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Is golf still as popular as it was 10 years ago?

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POSTED: Wednesday, December 26, 2012 - 12:31pm

UPDATED: Thursday, December 27, 2012 - 2:23pm

Once a sport that exploded throughout the 1990s, the game of golf has been experiencing a slow decline since the year 2000. For those in the golf industry or those thinking of beginning a golf bachelor degree, however, the good news is that the game of golf remains popular.

Current studies by the National Golf Foundation forecast a growth of three million new golfers by the year 2020.

The sport saw huge growth during the 1980s and 1990s, when each decade saw 7.5 million and 4.4 million new players, respectively. Fueling that growth in the 1980s was the increased amount of golf you could find on television. Golf's two biggest stars at the time - Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus - may have been toward the end of their PGA Tour careers by the 1980s. However, the increase in golf's television time coupled with the economic improvements of the era helped drive interest in the game.

By 1996, a young man named Tiger Woods stepped on the scene, and almost immediately signed huge endorsement deals with Nike and American Express. He brought millions of new fans to the game in the late 1990s, and grew the game worldwide as well. It was growth that the game could not sustain, no matter who was moving the needle, and so growth slowed in the 2000s.

Global interest in the game, and changing age demographics in the United States, has the game poised for the 2010s, and another growth in golf's popularity.

Rippling Economy Benefits
The game's popularity in the 80s and 90s fueled a boom in course construction and equipment technology. The next wave of growth will further cement golf's place amongst America’s favorite sports.

So what are the emerging trends for those who may be looking to earn a golf bachelor degree? Golf's interest is becoming broader. The Augusta National Golf Club, home of The Masters golf tournament, finally responded, admitting their first two women as members in 2012. Look for this trend of making golf a more family-friendly avocation to continue.

Golf, perhaps more than any other sport in the United States, will become very technologically driven. Social media and mobile technologies will also help to make the sport more accessible. Marketing, booking and payment will all trend towards mobile platforms. Emerging technology will also help those who work in course maintenance, enabling more precise turf management strategies.

Course sustainability, once a mandate requiring a compliance-based mindset, is set to become a major emphasis as courses try to get ahead of the curve regarding their economic and ecological impact. Smart golf courses are recognizing that sustainability can be a cost-saving enterprise other than simply a cost on their bottom line.

If you love the game, right now is an exciting time to be involved in the industry. 

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