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August 13, 2014 10:05 PM

Giving Up On Golf

Sioux Falls, SD

There was a time when it looked like the game of golf had hit a hole-in-one.

The game was surging as people were buying up equipment and booking tee times left and right.  But across the country courses are closing because fewer, younger golfers are picking up the clubs.

It begs the question, is the game of golf in at state of gloom.    

While golf still appeals to many, the National Golf Foundation reports more than four million people left the game last year. 

It's a downward trend that's caught the eye of those who provide the outdoor entertainment.

Elmwood, one of three public courses in Sioux Falls, has seen about a 10 percent drop off in its golfers over a five year period. 

While the president of Dakota Golf Management is concerned, he believes Sioux Falls' golf market is still very strong. 

"Golf has always been a game where people come into the game and fall out of the game and come back in and like any other activity or sport, there's kind of highs and lows that come along with it, it gets popular and then falls off a little bit for a number of reasons," President of Dakota Golf Management Tom Jansa said.

"There are three big things that have happened with golf why people are not playing; they think it's too expensive, it's too hard, and it takes too long," director of GreatLife golf Jason Sudenga said.

Anyone who has ever played, knows golf can be frustrating and it can be expensive. 

Last December, an organization came onto the scene to try and save the game in this area.  GreatLife is providing reduced fees for unlimited golf and fitness to recapture some of those people who have hung up their clubs. 

"Golf definitely has been on the decline with everything that's going on.  Tiger Woods was a main draw of golf back in the early 2000's when he was playing really well," Sudenga said.

But Tiger Woods has struggled lately and because he has, Sudenga says so has the game.

The largest percentages of golfers who have quit are those between the ages of 20 and 35.

"That disposable income for that age bracket, they don't quite have the disposable income," Sudega said.

But GreatLife feels its unlimited golf and fitness is very affordable and is attractive to that age bracket.

Another sign that golf isn't what it used to be is the number of golf courses across the country that have closed in recent years, over 150.

Experts call it a market correction.

"It was a huge golf boom and many courses were being built and of course they were in process of being built at a time when the economy went down a little bit, so there came a lot of golf courses online at a time when participation was lagging, so we've been in a pattern when golf courses are being turned into other uses then actually building new ones, Jansa said.

No golf courses have closed in the Sioux Falls area yet. Jansa doesn't believe any will, because they recognize they have to offer incentives and other programs if they want to keep the number of golfers up to par.

Elmwood offers the First Tee program that gives kids five years old and up lessons and a chance to play at a reduced price. GreatLife now has over 3,600 members who get unlimited golf at 11 area golf courses.

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