- Total golf courses, public and private, in the U.S.: 15,500 (approximate)
- Public-access courses: 11,581
- Municipal courses (owned and/or operated by a city, county or township): 2,449
- Total number of golfers (2011): 25.7 million (down from a high of 30.6 million in 2003)
- Number of “core” golfers (those who play 8 – 24 rounds per year): 14.4 million (down from a high of 19.7 million in 1998 and 2000)
- Golfers who play public courses: 90%
- Golfers who play at least eight rounds per year and consider themselves “passionate” about the game: 90%
- Number of 18-hole rounds played in 2010: 33,000 (down from 40,000 in 1990)
- Increase in number of golf courses since 1990: 24%
- Increase in number of golfers since 1990: 17%
- Public courses expected to close over the next 10 years: 5-10%
- Outside time. Starting off the list of golf benefits is the time that is able to be spent outdoors. Many of us live indoor-based lives these days, often staring at computer screens for hour after hour, day after day. For most people, that just isn’t much of an exciting life – so we count down the hours until we can get outside and enjoy the fresh air and green grass. Golf provides the perfect reason to get outside and do just that. Golf courses are well-manicured outdoor spaces, and even a poor round of golf can be redeemed by the pleasant atmosphere of being outside among the trees and plants. Unlike a sport like tennis, which can be played indoors or out, golf is a strictly outdoor game that can be played year round in many parts of the country.
- Wonderful exercise. Anyone who thinks that golf doesn’t offer exercise because it is just walking around for a few hours has never carried a golf bag for 18 holes while hitting a shot every couple minutes. Sure, playing a round of golf is never going to be confused with running a marathon, but it is still an excellent source or low-impact exercise for millions of people. One of the great things about using golf to get exercise is that is doesn’t feel like exercise – you will be so distracted by the task of trying to play your best that you will forget you get exercising at the same time. While you might have trouble finding the motivation to get out and go for a long walk or a jog, you probably won’t have any trouble getting off the couch to head to the course for a round of golf.
- Camaraderie. When you are young, it is easy to meet and spend time with people. Most of those relationships start in school, but quickly spread to other areas of your life. However, as we get older, it becomes more and more difficult to meet people, make friends, and build relationships. Most of us have a daily routine of just heading to work and back each day, which doesn’t leave much time for meeting new people. Unless you make friends with your co-workers, you can start to find your base of friends getting smaller and smaller. Golf is a great way to reverse this trend. In addition to being competitive, golf is a social game that many people play as a way to enjoy time with their friends. Not only can you make new friends at the golf course, but it is also a great reason to catch up and spend time with friends that you have had for years. Making a tee time once a month or so is an excellent way to keep in touch with people that you might otherwise lose track of as life goes on.
- Competitive edge. Just like it can be harder to make friends as life goes on, it is also harder to find competitive outlets that you may have enjoyed when you were younger. Unless you make your career as a professional athlete, you probably have trouble locating good places to be competitive in a healthy, athletic way. Playing golf will put you right back in that competitive frame of mind, either with your playing partners or in a club tournament. The great thing about golf is that, thanks to the handicap system, you don’t even have to be particularly good at the game to enjoy taking part in a competition.
- Never-ending challenge. No golfer – not a single one – has ever perfected the game. Even the best golfers on the planet still hit bad shots during every round, and they are always trying to get better. While this might sound like a frustration, it is actually one of the best aspects of the game. Challenge is what keeps your mind engaged and interested in a task, such as hitting a golf ball. The fact that you will never completely master the job means that you can spend the rest of your life trying to improve your technique and sharpen your performance.
- Cost. This has always been, and will always remain, the biggest hurdle that golf has to deal with. The cost of entry into the game can be considerable, when you start to add up the price of purchasing clubs, shoes, balls, a bag, etc. Once those purchases are made, the price of greens fees also is a hurdle that some people won’t be comfortable going over on a regular basis. The industry as golf as a whole needs to strike a balance between offering a quality product and making the game too expensive that the majority of the middle class in unable to participate. Building and maintaining a golf course is expensive business, so the game is never going to be the cheapest form of recreation in the world. However, it is possible to find that right balance to appeal to a broader market, and the more clubs that are able to do that, the better golf will be as a whole.
- Time. For better or worse, the pace of life is moving faster than ever. In the high-tech digital age that we live, people expect things to happen fast so they can move on to the next task as soon as possible. This stands in opposition to the traditions of the game of golf, which has always been seen as a slow-paced, relaxing game. While most golfers understand that a round of golf (18 holes) should take around four hours to complete, letting the pace of play slip up to five hours or more simply isn’t acceptable. If the average round of golf starts getting closer to five hours than four, many players will simply find something else to do. Of all the challenges that golf faces in the coming years, this is probably the most urgent.
- Challenge. While the challenge of the game of golf is something that many players love, it also can prevent beginning golfers from getting very far along before they give it up. If you are a new golfer and you struggle mightily in your first few rounds and trips to the driving range, you might just decide that you are going to take up a less-challenging sport or hobby. A combination of better instruction for beginning golfers, and easier course setups that provide plenty of room for error, should be able to give beginners the ability to pick up the game and gradually improve their play.
- Engaging the kids. The final challenge that golf needs to deal with is making sure enough young people fall in love with the game. The Tiger Woods phenomenon of the late 90’s and early 2000’s led to a boom in youth golf, which has since leveled off and even declined. Making sure kids have affordable opportunities to play golf, and that they are welcomed and encourage when on the course, is important for the long-term health of the game. When adults make kids feel unwelcome on the course, the young people aren’t going to want to keep coming back.
Since 1936, the National Golf Foundation (NGF) has collected data pertaining to the United States golf industry. Among other statistics, the group tracks the number of golfers and golf courses as well as trends related to each.
Here’s a look at some key NGF info for the year 2012:
The number of golf courses began shrinking in the early-2000s and, due to economic and societal factors, the trend shows no signs of abating. In 2012, only 13 new golf courses were opened in the U.S., compared with 154.5 that closed. (The .5 represents nine holes.)
What We Can Learn About USA Golfers
Golf is one of the most popular sports in the world, and for good reason. As a golfer, you already understand many of the benefits and excitements that the game can bring. Getting to be outside, spend time with friend, get exercise, and challenge yourself to improve are all aspects of golf that people love to enjoy. It doesn’t matter if you are a scratch player or a 30 handicap, anyone can have fun on the golf course with the right attitude.
Among the biggest draws to the game of golf for many people is the ability to play it throughout their lifetime, well into retirement. Many sports that American kids grow up playing – football, basketball, baseball, etc. – are difficult to participate in later on in life. Most of them either require physical strain that is just not appealing at an older age, or a team of people that is difficult to assemble. Golf can be played with minimal physical strain, and you can easily play alone or with just a couple friends. Those who are thinking ahead will often engage in golf at a younger age, even if only periodically, just so they can have some experience and be ready to play more as the years go by.
There are a number of ways that various organizations track the popularity of the game of golf, such as the golf NGF, or National Golf Foundation. Organizations such as the golf NGF produce golf statistics such as how many golf courses in USA, how much golf America plays each year, and more. These facts about golf will fluctuate from year to year depending on a number of factors – specifically the overall economy as a whole. Not surprisingly, a stronger economy means that more people have money to spend on golf, and the popularity of the game goes up. Golf statistics can be somewhat useful in evaluating how many people play golf, but they are too influenced by outside sources to really indicate what people think about golf as a whole.
No matter how the numerical facts about golf might fluctuate from year to year, there is no question that there is a large and passionate base of golfers in the U.S. that simply love to play the game. This group of avid golfers will get out to the course at every chance they can, even in some rather ugly weather. If you consider yourself among this group of golfers, it probably doesn’t concern you much what the state of the game is as a whole – rather, you are just hoping to be able to play some of the best golf courses in USA and continue to improve your game for years to come.
The Reasons Golf Remains Popular
So what it is, specifically, that allows golf to retain such a powerful place in the hearts of so many players? After all, there are plenty of sports for people in the U.S. to pick from, and many of them are less expensive to play. Golf has a certain magic that gives it a hold over many players who picked up the game at one point in their life and they never let go.
Well, actually, it isn’t magic at all. There are very good reasons for golf to remain such a popular and addicting game. Once you break it down into a number of different components and look at each of them individually, it is quite easy to understand the love affair with golf America has.
The list above contains just five of the potentially countless reasons why golf remains one of the most popular sports for adults to participate in. Most likely, your own motivation for playing the game is a combination of some of the factors above, as well as your own, personal reasons.
The Challenges that Golf Faces
While the arguments in favor of golf are quite compelling, we would be lying to ourselves if we said the game didn’t face any challenges going forward. Like any other industry, golf has to make sure that it remains competitive from a cost standpoint, and also is providing enough motivation for young people to take up the game. Kids have their choice of many different sports to play when they are young, so making sure that enough of them pick golf is of critical importance. Those kids are the golfers of the future, who will grow up, get jobs, and support the industry.
If golf is going to continue to hold its spot as a popular game played by millions across the country, it needs to make sure that the issues below are successfully addressed.
As long as the business of golf is able to address these challenges and put forward plans to make sure the game continues to appeal to a broad audience, the long range outlook for golf should remain as strong as ever.
The Best Golf Courses in the Country
One of the exciting things about being a golfer is having the opportunity to travel around to new locations and play different golf courses. Most other sports are played on a field that looks exactly the same no matter where you go – but the field is always changing when you are a golfer. Even if you play most of your rounds on the same local course, you can always try to book a vacation or two to visit some of the best golf courses in USA. There are plenty of destinations across the country, with most of the popular ones being located in warm, southern climates that offer great weather in addition to beautiful courses.
There are a couple of specific spots within the United States that every golfer should make an effort to visit at least once, if possible. The first of those is the Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina. Famous for the #2 Course that has played host to the U.S. Open in addition to plenty of other events, the resort actually offers eight total golf courses for visitors to experience. This is one of the largest golf resorts in the golf, and it offers an idyllic southern setting that makes for the perfect relaxing vacation. Whether you choose to play a ton of golf and try to see as many of the courses as possible, or just a play a couple rounds and spend the rest of your time relaxing under the sun, Pinehurst offers the opportunity for a memorable golf vacation.
The other spot that avid golfers should consider for a destination trip is the Palm Springs area in the Coachella Valley of California. Only a couple hours’ drive east from Los Angeles, the Palm Springs area includes an incredible number of golf courses – along with an incredible number of hours of sunshine on an annual basis. Depending on your preference for temperature, you can travel here in the winter for highs in the 70’s and 80’s, or come during the summer for daytime highs well beyond 100. No matter when you come, there is sure to be a great selection of golf courses for you to pick from. The PGA West facility in La Quinta offers three resort courses (along with three private courses), and has played host to plenty of prominent events. You could travel to the Coachella Valley several times without hitting all of the great courses that the area has to offer.
What do You Want from the Game?
At the end of the day, the only thing that really matters is what you want to get out of the game throughout the rest of your golfing life. While it might be interesting to look at golf statistics such as how many courses in USA, it really doesn’t matter much to you in the end. As long as there is a course near you open and ready for business, you can continue on enjoying the game.
So how do you make sure that the fire continues to burn and you stay passionate about golf for many years ahead? To start with, never settle for just good enough. No matter what your current handicap is, always strive to get better. There will always be things you can improve about your own game, and you can always work toward lowering your scores. Remember that you don’t have to make radical changes to your game to see improvement – even a slight adjustment to your putting technique could lead to a new personal best. As long as the motivation is there to play your best, golf will never get boring.
Another way to remain engaged with the game is to do exactly what was talked about above and find new courses to play. While taking a long golf vacation is certainly exciting, you could also just seek out new courses within your region that you haven’t yet tried. The game can get stale from time to time if you just play the same 18 holes over and over again, so break up the routine and take your group to a new course occasionally.
Speaking of your group, making sure you maintain a group of golfing friends so you can help keep each other motivated and excited to head out to the course. Even if you go through a period where you aren’t playing that well and the motivation is dipping, you will still want to head out to the course so you can spend some quality time with your friends and enjoy the outdoors. Golf is such a great game to play for a lifetime because it combines competitiveness and challenge with social fun and relaxing exercise. You would have to look long and hard to find another hobby that meets all of those criteria.
Finally, one last thing you can do to keep golf at the top of your mind for years to come is to make a sort of ‘bucket list’ as it relates to golf. On your list of things to accomplish in golf could be a variety of items – such as shooting a specific score, playing a certain course, playing ‘x’ amount of rounds per year, etc. Setting goals is great for motivation within any part of life, and playing golf is no different. Outline your goals for the game over the next few years and then get down to work checking things off one by one.
Golf is among the best games in the world, and we are all lucky to have the opportunity to play it on a regular basis. America is full of people who are passionate about the game, and we have some of the best golf courses in the world to enjoy as well. Don’t forget how much enjoyment the game has brought to you over the years, and keep your mind focused on the things that you have yet to do in golf. Here’s to many more years of great shots, great friends, and great memories on the course!