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Is Golf falling out of favor in the U.S.? (OP-ED)

Golf has had a longstanding history within the United States and its sports industry. That said, as the decades have gone by, its popularity among the populace has waned for many reasons. Some have grown to dislike the sport for its long history of elitism, due to many of its players being of higher status. Additionally, the sport has come under fire for its impact on the environment. According to City Monitor, around 3,500 square miles of land in the U.S. are occupied by golf courses.

Strangely enough, when golf saw its lowest numbers at the end of the 2010s, it was the COVID-19 pandemic that caused an uptick in Golf viewership and participation thanks to social media.

According to the PGA Tour, 2022 saw “one in seven Americans” playing golf, resulting in a $101.7 billion impact on the U.S. economy. Greg McLaughlin, CEO of the World Golf Foundation, told PGA that the spike in popularity is likely due to the game being a stress relief for many people.

“Recent research highlights the game’s role in helping people to escape everyday stress, and many are playing it to recharge their mental battery. There are many benefits – economic, charitable, and human – that our industry provides in communities,” said McLaughlin.

Golf’s viewership is a whole different story. While it still has its popularity, 2024 saw a dip. PGA Tour’s recent 2024 Players Championship saw one of its lowest-rated broadcasts in a decade, according to Golf Digest.

That said, 2023 saw this popularity tread on steadily, with around 26.6 million Americans taking part in the sport. So, the question remains, will this popularity in the U.S. last? 

The answer depends on the sport’s ability to innovate, as the problems that have plagued the sport remain. The way golf courses are maintained, many contaminants get into the water supply thanks to pesticides and water overuse. These large courses also disrupt natural habitats and occupy land that, generally, could be put to better use.

According to the LA Times, the Los Angeles Country Club occupies 300 acres of land in a city battered by the current housing crisis. Like many other golf courses around the country, they are subsidized by property tax breaks.

What golf could do to maintain its popularity is invest in its neighboring areas by opening courses that use taxpayer money to the public. Additionally, while it can be a taxing investment, golf courses don’t have to be taxing on the environment. Already, there are movements to make them more sustainable by incorporating them into the local environment through native plants.

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