It's been a while since we've had a golf-is-dead piece to consider and as much as it pains me to say it, this one from Jason Notte at Market Watch scores a few points. Thanks to reader Blake for sending and sharing some thoughts on how, unfortunately this resonates with him as a 30-year-old golfer.
Looking at The Masters and other recent data Notte notes the many issues golf faces are related to demographics and a change in what people want to watch.
In 2014, Nielsen noted that 63% of the PGA’s television audience was over the age of 55. Some 87% of that audience was white, while only 12% was younger than 35. By comparison, only 25% of the National Basketball Association’s audience is 55 or older, 47% is younger than 35, and 57% is nonwhite.
The LPGA’s key demographic isn’t all that different from that of its male counterparts. Both the PGA and LPGA have a viewership that’s about 63% male. Roughly 64% of the LPGA’s audience is 30 or older, and 84% is white.
Golf’s core audience is literally dying, and it’s affecting golf far beyond its television broadcasts.
This conclusion will sting for many of us, and while an exaggeration, serves as a good wake-up call to keep up the current dialogue about livening up the game and how it is presented on television.
There is no second coming of Tiger Woods. There is no burgeoning generation of children longing to play a four-hour game filled with nitpicky, self-policing rules. There is no city in the U.S. willing to trade density and tax ratables for divots and rough. If golf has little to offer this country but televised shots of manicured greens and galleries and living rooms of cranky, aging diehards, then it should prepare to take a seat beside horse racing among U.S. sports antiques.
My main quibble with these types of stories and all other stories: golf has been around for centuries and will continue to be because it's a sound, interesting and unusual sport that can be enjoyed by all age groups.
The current cycle we are in is certainly not a positive one given that millennials, obsessed with their phones or other activities that do not extend their stay by more than ninety minutes, are the center of the business world's attention. So even though the folks with the buying power haven't cooled to the sport, the young but small audience is given too much weight in evaluating the viability of golf as a pastime.
Golf has been slow to keep its facilities up-to-date and this generation, which has high standards when it comes to food, beverage and experience, is understandably not enthused by golf's experience. There has been a shocking lack of imagination in offering promotions, incorporating technology or simply adjusting to basic societal shifts by golf facilities.
Golf's various tours and governing bodies are increasingly aware of these issues and making strides. Yet remain stubborn about addressing issues that will return the sport's ideal scale and pacing. Worse, there is often an air of desperation around initiatives that is noticed by those on the outside looking in.
And while golf on television has never been a young person's game or one that will attract mass audiences, the right amount of broadcast modernization and incorporation of technology can at least keep viewers more engaged while serving players and sponsors better.
The question, however, remains: are all of these efforts just a bit too late?