Wednesday, May 7, 2014
Golf Losing Popularity In The USA
Back in 2008 The New York Times published an article by Paul Vitello entitled "More Americans Are Giving Up Golf". More recently news has been published that Golf in the USA is continuing to drop in popularity and in the next ten years will drop by the tens of millions.
There have been a bunch of ideas as to why there is a loss in popularity by Americans in the game of Golf with much of the people guessing it takes too much time to play in this current hectic life in America. Which is true in many respects but I think the experts are missing the mark because it isn't only one or two things but many reasons why popularity is dropping.
The popularity of Golf in the USA was never really very popular by those who weren't of the upper economic class, Country Club living wasn't available to a depressed country. After WW II a very popular President who was a wartime hero by the name of Dwight D. Eisenhower loved the game and played it almost every day. His love of the game was carried by most newspapers of the time. Along came a successful golfer named Arnold Palmer, who came from common stock. Palmer's father was a Country Club Professional Golfer, but at that time they weren't looked on as peers of the members of the country club, rather looked upon as indentured servants. So this enormously talented, Golfer, Arnold Palmer was an ex Coast Guardsman coming from common stock like most Americans. Then along came Television which was able to televise the Golf scene, this electric personality, Palmer and a very popular President called affectionately, "Ike", which confluence of these people and events thrust Golf before the American public. Additionally Golf had great characters like Chi Chi Rodriguez, who was a poor Puerto Rican with a great sense of humor and showmanship as well as other characters which were emerging from the common people, Lee Trevino, a Mexican golf hustler with a great personality kept everyone glued to the sets and wanting to get out an play, after all if Chi Chi and Lee could do it why can't I? Add to that the great rivalry
between Palmer the commoner and Jack Nicholas who came from the country club setting and the popularity soared.
All sort of Sport Stores sprung up among them "Herman's" which sold golf equipment from very cheap to very expensive. Herman's went out of business some time ago. Public Golf courses took all day, from the wait before dawn to the five and a half our rounds but the cost was very inexpensive. Sales of complete sets of clubs, bags, carts, clothes fit almost every pocketbook because the costs went from cheap to expensive and you purchased what you could afford. But soon the stores became fewer, the prices became very expensive,and the cost to play even on a public course became very expensive. Here in NYC a round of golf can cost from forty upwards a far cry from twenty bucks only fifteen years ago. Some drivers and special clubs cost hundreds of dollars for one club alone. A full set of clubs costs anywhere from five hundred to fifteen hundred. And it still takes about five and a half hours to play a round. Hell one might have to work those hours just to afford playing. Get my drift?
On top of everything else Golf has lost it's Palmer's, Rodriquez et al. Every week we have vanilla out on the course. The only real exciting character was Tiger Woods and his body is falling apart from his extremely torque filled swing and whatever else he did with his body during off hours. There was never a lot of players of color but there were a few now there is Tiger. There is no Chi Chi reveling in his climb from a barefoot boy from Puerto Rico rising to the top of his trade or Lee Trevino, a Mexican-American, hustler having the last laugh there is only Vanilla from Country Clubs, extremely expensive colleges, and an old Arnie Palmer and Jack Nicholas both part of the establishment sort of removed from the everyman Golfer.
Golf will continue to lose popularity unless the people involved make it affordable, and fun to watch. Golf will slip into it's past and always have the rich but if it is to be a sport of kings it will have to figure out how to keep us peons interested.