Opinion April 21, 2016 | 5:43 pm

Golf is Not dead

Apparently, golf is dying. Or so we’ve been told. Reportsfrom the National Golf Foundation on declining participation levels from 30million in 2003 to 24 million in 2014 has the industry in flux on how to savethe sport. But while golf may be in decline in the United States and in urbanareas due to shifting lifestyles, it’s still very much a desirable part of thevacation experience for U.S. travelers according to Resonance’s data.

Levels of participation in golf while on vacation rangefrom 40 – 70 percent for Millennials, Retirees and Luxury travelers accordingto our research.

BOOMERS NOT LAYING DOWN

Among 18 to 34 year olds, participation in golf hasdeclined by 30 percent over the last 20 years. But the strong percentage ofRetirees who enjoy golfing on vacation suggests that the game has room to growamong the surging 65+ cohort. U.S. global investment banking firm Jeffriesreports golf’s popularity with Retirees is trending up.

Jeffries found that 80 percent of Boomers surveyed plan tospend the same or more on golf equipment and accessories after retirement inits 2015 study on Boomers’ spending habits. "With approximately 15 percentof Boomers playing golf, there will be around seven million golfers movingtoward retirement which will more than double the three million golferscurrently there," says the Jeffries report.

Jeffries also found a positive correlation between age androunds played; golfers aged 65+ are playing 80 percent more rounds than golfersaged 50-64. While there are many sports that see a decline in participation asage increases, golf bucks the trend.

VS. OTHER ACTIVITIES

When comparing golf to other activities on vacation, golfalso wins out. The top one percent of U.S. travelers prefer golf on vacation(67 percent) over tennis (56 percent), cycling (64 percent), jogging (61percent) and skiing/snowboarding (60 percent). U.S. Retiree travelers prefergolf (42 percent) over hunting and fishing (32 percent), and U.S. Millennialtravelers prefer golf (49 percent) over extreme sports (47 percent). Notsurprisingly as net worth increases so do participation levels. Of Millennialtravelers with net worth between $250 – $999K, participation shoots up to 63percent, compared to 40 percent of those with net worth below $250K.

RESORT DEVELOPMENT

While few new courses are being built in the U.S., thedevelopment of new courses in a variety of sun destinations is evidence ofgolf’s continued popularity with U.S. travelers. Dreams Los Cabos Suites GolfResort & Spa and Secrets Puerto Los Cabos Golf & Spa Resort both openedin late 2015. This year, legendary golfer Greg Norman is preparing to build hisnewest world class golf course in Belize. On the Caribbean island of St. Kitts,Irie Fields Golf Course, designed by former Masters champion Ian Woosnam, isalso set to open. It’s being credited as the world’s first ‘edible’ golf coursebecause of its commitment to sustainability – the course relies on recycledwater for irrigation, is home to guavas, mangos and pineapples along thefairways, and uses herds of local goats to maintain the grounds. For a lessearthy round of eighteen, Four Seasons Resort Los Cabos – with storylinedevelopment by Resonance – will be home to golf on the Robert Trent JonesII–designed 18-hole course in 2018. New courses will also soon open in Bermuda(at the Ritz-Carlton in 2018) and Cuba (The Carbonera Club in 2018). But withgolfers playing less at home, these new courses will need to evolve and adaptto deliver a different golf experience than they may have in the past.

TIGER DE-PROOFED

The trend at the turn of the century was to “Tiger Proof”golf courses. This led to a spate of extremely challenging courses for theaverage golfer, which are proving even more challenging now that people playless often. As the pendulum now swings, developers and designers must bringpeople back to the sport by creating friendly, fun courses that can be enjoyedon vacation; after all, fun and friendly is what the game was always about inthe beginning. Indoor golf simulators for golfers wanting a more personalizedexperience, hover boards on courses that replace traditional carts, and optionsto play 9, 12, or 15-hole courses are now aimed at either attracting golfersthat have left the sport or attracting new players. As courses in the U.S.continue to close down, vacation destinations will play to the golfer who wantsthe game to once again be synonymous with ‘fun’.

To see where golf ranks among U.S. Millennials, Retireesand Luxury travelers, and to learn about their current preferences, futuretrends and activities on vacation view our full 2015/2016 library of reports.

Sincerely,

Chris Fair, President

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