Millennials find golf not up to par

Male Millennial hits a golfball in England at Topgolf’s first facility. (Photo by Mark Walker)

Millennials just aren’t swinging the sticks like many generations before them.

According to the National Golf Foundation (NGF) Millennial’s represent roughly 25 percent of the U.S. population, and in 2014 golf saw 200,000 Millennials step away from the sport.

In 2016 the golf world took a hit as nearly 230 golf courses closed, while only 10 new facilities opened. Traditional golf is on a downward spiral and some say Millennials are to blame.

“Personally I don’t really like golf for a couple of reasons. It takes way to long, and it’s also really expensive,” said Julia Eyer, 22, a University of Arizona student. “I also hate that there is such a strict dress code. I think we should be able to play in whatever we want.”

Youth just doesn’t feel comfortable playing golf the way it used to be played, according to Don Rea Jr., member of the PGA Board of Directors.

“At our club were trying to bring in some new young faces to the sport, so we’ve tried to make the game more fun by adding speakers to every cart,” said Rea. “We want golf to look like America, and that means getting young people of different genders, demographics, and backgrounds to come and try the sport.”

Topgolf facility located in Marana, Arizona. (Photo by Clayton Soileau)

Yes, golf is riddled with rules, dress codes, and frustrating under tones, but have no fear; the evolution of golf is here.

As Millennials become uninspired with classic 18-hole golf, companies like Topgolf have found a way to inject life into the game. Topgolf is one of fastest growing companies in America, beginning in 2000 in the United Kingdom, with 3 locations in AZ and as of today having 44 total locations. So what is Topgolf?

Topgolf is essentially a driving range with the touch of an arcade, topped off with a bit of a nightclub. You can wear whatever you want, grab some grub, and for the late night crowd there a full service bar.

“Topgolf is always a great time,” said Danny McAtamney, 22, a University of Arizona student. “It’s a place where you can take a date, have a guys night out, or if you’re into golf you can even look to improve your game.”

A female Millennial tests her shot at Topgolf in Tucson, Arizona (Photo by Clayton Soileau)

This innovative driving range seemingly gives its customers everything that traditional golf lacks. According to the NGF traditional golf consists of only 22 percent women. Topgolf has already smashed that number by attracting a clientele of 40 percent women, according to Topgolf officials.

“Golf has always felt like a predominantly white male sport to me, but Topgolf feels like it’s welcome to all races, genders and ages,” said Eyer.

So what if hitting a golf ball just isn’t for you regardless of lights and booze? Footgolf may just be the next be thing to sweep the United States.

Yes golf is expensive and frustrating, but when you replace those overpriced clubs with a simple soccer ball, suddenly you have an enticing game for the youth. Footgolf consists of the same rules as traditional golf on a normal golf course, except it is played with a standard soccer ball and the hole is increased to 21 inches in diameter. Footgolfers usually find themselves walking the course, but for those lazy days you can even take a cart.

In 2011 the American Footgolf League was formed (AFGL), and since its creation well over a hundred courses have sprung up across the U.S. Arizona is home to 12 AFGL approved courses according to the AFGL website.

According to Don Rea Jr., owner of Augusta Ranch Golf Club in Mesa, AZ, he began to offer glow in the dark footgolf on the weekends in order to attract a younger crowd, but also to enhance revenue of his club.

“It’s an amazing way for us to fill that time slot when nothing is happening at a golf course as well as entice people into joining Augusta Ranch,” said Rea. “It’s worked out well, we get around 40 to 60 people in wacky outfits coming to play footgolf every weekend.”

“I played soccer years ago in high school, and when I saw this concept of footgolf I thought it was pretty weird, but sort of genius,” said Kevin Kenny, 24, avid footgolfer. “I was hooked from the very first time I played.”

Clayton Soileau is a reporter for Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact him at soileau@email.arizona.edu

Click here for a Word version of this story and high resolution photos.

 

 

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