olf may be steeped in tradition and loath to reinvent itself, but it is in the end no more immune than other industries to the forward march of time and technology. Over the past few years, courses, pros, amateurs and fans have been reshaping how we practice, how we play and how we enjoy this venerable game.
In 2015, the National Golf Foundation reported that participation in the sport had dropped from 24.7 million to 24.1 million players. The number of beginners, however, at 2.2 million, was the second-highest rate since the halcyon days of Tiger Woods in 2000. And the silver lining to the silver lining? The majority of these beginners were millennials, the demographic unicorn vital to the survival of most businesses, including golf.
In 2017, 23.8 million golfers teed it up on an actual course; when off-course participation — driving ranges, indoor simulators and facilities — was included, that number rose to more than 32 million. The two main factors that contributed to this increase in participation were less tradition and more technology.
“I grew up having to wear knee socks at the course,” said Duncan Simms, the head golf professional at Oak Creek Golf Club® in Irvine. “The rules are much more relaxed now. Denim is allowed at ranges and on some courses, shirts no longer have to have collars in the traditional sense, and they don’t need to be tucked in.”