Golf equipment sales have been tanking. The number of golf courses closing annually will dwarf the number of new courses opening for years to come.
Apparently people aren’t playing the game like they once did, which is a damn shame.
TIME offers five reasons why this is the case.
1. People are too damn busy.
The argument here is that it’s impossible to find four hours on a weekend to play 18 holes of golf.
As new dad Jason Gay of the Wall Street Journal put it recently, speaking for dads—all parents, really—everywhere, “It is more likely I will become the next prime minister of Belgium than it is that I will find 4½ hours on a weekend to go play golf.”
Of course, there’s no need to play 18 holes of golf at a time (which TIME acknowledges). I probably play 40-50 rounds of golf a year, but a great majority of those rounds are nine hole rounds, played at 6:30 in the morning.
Also, as busy as everyone claims to be, the average American spends 34 hours per week watching television and almost 3 hours per week playing video games on console and mobile devices (with hardcore gamers logging almost 20 hours per week).
Everyone is so damn busy, yet they seem to have a lot of time for the couch.
2. It’s elitist and too expensive.
TIME also points out that golf can be made exceedingly affordable, but quickly discounts that notion:
It’s just that, by and large, the sport has a well-deserved reputation for being pricey—think $400 drivers, $250,000 club “initiation” fees, and too many gadgets to mention. The snooty factor goes hand in hand with the astronomical prices and atmosphere on the typical course.
I played golf for my first five years with a set of used irons that cost my friend $10, a driver that cost about $150, and a putter than cost $1.
I play on public courses which cost me $12-20 per nine holes. We walk the course instead of riding in a cart, which is good for us and saves us money.
Golf is supremely affordable if you allow it to be.
As for the elitism, that all depends on where you play and who is playing with you. If you and your friends are playing on public courses, elitism doesn’t exist.
Dress codes on public courses barely exist.
If you’re playing at a country club that costs tens of thousands of dollars a year to join, yes, you will encounter elitism. Also strict dress codes and cigars. But this has nothing to do with golf and everything to do with who you choose for friends are and where you choose to hang out.
It’s just not cool.
It’s too difficult.
This is the beauty of the game.
“The deep appeal of golf, once you get hooked, is that it’s difficult,”John Paul Newport, golf columnist for the Wall Street Journal, told NPR last month. “Normally when you play a round of golf, you step onto the green and that’s when all the intense stress starts. You know, this tiny little hole, you have to look at putts from many ways, you hit it a few feet past and you add up strokes quickly around the green.”
I’m not sure what Newport means by intense stress. Unless you’re playing in some PGA competition, the amount of stress is determined solely by yourself. I may feel pressure at times while playing, but it’s self-imposed pressure. The only thing riding on every shot is my desire for excellence.
Newport is also right that one of the appealing aspects of the game is the challenge. Golf is hard. It’s incredible complicated. You learn new things every time you play. Every single shot is unlike any previous shot. There are constant improvements to be made.
Yes, golf is hard. That’s one of the reasons why it’s so great.
Recently, lunatics have proposed changes such as 15-inch cups in order to make the game much easier and approachable.
This is stupid. This would strip the game of its luster.
Besides, there are already ways of making the game easier to play. Instead of larger holes, play from the red tees and shorten the course for yourself.
Also, learn how out to putt.
5. Tiger Woods.
Skeptics insist that golf isn’t dying. Not by a long shot. The sport’s popularity, they say, is merely taking a natural dip after soaring to unjustified heights during the “golf bubble” brought on by the worldwide phenomenon that was Tiger Woods.
This may be true, but it’s not why I started playing the game, and I can’t imagine quitting a game as great as golf simply because one of its stars is aging.
If TIME is right and these are the reasons that golf is in decline, people suck.
People have plenty of time. They choose to spend it stupidly.
Golf is absolutely affordable if you’re willing to play on public course, walk instead of ride, tee off with last year’s driver, and hit golf balls that don’t cost $5 each.
Golf is difficult. If you require ease and leisure in your life, play Go Fish.
Otherwise, find some grit and determination and learn to play the game.