Mixed state of golf north of the border


Series: Golf Buzz

Published: Sunday, September 16, 2012 | 7:50 p.m.

Most of us who pay attention to golf are well aware of the state of the sport here in the United States. So what’s going on north of the border? Canada’s National Allied Golf Associations (NAGA) has just released a study of golfers in Canada, surveying 1,300 players about their involvement, interest and support for the game; their level of play; and demographics.

The study determined that Canada has about 5.7 million golfers between the ages of 18 and 59 (it excluded people older and younger). About 18 percent of people enter the game each year and 18 percent also leave the game each year. Also, 38 percent of the golfers say they’re playing fewer rounds now than previously, while only 14 percent say they’re playing more.

The game appeals mostly to a well-educated, higher-income demographic, a finding that represents both a positive in the strength of that player base but also a threat in terms of its appeal to such a narrow slice of the population. Worryingly, only 25 percent of the golfers surveyed are considered “engaged” in golf, meaning that they play, follow, support and endorse the game, while the other 75 percent say they could “take or leave the game.”

Also, the survey said, there is a limited interest in golf among Canadians outside of those who already play. Of the 73 percent of Canadians who don’t play, only 12 percent are very interested in golf, while only 3 percent believe they’re likely to take it up in the next three to five years.

The survey’s most surprising finding is that time and money (or the lack of either or both) don’t necessarily drive players’ level of participation. Women in the survey tended to say that they’re interested in playing, but that “the game is not worth the cost.” Conversely, men tended to believe that “the game is worth the cost.”

The bottom line, according to the survey, is that golf in Canada is both vulnerable and on the cusp of greatness. It’s vulnerable, the report says, because such a significant part of the playing population isn’t fully engaged with the game. At the same time, many people play even though they’re not fully engaged, and increasing their level of engagement could, in the study’s words, “be a significant breakthrough in the golf industry.”

In summary, the suvey said, golf in Canada needs more engaged players -- arguably more than it needs new participants. To accomplish this, it said, “the Canadian golf industry must work together to find innovative ways to show golfers that the game and everything attached to it is fun, enjoyable, social, challenging but winnable, inspiring, prideful and lead edge.”

How to do that, well, that’s the challenge.

For more on the Canadian golf study, click here.