Future Of Golf: Is It Too Slow For Millennials?

Golf is said to have originated from a game played on the eastern coast of Scotland during the 15 century. During this ancient game, players would hit a pebble around a course of sand dunes, or rabbit tracks using a primitive club or stick. Other schools of thought argue that Chole from Belgium and Kolven from Holland influenced the game. Though these games as well as many others involve a stick and a ball, they all miss one important ingredient found in golf-the hole.

Golf was briefly banned in Scotland during the English invasion but the ban was lifted after the Treaty of Glasgow. The sport became highly popular and gained status especially due to the participation of King James IV who went on to become the first real player of golf. The sport also received the royal endorsement of King Charles 1 in England and Mary Queen of Scots who introduced the sport in France. On 17th of October 1860, the first golf tournament was played at Prestwick Golf Club in Scotland.

The underlying principle of golf is fairness. The back cover of the official rule book stipulates the following: Play the ball as it lies, play the course as you find it, and if you cannot do either, do what is fair. Apart from the international rules of golf, players are supposed to abide by a set of guidelines known as golf etiquette. These cover issues such as pace of play, safety, fairness and player’s duty to improve the playing experience of other golfers.

Apart from the rules and etiquette governing this honorable sport, golf has always been played by respectable people throughout history. As a result it emerged to be a gentleman’s game where players are expected to behave respectably and account for their fouls unlike in other sports.

Since the first golf tournament was held in Prestwick Golf Club in Scotland in 1860, many tours and tournaments have been held around the world. Currently, the Professional Golf Association (PGA) tour, normally held in the US is the most prestigious men’s tour in the world. Women have their own tour known as the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) tour held in the US. These two events are attended by the best players around the world.

Though golf has always been considered a gentleman’s game, the industry has been experiencing problems in the recent past due to a generation gap. According to statistics from Sports & Fitness Industry Association, overall participation in golf by people aged 18-34 in the US fell by about 13 percent between 2009 and 2013. Though the survey indicated there were less young people playing golf, their participation rates for active sports such as cricket, running and soccer increased by 29 percent.

According to Matt Powel, a SportsOne analyst, most millennials feel that golf is slow, expensive and takes a long time to play. As a sport, it does not include the critical things that millennials consider valuable such as inclusion and diversity.

To re-ignite the enthusiasm and participation of young people especially the millenials in the game, golf experts are scrambling to find new strategies. In the meantime, club memberships are falling and television ratings are falling.