The popularity of golf – and, presumably, that of golf betting – seems to be declining in Pittsburgh. Local newspaper headlines have all but declared the sport dead, blaming recession, generational change, and the inherent difficulty and elitism of the game, among other factors. Others remain optimistic, though. “I don’t even think about the national figures,” general manager of Birdsfoot Golf Club in South Buffalo, Armstrong County Travis Lindsay said. “Last year, we’ve actually had more rounds than we’ve ever had.” Birdsfoot is the newest 18-hole facility in the Pittsburgh area, and unlike most courses, it takes pride in its unpretentiousness.
Whereas back in the day golfers were meant to feel privileged for playing at a golf club, “the script’s been flipped,” Lindsay said. “The golf courses have to look at their customers and feel privileged to have them on the golf course.” When it comes to golf, it’s not the quantity of customers that matters, but the quality. However, declining participation – which dropped by 19% from 2003 to 2014, according to the National Golf Foundation – is not what golf courses want. As a result, some local used-to-be-private clubs have become open to the public.
The Western Pennsylvania Golf Association has 28,000 member clubs, which is still a record number though nonetheless lower that the 33,000 member clubs it had in 2000 – moreover, those clubs have fewer members themselves. “There has been an overall decline,” executive director Terry Teasdale said. “But it hasn’t been as bad in Western Pennsylvania as it has been nationwide.” On the other hand, the Tri-State Section PGA saw a 2% increase in participation among adult players and a 3% increase among juniors last year. The level of play has been fairly level for the last lustrum, according to assistant executive director and tournament director David Wright.
“All in all, with the forecast of golf being in the tank, I see a rebound and an upswing in our area, along with our association,” Wright said. “We’re probably getting back to 2005, 2006 numbers.” But he added that “the numbers don’t lie. We’ve lost contact with a generation of golfers, and you saw that decline when Tiger (Woods) went through his problems on the tour.” Across the U.S.A, courses and clubs have tweaked their formats in order to attract customers who aren’t golfers per se. For example, Cabin Greens Golf Course added foot golf – a mix of soccer and golf – in 2014 to lure “soccer players I normally wouldn’t get,” course owner Jim Bowser said.
Whether that makes golf more exciting or detracts from the decorum characteristic of the sport is debatable. Then again, the point is rather moot; if you want to make it more interesting, why not just resort to some good ol’ fashioned golf betting. It is a proven fact that sports gambling makes any athletic competition better, especially if you’re not a participant.