs on the tees to show distances to hazards or carries, so that people can judge what club to use.  This would also speed things up as well as lower the frustration levels.  As for the costs, golf is an expensive game.  I don't know if the equipment makers are willing to get involved in this process or not, maybe not coming out with new products every five minutes would keep costs down.  Anyway, these are my thoughts.  Fairways and greens to all.

Mark F

mark,

all salient points about course setup.  but let me throw something else out there - how about changing the mindset of a lot of the amateurs out there?  i'd say a lot of the slow play out there is due to (mostly) guys who have no business emulating their favorite tour pros in their regular sunday foursome.

how many times have you seen a 20 handicapper throw up grass 5 times to check the 1mph headwind and then decide to go back to the cart to get another club?  or read a 40ft putt from 3 different locations only to come up 15ft short?  or this - waiting to hit a second shot on a par 5 with 245 left and pulling a 4 iron.  then after waiting an eternity, come up 75yds short and wonder why that happened when tiger hit that same 4 iron 245 on tv the other day...

also, i'm not sure how successful the usga's "while we're young" campaign was (although the AP commercial was pretty funny), but maybe the pga tour needs to start a "you're not me" campaign.  whatever the solution, a lot of the weekend warriors out there need to swallow their pride and learn the limitations of their own game.

- fred

Here's what is going on right now at my home course.  We have just added foot golf in which we dug big holes in the rough, and placed plastic rims and flags in each of them, and people can actually play 18 holes of foot golf (soccer ball) on the front nine.  We have had alot of participation from the high schools, little league soccer etc.  It's doing alright.  Another idea we have is the GolfBoard which is a huge skateboard that holds your golf bag and you can navigate it around the course (see it on YouTube under GolfBoard).  Either way, our Head Professional is looking at different alternatives to enhance the income so we can afford to maintain the greens, and the course in general.  It can be testing sometimes, but in order to succeed and thrive, sometimes you need to look outside the box.

 

Seems weird to reply to my own post, but it just occurred to me that one way to save huge costs and overhead would be to make golf courses astroturf or synthetic surfaces like other sports.  I'm sure that this would be a slap in the face to the traditional golfers (I for one, love the smell of fresh cut grass, but it would certainly bring down costs). But I think the downside to that would be that you would lose probably many more than you would gain, so, what's the point, right?

On the private club side, I think if the government would go back to allowing business deductions to partially defray the cost of country club membership, that would help matters.  Also, no initiation fees or waiving long term contracts would certainly bring in new members.  Although, some clubs like to raise rates and fees, just to keep out those they don't want to belong to their membership anyway.

As far as slow play goes, I agree with many that it should start from the top. Tour players spend way too much time on their routines, in my humble opinion.  What if your doctor or dentist took the same amount of time to take your temperature, or blood pressure or cleaned your teeth.  Come on, guys!  You're pros!  You should have almost every shot figured out way before you get there!  I don't know about my fellow TT members, but the more I see a tour pro look over a putt and so forth, the more it seems like he always misses.  Or is it just me?

Anyway, those are my thoughts and feelings.  What are yours?  Thanks again! 

Vern

Bubba

the biggest problem with slow play is players not playing from the proper tee for their ability. The macho guy that will not play from the senior tees.

Got to stop calling the black tee the tips, the blue/white the men's tee , the green seniors and the read Women's tee's.    Got to just marking the tee's with signs that say "0-5" Hdcp, 5-10 Hdcp, 11-19 Hdcp,     20-30  Hdcp etc or some other set of ranges.

Jerry Wood

One sure fire way to increases the speed of play by 50%?  Make 9 holes the new norm.  9 hole tournaments.  9 hole league play.  9   hole recreation play.  Fees would be less.  The time commitment would be cut in half.  18 hole courses could be utilized to their full extent because now they would be serving more people and doubling their capabilities and capacity.  Men and women's day could be the same day on the same course but different 9's.  Same with the youths.  So much more could be done for so many more people.  Again, the purist would rise in rebellious uproar. But this is one solution guaranteed to work.  I don't know of any other sport that has a longer playing time than golf.  Can you imagine 9 hole professional tournaments? What do you people think?  I'm not sure I'd like it. Ha!  Thanks again for your thoughts and feelings!  Vern

Increasing the speed of play seems to be a recurring theme and I agree.  Years ago, in an effort to speed up times, a head pro posted the weekend tee sheet on the turn and anyone that did not make the turn in 2 hrs was highlighted in bright colors, and anyone that did not come up 18 in 4 hours was also highlighted.  Then the tee sheet was emailed out to everyone.  He did not have to say anything to anyone - it was just amazing how the pace of play decreased.  It took several weeks, but the effect has been that even now, the pace of play is pretty good - we can play on a weekend morning in just under 4 hours.  But, that is something that can be done where there is a membership - much more difficult to do when your players change every week. 

Another idea that was proposed was that the early tee times be reserved for those that can play in under 4 hours.  They lead the field so their times will reflect on the rest of the field for the day.  Players that want to linger or have a leisurely round can play after 11:30-12:00. 

Courses can shut down the back tees so that players that don't belong there aren't tempted to play from there and good players might find it fun to move up and have more birdie opportunities.  Shorter courses will help move play along.

Courses should also realize that a faster pace of play means that the players can come in and have lunch or have their families meet them earlier to eat and relax.  A win-win situation for everyone. 

I'm playing more golf than ever since retiring.  But I do think that in my area of eastern Ohio golf play has declined for most courses and I'd guess that it is because of a bad local economy.  Golf has always been a relatively expensive game compared to other amateur sports so I'd guess that a lot of players have cut out the expense.  I play a 9 holer almost every day for practice, $500 for an annual 7 day membership, now thats some pretty cheap golf and yet this course is never busy through the week and just moderately busy on weekends.  The 9 hole practice course has a small group of guys, mostly older retired fella's who play every day, the after work crowd is much smaller than in the past.  Memberships at the private clubs around here is down as well, membership costs have been rising as their number of members has dropped off, some are now open to limited public play.  One 18 hole course close to me shut down last year.  Around here there seems to be fewer 20 to 40 year olds playing than in the past.  Teen play on the other hand seems to be robust.  Sadly high school golf is overshadowed by football around here and golf is not as popular as it could be.

I'll travel once a week somewhere up to two hours away to try out new courses.   When I call ahead for a tee time when I travel the courses are most accommodating and they are usually happy to fit me in with some local players.

Pace of play is not a factor in east Ohio at any of the courses I have played this year.

I do check a website every morning called dailyjobcuts and there is usually a course or two that close down each week.  I'd guess that those closing are due to a bad local economy more than anything.