Great News: Americans Are Giving Up Golf

According to the New York Times, Americans are leaving golf courses in droves:

The total number of people who play has declined or remained flat each year since 2000, dropping to about 26 million from 30 million, according to the National Golf Foundation and the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association.

More troubling to golf boosters, the number of people who play 25 times a year or more fell to 4.6 million in 2005 from 6.9 million in 2000, a loss of about a third.

Those numbers are pretty shocking. I wonder if this is some kind of Tiger Woods-related backlash. A bunch of people started playing golf because of Woods’s stratospheric popularity, but didn’t stick with the game. The article cites the duration of the average game, the high costs, reduction in corporate treats, American apathy towards athletics and shifting family responsibilities as possible reasons for the decline.

The article also discusses declines in other sports–tennis, swimming, hiking, biking and downhill skiing. I also connect this trend with an ongoing reduction in the number of hunters.

Classist, Sexist and Racist

I think this is great news. Golf clubs remain some of the most classist, sexist and racist institutions on the continent. More importantly, golf courses are vast swaths of monoculture grass and huge consumers of fresh water. There are occasional water shortages here in Essaouira because the nearby golf course uses too much of the local water, which is already in short supply. That’s not to mention how inefficient they are in terms of people-per-square-kilometer.

I have a dream. In the next decade, I want cities, provinces and states to buy every bankrupt golf course and turn them into parks, rec centres and other public spaces. I’m sure that this would prove financially inviable, but that’s why it’s a dream.


  1. I’m one of those people playing less, quite simply because I have a family.

    I’m taking walks on the seawall instead of chasing the white one around 5 times a week.

    Oh, and $75+ a round doesnt help the affordability of the sport any.

  2. I’m an avid golfer – and other than at particularly ultra-rich clubs, I find most modern golf course to be the opposite of how you’ve described them.

    Often golfing as a single, I’ve been grouped with almost every “type” of person imaginable. It’s a wonderful way to spend a day with the birds and the trees. It’s also a lot of fun to meet the different types of people who play.

    Of the hundreds of times I’ve played as a single, I can count on one hand the times where I’ve golfed with people who were unkind, stuck-up, or just a pain in the ass. Fact is, most golfers are pretty damn friendly.

    As far as the water waste goes – in many places where water is scarce, cities and golf courses are working together to re-use the cities’ gray water for the golf courses’ water needs.

    As human beings we do many things that are not particularly environmentally friendly – and I have a hard time believing that golf courses are near the top of that list.

    …My two cents…

    Have fun in the desert!

  3. Jeremy: I couldn’t find a lot of data on golfer demographics, but what I did find suggests that they’re dominantly male, middle-aged and wealthy. If you’ve got statistics that demonstrate otherwise, whip ’em out.

    The environmental impact of golf courses is significant and well-documented. Start with Wikipedia. Reading over that, I didn’t really articulate the land-use issue very well, and totally forgot about the damage that golf course fertilizers do to the ecosystem and water supply.

    Also, consider these facts (sources are at the bottom of the page) about the impact of golf on the environment and human survival.

    Golf courses aren’t poison-spewing factories, but they do rank very near the top of the list of impactful leisure activities. Which leisure activities do more damage than golfing? Motorized sports, possibly, though it’s hard to make an apple-to-oranges comparison there. That’s about all I can think of.

  4. I think I need to revise my comment to a post on “environmental sins” you wrote a few months ago. I agree with every assertion you make here, but I do play two rounds of golf per year: one with my Dad, and one with the kind souls who host our family at Thanksgiving.

    I’d go further, and broaden the indictment to people who waste water, and contaminate the water table with fertilizers just to have some fake verdant green lawn. Especially here in Vancouver. A brown summer lawn is an easy, no-mow lawn… and once the rains come back in the fall, the grass comes back completely unharmed. !!

  5. I’m not a golfer, partially because I can’t tell whether I should play left-handed or right-handed (both ways feel weird). But the best time I had golfing was at the pitch-n-putt at Queen E Park during the CUPE strike. A friend and I crossed the one-person strike line (he said hi) and played with my friend’s iron and putter and a couple golf balls. The lawns were dry and there were no flags for the holes. And we had the greatest, silliest time.

    1. I can relate to you on that one ,when I started golfing I did’nt know which way to swing it ether
      intill I played for a while than I figured it out
      that I was left handed, since than I really like
      golf its one of my best hobbies.

  6. Golf might well have some environmental impact, although if these green areas weren’t golf courses wouldn’t they likely be housing developments? Plus, how many marriages has golf saved by getting men (or women) out of the house on a Saturday for 4 hours, and how many heart attacks have they seen off by providing good exercise for the people who play? If I was to target harmful leisure activities, golf would be pretty far down my list – well behind motorsport and arguably behind hockey, considering the extra car journeys needed to transport kids to practice and fans to games and all the energy required to to maintain rinks.

  7. . When I originally commented on the clicked-Warn me when new tests are added box, and the comments are added and within four e-mails focus on the same reaction might in any way. you are able to contact me about this web site Thanks

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