Eyeing Millennials, Golf Makes a Course Correction

By Kelsey Ogletree, September 7, 2015

PGA pro and avid golfer Ron Mills and his wife spent years trying to instill a love for the game in their son and daughter, taking the children to as many events as possible at the semi-private golf club they belonged to in Arizona.

“We enrolled our kids in every single junior clinic offered at the club, no matter what time of year,” says Mills, assistant golf professional at We-Ko-Pa Golf Club outside Phoenix. But the required practice—and the early risings and hot summer sessions that came with it—soon led to burnout. “We realized we were stretching our kids’ schedules to the point they didn’t have a social life.”

Despite Mills’ best efforts, neither of his children turned out to be the next Tiger Woods or Annika Sorenstam. In fact, both abandoned golf for other sports in high school. Their dropout about a dozen years ago is reflective of a trend that’s become more widespread in recent years. 

Take 31-year-old Bryan Lavin. The Mansfield, Massachusetts-based chapter business manager for MPI describes himself as a “former golfer” who spent many hours on the course as a teenager working part-time managing golf carts. “I enjoyed getting outside, connecting with friends and new people, and the challenge of the game,” he says. 

“Golf is not like riding a bike. It’s very much a use-it-or-lose-it sport.”

But once he began his professional career in destination sales and marketing, Lavin says his time for golf became more and more limited. “Finding four to five hours on a weekend to play a round of golf became less and less likely,” he explains. By age 26, he was down to a couple of rounds per year, and now—with a wife and child—he is lucky to squeeze in 18 holes on Father’s Day.

Besides the obvious extended length of time it takes to complete a round of golf, there are several other factors that come into play when it comes to Millennials dropping out of the game. Lack of skill, for one—mastering the art of driving the ball 200-plus yards, hitting the green or getting up and down and sinking a putt in as few strokes as possible is easier said than done, and requires hours of practice. 

“Golf is not like riding a bike,” says Lavin. “It’s very much a use-it-or-lose-it sport.” 

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