Golf has a big problem. It's the pervasive - and lazy - narrative that the sport is dying. It's not just misguided, it's wrong.
But it's a story often regurgitated because golf is an easy target, with detractors saying it's too slow, too expensive and too exclusionary. The nay-sayers insist the sport must be in its death throes because participation is down, more golf courses are closing than opening, Golfsmith filed for bankruptcy and Nike stopped making clubs.
Those things clearly aren't positives, but the issue is that they never seem to come with proper context.
The reality is that the good in the game right now far outweighs the negatives, which is why we should be bullish on golf. There are, in fact, plenty of reasons for optimism.
Golf generates almost US$70 billion in economic impact in the United States annually, impacts close to two million American jobs and pours about US$4 billion into charitable coffers.
No, there aren't as many rounds being played as during the sport's zenith - when Tiger Woods was at his prime, the economy was strong and new courses were popping up like mushrooms. But what we're seeing is not a precipitous drop in rounds-played, but a return to the level before golf's popularity spike. And youth participation is up. Yes, far more courses are closing than opening, yet that's because the market is going through a natural correction caused by over-saturation during the boom years.
The new courses that are debuting give proof to the maxim: 'If you build it, they will come', with gems like glorious Cabot Cliffs in Nova Scotia, the trend-setting reversible Loop at Forest Dunes in Michigan and the magnificent Mossy Oak in Mississippi. If nothing else, true golfers are passionate and dedicated souls. Buddies trips aren't going anywhere.
Nike's exit from the club-making side of the business shouldn't have come as a major surprise. Nike was never a major player in the golf equipment industry. Sure, the swoosh is highly visible on golf hats, shirts and shoes, but Nike clubs failed to gain a significant foothold in hard goods. The world's largest sporting goods maker is used to dominating whatever part of the game it gets into. When that doesn't happen, it pulls the plug - the same way it did 10 years ago when Nike gave up on its slumping ice hockey division known as NikeBauer. And the sport of hockey is doing just fine.
Other parts of the golf industry are in a state of consolidation too, including adidas selling its golf division that includes TaylorMade to focus on apparel and footwear. Dick's Sporting Goods, the owner of Golf Galaxy, acquired Golfsmith for US$70 million in a bankruptcy auction and took over operations of at least 30 stores.
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