Declining participation in golf is hitting too close to home

In the past 6 months I’ve played only 4 rounds of golf which is pretty sad given we can play here all 12 months of the year.  And it’s been many months since I wrote a post on this blog or really engaged with other golfers on social media.   To say I’ve been busy this year at work is an understatement, but also a pathetic excuse.  I believe that if you really want to do something, you’ll find a way to do it.   So why am I not itching to play the game I’ve loved since I hit my first “come back tomorrow shot” in 2007?

golf girlCoincidentally while I was pondering my apathy, I got a request for an interview from a local paper to share my thoughts on the decline of women’s golf in Canada.

Why are women leaving the sport? Why aren’t more women taking it up?  What can be done to turn this disturbing trend around?  Etc.

In preparing for the interview, it occurred to me how close I was to becoming one of the statistics.   My lackluster enthusiasm for the sport these past few months certainly was indicative of a problem, but I couldn’t figure out what the root cause of that problem was.

So I took a good look at my recent experience with golf  and began to realize that it’s not the sport that’s a problem; it’s how it’s packaged, delivered and priced.

The article ended up creating a bit of a buzz in the paper.  Last count there were 49 comments from people (almost all men) with passionate ideas about the game on both sides of the “change it or keep it as it as” fence.

When I got home that night from work, I received an email from someone I’ve never met, but immediately recognized as a kindred spirit.  Check it out below and then let me know what you think.  Does golf need to change to save itself or is it just fine as it is?


Hi Gayle,

I read the article in today’s Province about the decline of golf and I mostly agree with it but the biggest factor to me is cost. As an example, I golfed last Friday with some close friends as they wanted to take me out for my last round as a single guy! My friend originally planned to book a time at Morgan Creek…until they told him the cost of the round would be $95 plus whatever a cart costs. This was on a Friday afternoon?? Who can afford to do that on a regular basis; let alone semi-regular basis. We ended up going to Peace Portal instead which was $64 INCLUDING cart for the same time slot.

With the current housing market in the Lower Mainland, anyone who owns a home can barely afford to golf once a month even if they had the time to play. Typically I try to golf from May to October. If I golf once a week during that period, which I don’t think is all that often, that is going to set me back around $2000 in green fees for the season. That is a fair amount of money for casually playing. Add in beer, food, gas, etc, I can easily approach another $500 on top of that. Then every few years, I want to upgrade my equipment. A new driver alone can cost up to $500 rather easily if I want the latest one on the market.

You also can factor in time to improve. You know as well as I do, without practice, your game is never really going to improve. Without dedicating some time and money towards taking lessons when you first start, you are bound to give up the game rather quickly. I am a bogey golfer and have accepted that I will sometimes shoot in the 80s and in even sometimes *gulp* the 100s because I don’t get to practice enough to really take my game up a notch.

I am trying not to sound like a downer here as really I love the game of golf but at the prices many of the courses charge, it’s just not feasible for an average player like me to consistently play at any particular course. The sad part is, I know plenty of women who are good golfers but can’t afford to get out there.

I know you don’t have all the answers but something needs to change. I bet more golfers would be attracted to golf if the green fees were a lot more reasonable. I do understand that the courses that are more expensive are trying to maintain a certain level of clientele but that is what private courses are for. If you are a course that has open to the public tee times, should you really discriminate about what they are wearing? It’s the general public. Golf has always had this image of collared shirts and slacks as the dress code. But would it really hurt to allow people to golf in a tank top and shorts? Is that really a bad thing? Why would you turn away some one who is willing to pay but wants to play in what they feel comfortable in?

I do realize I am probably preaching to the choir here but I love the variety of the courses in the lower mainland and the thought of courses closing is very frightening to me. I am starting to think golf needs to drop it’s tucked-in, collared shirt, expensive image and start marketing the game to anyone and everyone.

Thanks for reading!

Greg from Vancouver

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  1. Hello!

    I’m not sure how old this post is, but seeing as this is the first time I’ve seen it I’m considering it fairly new (lol).

    Greg brings up some very valid points. Maybe I’m fortunate; in my area, there are at least three courses that are OK with the “I don’t want to wear a collared shirt” crowd. If I”m being honest, there are times where I’m one of them. Greens fees hover around $50 w/cart.

    My favorite course is $36/18 and a cart! It’s no Augusta National, but the greens are good and the fairways are green. Isn’t that all we should be asking for? I think so.

    I think I’m also a kindred spirit with Greg. I don’t subscribe to the stuck-up, exclusive crowd. I don’t believe that people need to spend $1000+ for a good set of golf clubs- or that they should be “keeping up with the Jones’s” every 6 months-1 year.

    The thing I notice is that it’s hard to break the conditioning. The masses in golf seem to think more expensive = better. I’m trying to change that, but it feels like an uphill battle sometimes. I tell people I spent $75 on my driver (used Bio Cell $60, $10 Integra iDrive shaft, $5 grip) and they say “yeah, but that is just awesome”. Even when I blow it 30 yards past them, they’re still skeptical, as if my driver’s fixed somehow.

    My hope is that people read articles like this, articles like mine. People like Greg say “you know what… I don’t want to take it anymore” and force courses to change policies. If they want the business, they will.

    I hope, anyway.

    Take Care,


  2. Many reasons have been provided for this decline including the costs of playing golf, the decline in the economy, or even slow play and long rounds; but one can argue that one of the more significant reasons is the decline in the interest of junior players or millenials who find that golf is just not Fun and Engaging. Anyway, thanks for your sharing!

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