Special Features

2009 Survey of the American Golfer

You play about once a week, 46 rounds per year. Your handicap is 15.1. You lose 1.3 balls per round, on average. That doesn't mean you're score-obsessed, of course — you'd rather make solid contact and shoot in the 90s than grind your way to an 83 with a rusty swing, because you love bending the ball to your will. You spend nearly $3,000 on your golf game annually. And you're honest — you've called a penalty on yourself, like the true sportsman you are.

This survey is about you, the American golfer. We joined forces with the National Golf Foundation to conduct the most comprehensive analysis ever of golfers' habits, opinions and beliefs. We polled more than 600 golf lovers — just like you — to discover how you play, practice, and think about this great game. In short, we wanted to know what makes you tick. Your answers ranged from surprising (many of you said "thanks but no thanks" to Pebble's $495 price tag) to encouraging (you know lower scores await you), and were always enlightening.

2009 American Golfer Survey
Who you are...
Why you play...
What you believe
How you play & practice...
How you spend...
How you watch...

Methodology
Golf Magazine commissioned the National Golf Foundation (NGF) to conduct the 2009 Survey of the American Golfer. NGF administered the survey to a sample of adult golfers from its proprietary research panel (golfers age 18 or older who play eight or more rounds per year). The margin of error, based on 648 completed surveys, is +/- 3.8% at the 95 percent confidence level.

About the NGF
Founded in 1936, the mission of the NGF is to help golf businesses succeed by providing them with marketing, research, and other consulting services. Based in Jupiter, Fla., the NGF serves all sectors of the golf industry. Visit NGF.org.

WHO YOU ARE...

The average American golfer...
• Is 46 years old
• Practices one hour and 11 minutes per week
• Has an average household income of $100,980
• Plays 46 rounds per year
• Has probably called a penalty on himself (90 percent said they've done it at least once)
• Has a handicap of 15.1
• Loses 1.3 balls per round
• Has played for 23 years

You vs. Tiger
21% of you said that you could defeat Tiger in a match if he spotted you one stroke per hole

YOU vs. THE PROS

Is Your Game Tour-iffic?
We asked a golf-stats expert* who has analyzed 60,000 shots hit by players of all levels to compare how the typical tour pro stacks up against a bogey golfer in several key areas.

TYPICAL DRIVE
TOUR PRO: 291 yards
AVG. JOE: 235 yards

RATIO OF HITTING THE GREEN OR FRINGE FROM 100-150 YARDS
TOUR PRO: 79%
AVG. JOE: 50%

MEDIAN 'LEAVE' FROM HOLE, 125 YARDS OUT IN FAIRWAY
TOUR PRO: 24 feet
AVG. JOE: 47 feet

MEDIAN 'LEAVE' FROM HOLE, 175 YARDS OUT IN FAIRWAY
TOUR PRO: 32 feet
AVG. JOE: 71 feet

UP-AND-DOWN SUCCESS, 20-60 YARDS IN FAIRWAY
TOUR PRO: 54%
AVG. JOE: 15%

UP-AND-DOWN SUCCESS, FROM GREENSIDE BUNKERS
TOUR PRO: 41%
AVG. JOE: 16%

TOTAL LENGTH OF PUTTS HOLED IN TYPICAL ROUND
TOUR PRO: 77 feet
AVG. JOE: 49 feet

*Mark Broadie is a professor at Columbia Business School in New York City. A 3-handicap, his golf findings are based on research done over the last seven years, which included logging and analyzing more than 60,000 shots hit by players of all levels, from 100-shooters to Tour pros. The above information compares median PGA Tour figures to a typical 14-handicap.

More from 2009 American Golfer Survey
Who you are...
Why you play...
What you believe
How you play & practice...
How you spend...
How you watch...

WHY YOU PLAY...

WHY DO YOU PLAY GOLF?
54% I love the challenge the game presents
21% It's a great way to spend time with good friends
9% I love the feeling of a well-struck shot
9% I love trying to beat my best score
3% I love being outdoors

WOULD YOU TAKE A YEAR OFF OF YOUR LIFE IN ORDER TO BECOME A SCRATCH GOLFER?
No:61%
Yes:39%

HOW MANY DRINKS DO YOU CONSUME IN A TYPICAL ROUND?
67% None
22% 1-2 drinks
8% 3-4 drinks
3% More than 4 drinks

37% Believe they play better with a drink or two

YOU SAID IT
"Three beers makes three-footers a lot easier for me."

DO YOU PLAY PRIVATE OR PUBLIC COURSES?
53% Mostly public courses
19% Public/private courses equally
17% Public courses only
10% Mostly private courses
1% Private courses only

WHAT'S YOUR BIGGEST ON-COURSE PEEVE?
64% Slow players
12% Poor course conditions
10% Others talking on their cell phones
6% Others talking during setup/backswing
5% Someone not yelling "Fore!"
1% No cart girl

More from 2009 American Golfer Survey
Who you are...
Why you play...
What you believe
How you play & practice...
How you spend...
How you watch...

WHAT YOU BELIEVE...

HOW MUCH BETTER CAN YOU GET?
I'm really good, but I could shave a stroke or two: 17%
With time and practice, I could get a lot better: 78%
I'm as good as I can be; I can't improve: 5%

NEARLY NINE IN 10 OF YOU BELIEVE THAT YOUR BEST GOLF AWAITS
Yes, the best of my game is yet to come 87%
No, I am as good as I can be 13%

HAS MODERN EQUIPMENT SAVED YOU THREE OR MORE STROKES?
YES: 55%
NO: 16%
I DON'T KNOW: 29%

YOU SAID IT
"There's no question that drivers and hybrids are worlds better than the crap I used 20 years ago. But modern putters do nothing. It's all hype."

4 hours: How long a typical round lasts

3.6 hours: How long a typical round should last

WHAT SHOT MAKES YOU THE MOST NERVOUS?
A long bunker shot 28%
A short putt in a close match 21%
Any shot over water 17%
First tee shot of the day 13%
Hitting in front of strangers 13%
Other 8%

YOU SAID IT
"Going low is great, but there's no better feeling in golf than controlling the ball and putting it where you want to. It's that feeling of control that brings me back."

WHEN ARE YOU HAPPIEST ON THE GOLF COURSE?
When shooting a career low: 15%
Playing with my favorite golf buddy: 18%
When I hit the ball well, regardless of my score: 67%

POSITIVE THINKERS
Nearly 80 percent of you believe you can drop several strokes, and almost 90 percent think your best scores are yet to come.

More from 2009 American Golfer Survey
Who you are...
Why you play...
What you believe
How you play & practice...
How you spend...
How you watch...

HOW YOU PLAY & PRACTICE...

WHAT AREA DO YOU NEED TO IMPROVE TO SHOOT LOWER SCORES?
31% Short game and putting
17% Swing mechanics
15% Mid-to-long-irons and woods
10% Driving
10% Mental game
5% Course management
12% Other

YOU SAID IT
"I know busting my driver an extra 10 yards won't help my score, but it feels so good to outdrive my friends."

HOW OFTEN DO YOU TAKE A MULLIGAN?
42% Never
32% Very rarely
8% Every 2-3 rounds
16% Once a round
2% More than once a round

You spend 71 minutes per week practicing, with the average number of minutes focused on:
42 Minutes Short game (chipping, putting and wedges)
16 Minutes Middle irons/fairway woods
13 Minutes Driver

WITH UNLIMITED TIME TO WORK ON YOUR GAME, HOW LOW COULD YOU GET YOUR HANDICAP?
I could be scratch! 19%
1-9 index 48%
10-14 22%
15-19 8%
20-25 2%
26 or higher 1%

The average golfer's handicap is 15.1 but you think with time and practice you could get your index down to 7.

YOU SAID IT
"Getting good at golf is about more than technique. It takes practice, practice, practice."

82% of you have broken a Rule. The most common violations are...
Improved the lie of your ball: 64%
Not counted one or more strokes: 40%
Played an O.B. ball as if it had landed in-bounds: 36%
Hit sand in the bunker with a practice swing and didn't count the stroke: 7%
Other: 8%

YOU SAID IT
"I never play stroke-and-distance. If I drive it O.B., I just drop it from the spot [of entry]. Golf's hard enough as it is."

61% of you have thrown a club in anger

YOU SAID IT
"I know it's bush league, but it feels so good to launch my putter after a 3-putt."

HOW DOES BETTING WITH YOUR PLAYING PARTNERS AFFECT YOUR ENJOYMENT?
57% No impact
26% I enjoy golf more
17% I enjoy golf less

More from 2009 American Golfer Survey
Who you are...
Why you play...
What you believe
How you play & practice...
How you spend...
How you watch...

HOW YOU SPEND...

$2,776 The amount the average golfer spends on his game annually

AMOUNT YOU SPEND ON GOLF PER YEAR
$100 to $249 3%
$250 to $499 7%
$500 to $999 19%
$1,000 to $2,499 36%
$2,500 to $4,999 22%
$5,000 to $9,999 10%
$10,000 to $14,999 1%
More than $15,000 2%

Too Rich for Your Blood: Two out of three think that golf has become too pricey.

HOW OFTEN DO YOU BUY A NEW DRIVER?
Every three years or less: 71%
Every year or two: 28%
More than once a year: 1%

IS PEBBLE BEACH WORTH PLAYING ONCE, FOR $495?
YES 44%
NO 56%

YOU SAID IT
"That's a lot of money for one round of golf, but I'd pay it because the memory would last a lifetime, no matter what I shot."

IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT GOLF, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
The high expense: 66%
Limited access to good courses: 33%
Difficulty of courses: 1%

45% HAVE REDUCED GOLF SPENDING SINCE THE ECONOMIC CRISIS BEGAN IN 2008.

HOW YOU'RE CUTTING BACK:
Spending less on new clubs: 57%
Playing courses with cheaper greens fees: 56%
Playing fewer rounds: 51%
Fewer/no golf vacations: 46%
Other: 5%

IF GIVEN $3,000 TO SPLURGE ON YOUR GAME, HOW WOULD YOU SPEND IT?
Golf school/series of lessons with Butch Harmon 44%
A golf getaway at an exotic location, like Hawaii or Ireland 38%
A new set of custom-fitted clubs 15%
At the 19th hole 1%
Other 2%

YOU SAID IT
"You can't put a price on improving your game. If he could help me, I'd name all my kids 'Butch' — including the girls."

More from 2009 American Golfer Survey
Who you are...
Why you play...
What you believe
How you play & practice...
How you spend...
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HOW YOU WATCH...

WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE MAJOR TO WATCH?
The Masters: 77%
The U.S. Open: 14%
The British Open: 7%
PGA Championship: 2%

WOULD YOU SKIP YOUR ANNIVERSARY, A CHILD'S BIRTHDAY, OR ANOTHER MAJOR LIFE EVENT TO PLAY AUGUSTA?
75% Yes
25% No

Most of you would skip a major life event to play Augusta National. ('But honey, we'll have an anniversary next year, too.')

TIGER IS CHASING JACK'S RECORD OF 18 MAJOR WINS. WHO ARE YOU ROOTING FOR?
Tiger 53%
Jack 11%
No preference 36%

IS TIGER'S DOMINANCE GOOD OR BAD FOR GOLF?
91% of you think that Tiger's dominance is good for the game
Just 9% think it's bad for the game.

YOU SAID IT
• "Who doesn't like watching a legend at work?"
• "He's forced other players, like Mickelson, to raise their game. The game was less compelling when no one was dominant."

WHO'S YOUR FAVORITE GOLF BROADCASTER?
David Feherty (CBS): 45%
Johnny Miller (NBC): 18%
Gary McCord (CBS): 15%
Jim Nantz (CBS): 9%
Nick Faldo (CBS): 6%
Kelly Tilghman (Golf Channel): 2%
Other: 3%

YOU SAID IT
• "Feherty's just laugh-out-loud funny."
• "Faldo is overrated. He states the obvious. He just has that cool British accent."

WHO'S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE GOLF BROADCASTER?
Johnny Miller: 31%
Kelly Tilghman: 17%
Jim Nantz: 11%
Nick Faldo: 9%
Bobby Clampett: 9%
Gary McCord: 7%
Ian Baker-Finch: 4%
David Feherty: 4%
Others: 8%

YOU SAID IT
• "Johnny makes me want to shoot my TV set. He's so arrogant. I have to turn the volume down."

Would You Rather...

Have Tiger's game off the tee? 23%
...or Tiger's game around the greens? 77%

Be a great putter? 81%
...or a great driver? 19%

Play a round with Tiger Woods? 82%
...or "play around" with Angelina Jolie? 18%

Give up sex for one year? 43%
...or give up golf for one year? 57%

Walk or pull a cart? 56%
...or take a motorized cart? 44%

Play your local dog track with your best friend? 43%
...or play Augusta National with your worst enemy? 57%

YOU SAID IT
"I've gone years without sex, but I can't last a week without golf."

More from 2009 American Golfer Survey
Who you are...
Why you play...
What you believe
How you play & practice...
How you spend...
How you watch...

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