Comparing to the Tiger Boom, yes, the growth of the game is slowing down and lots of the crowd rushed to the game back then because it was a fashionable trend had backed out on the sideline.
Good thing is, those parked on the sideline could jump back into the game again anytime in the future. The only way for us - the hooked for lifer - to quite the game would be either health reason or financial reason.
The dwindling "middle class" will be the biggest reason why this game of golf in this country is lack of the ZING it had a decade ago. Middle class is slowly disappearing here in this country and the rising middle class in other countries in the world could not afford the basic public golf facility, yet.
The "other half" had been playing this game and increased in numbers of participation over the last 3 decades as I see it around here. But most of the other half also hold a full time job. Allowing them to get into one of the old and stinky golf club on the isles will not make any difference in promoting the game of golf. In other words, it makes no difference taking away the rights ( yes, these old farts have rights just like the rest of us ), would not make a dent in promoting the game. The difference is, the other half have a choice to exercise their "right" somewhere else but the few holding up a tradition have nowhere else to go, that's the difference.
Let me give an example, I'll use an analogy different than the scenario of the Muirfield incident but parallel in a sense. So the R & A forcing the " equal right" down the throat of a bunch of members of the Muirfield because it is politically correct thing to do for today ? So why would Muirfield members not give in like the Augusta National? Taking in a few "exceptions" to shut the R & A up and everyone would be happy - for now ?
It is because the Muirfield members would not give in to something in which change nothing or make little difference to the others, anyway.
The action of constant squeezing and needling to have others to "conform "may not be the best way of doing it.
Health pull back relating to the aging issue. As the current regular patron of the game get sick or aged, can the next generation replace the number ? This question tied into the economic matter ; which is the reducing "middle class " could also mean less regular patrons in this game.
Personally, I used to play 50-70 rounds of golf each year just 5 years ago. Now I'm getting out maybe 30 rounds or less and looking to reduce that number soon. Getting aged, not enjoying getting out 5:30 A.M. to play the first round in the day is one reason, schedule wise fitting an 18 into a work day is not likely if I don't get out at first light of the day. Secondly, even the public Muni courses are charging $45 for green fee. I would not call this affordable, certainly would be very hard on the retired folks with fixed income. When a decision comes down to whether to eat steak or hamburger for the weekend with family, sometimes golfers will skip a round or two.
I know quite a few guys I play with regularly had almost quit the game completely because of financial decision.
Once they start drifting away from a weekly routine then the game wouldn't grasp them like it used to.