By any measure, participation in the game is way off, from a high of 30.6 million golfers in 2003 to 24.7 million in 2014, according to the National Golf Foundation (NGF). The long-term trends are also troubling, with the number of golfers ages 18 to 34 showing a 30 percent decline over the last 20 years. Nearly every metric — TV ratings, rounds played, golf-equipment sales, golf courses constructed — shows a drop-off. “I look forward to a time when we’ve got the wind at our back, but that’s not what we’re expecting,” says Oliver “Chip” Brewer, president and CEO of Callaway. “This is a demographic challenge.”
I forget how I got to the article, but I think I started with Instapundit somewhere.
In any case, I have probably remarked before on what I see as a trend for hobbies to get narrower and deeper. That is, fewer people do X, but there are more people deeply involved in X. X could be following professional baseball, playing bridge, playing golf, or what have you.
I think that hobbies are getting deeper because the Internet gives you more ways to go deeper into a hobby. You can get better at it by watching YouTube videos. You can learn more about it by reading stuff on the Web. What happens is that fewer people try to learn to play guitar, but the people who do play will tend to be pretty good at it.
I think that hobbies are getting narrower because (a) there are more choices, so people who might otherwise have done X will now instead do Y; and (b) because people are getting deeper into hobbies, this tends to discourage the more casual participant. Baseball was hard enough to understand before all the new statistics concocted by the sabermetrics nerds. Twenty years ago, I used to joke about “tournament folk dancing” to describe an especially difficult folk dance session. Now, the phrase could describe most sessions.
In any case, I would not bet on golf or any other hobby experiencing a persistent increase in its casual user base.