2005: Business - SGMA study: Decline continues

The number of American golfers declined 6 percent in 2004 and now is smaller than the U.S. golf population in 1987, according to a new report released by the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association International.

There were 25.7 million U.S. golf participants, age 6 or older, who played at least one round in 2004, down from 27.3 million in 2003, according to the SGMA report released this month. Participation, the report said, peaked in 2000 at 30.4 million and has declined each year since.

The number of frequent golfers, defined as people who play 25 or more rounds annually, also has declined steadily to 6.8 million from 9.2 million in 2000. The percentage of U.S. citizens who play golf declined to 9.8 percent in 2004 from 12.2 percent in 2000.

Males account for 75 percent of golf participants and 78 percent of frequent golfers, according to the SGMA. That means 15 percent of the U.S. male population plays golf, as opposed to 4.9 percent of females.

Sixty percent of golfers are 35 or older, and 77 percent of frequent players are older than 35.

The SGMA report was part of its larger Superstudy of participation in 103 sports and fitness activities. The research, which began in January, was conducted by American Sports Data Inc., which mailed a four-page questionnaire to one individual in 25,000 households. The participants were drawn from a list of 500,000 U.S. households maintained by NFO Worldwide, which conducts research via mail. There were 15,176 responses, and from those, 14,684 questionnaires, or 57 percent, were used to compile the final results.

SGMA’s data roughly tracks the trends reported by other trade groups, though the specific numbers differ, in part because of how the various groups define golfers and frequent players.

The National Sporting Goods Association, which represents sporting goods retailers, earlier reported that the number of golfers peaked at 27.5 million in 1998, but stood at 24.5 million in 2004. The NSGA defines golfers as people ages 7 and older who played at least one round annually.

The National Golf Foundation recently reported that the total number of U.S. golfers ages 18 and older was 27.3 million in 2004, down 3.9 percent from 2003. The NGF also reported that the number of core golfers, defined as people 18 and older who play 8 or more rounds annually, dropped 4.7 percent to 12.8 million in 2004.

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