Most of us on the front lines - the amateurs who experience firsthand the waning interest of the game in general several years ago - saw this coming. This isn't the end times for the game, the end of golf. It is simply a correction taking place, a niche sport that marveled the historic presence of Tiger Woods around the same time the global economy was thriving, suddenly not having those factors to lean on any longer.
It was never going to last, however.
Titleist (Acushnet, owned by Fortune Brands) cut their losses 5 years ago, now managed and run by Fila corporation from South Korea. A couple years later - Dick's Sporting Goods announces that they're cutting a significant amount of PGA staff (500+) from their retail stores and business model... Golf courses, on a monthly basis, are closing gates because they can't see a time in the near future when the 30%, who've decided that the game is both time-consuming and expensive and quit the game probably won't take it up again until they've either got their kids through school or retired.
Edwin Watts - one of the biggest retailers/online conglomerates, filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Adidas decides they're no longer in a position to counter their TM golf division losses, and decide to put it on the market for the next sucker to take over. Nike, who for a very long time rode the coattails of Woods and McIlroy as their marquee sponsors - pulling the plug because they can no longer justify the financial liabilities because, quite literally, they're not selling enough golf clubs and equipment.
And now - Golfsmith - one of the most well-known golf retail businesses in the past 20 years, who probably has one of the more reputable online businesses - filing bankruptcy.
Again - this is stuff that most of us who've stuck with the game over the past 15 years saw coming. Some of these companies threw caution to the wind and went all-in, cashing in all of their chips on the hopes that despite the global economic recession - people would put their child's education, their monthly mortgages and retirement on the back burner because of this false perception that the game was more popular than it was in reality.
It's no less sad that the game has returned to the late-80's level of interest, for sure... I know several people personally who've been impacted. A close friend (who bought out a local golf store and took ownership) in the early 2000's lasted all of 5 seasons, before eBay and big-box retailers put the whammy on him. I know of at least 15 people, from two different clubs, who've lost jobs because of course closures and lack of interest. I talked to a teaching pro yesterday at the grocery, who is an excellent teacher with quite the resume, and works at a popular facility nearby, who admitted that his lessons are down 40% this year and he's been forced to consider finding a new line of work.
It is 2016, not 2004. A lot can happen in a dozen or so years, and despite the enormous odds of that type of interest eventually waning - hardly anyone wanted to accept it.
The fact of the matter is that golf is once again a niche sport, enjoyed by the few of us fortunate enough to have the time and means to continue affording it.