Report: More People Are Trying Golf, But It’s Not Sticking

March 8, 2016

What’s keeping American golf from growing? Given the rise in new golfers trying the sport for the first time, golf in the U.S. should be expanding its base. Instead, the number of avid golfers continues to decline.

An annual report released today by the National Golf Foundation on participation shows that despite more people picking up clubs for the first time, they aren’t getting hooked. They aren’t returning to the club. They aren’t buying lessons. The NGF blames unwelcoming golf facilities for this gap: a culture of complicated etiquette and a steep learning curve.

The National Golf Foundation’s chief executive, Joe Beditz, told the Wall Street Journal that to solve its popularity woes, golf needs to become “more beginner-friendly.” “It’s like we’re running a gas station. ‘Come or don’t come. Here’s the price,’” he said.

What’s really getting in the way of turning casual golfers into lifelong fans isn’t necessarily the expense or the time commitment. The NGF blames an atmosphere unfriendly to outsiders and a course structure that offers no on-ramp for beginners.

According to the NGF, the total number of golfers in America fell from 24.7 million in 2014 to 24.1 million in 2015. The peak of 30 million came in 2005.