Over and over and over again, I read about growing the game.
There are some who believe we should be constantly looking for five per cent sustained growth, while others want 50 per cent and some don’t care.
The magnitude of the undertaking is monumental.
Slow play, degree of difficulty, social change, demographics, transportation, lack of centralized leadership all play a role in complicating the process.
So what should we, as lovers of golf, do to ensure future health of the sport?
First, we need to recognize that golfers are not the only guardians of a sport that isn’t the one one to have faced declining numbers.
Bowling is a wonderful indoor sport that seems to bounce along through a variety of economic conditions and is currently one of the most recession-proof businesses in the USA.
In the 1970s and ‘80s, tennis hooked onto the britches of young to middle aged baby boomers, but is losing popularity as these people age.
Hockey and football are suffering from equipment costs and concern for permanent injury. So what are the outdoor sports that are replacing them? Soccer, basketball and cycling, among others.
Parents who take their responsibilities seriously are urging their offspring to learn a healthy lifestyle by eating better foods and mix the time spent on low energy enjoyment (computer games and TV) with activity based activities.
Basketball and soccer are inexpensive meet-ups that don’t require organized competitions and provide benefits through participation.
Can cycling be a main competitor to the growth of golf? Of course.
If you read promotional material in any travel magazine, you will see pages of opportunities for cycling, hiking, nature trail walking, bird watching and fishing. Each of these appeals to the front edge of the baby boomers.
These pastimes are inexpensive, outdoor activities requiring little if any skill.
Considering the beating on retirement plans, the tremendous burden to acquire massive job retraining mid-career due to computerization and other factors and three very onerous devaluations in the financial markets that caused huge downsizing, the pressure to perform has taken its toll.
Retiring people don’t want to play a game for fun and relaxation that requires extensive skill development. They just spent the last 35 or 40 years under pressure to upgrade, while hoping their jobs wouldn’t eventually be lost.
It was once a popular belief that as baby boomers got older, they would take up golf in retirement. Take a look at the extensive construction of new courses in Muskoka north of Toronto and other areas.
Developers projected a prosperous economy filling the coffers of pension plans/RRSP’s for a huge, health-oriented segment of the population.
It isn’t happening.
So now what? What should we do if we truly want to be responsible guardians?
Since all I hear is doom and gloom and rarely do I hear a good idea about how to change things, why don’t we at least go back and do some of the things that have worked before?
That way, we will at least accomplish something until the new messiah comes and leads us all into the future. Until then, using what’s been used in the past at least has a track record of success, which makes it a valuable commodity in uncertain times.