1:15 | Tour & News
7 shocking findings from our survey of the American golfer
GOLF surveyed more than 1,000 golfers on everything from pace of play to Tiger Woods and the infractions they've committed on the course. Here's what they had to say.
By GOLF WIRE
Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Golf is in a different place than it was 20 years ago, or even 10 years ago. There are fewer courses and fewer golfers but no shortage of creative thinking about how to attract new players to the game. Movements are afoot to make courses more sustainable (brown is becoming the new green), range sessions more fun (hat tip, Topgolf) and the Rules less cumbersome (smart move, governing bodies). Tiger has shown he’s mortal, anchoring is out, and we elected a president who’s a 3 handicap with serious golf clout. All of which got us thinking: With all this change afoot, how do real, live golfers feel about the state of game in 2017? We asked (more than 1,000 of you), and you answered. Here’s what we learned.

HOW WE DID IT

This study was conducted for GOLF.com by Sports and Leisure Research Group between Dec. 13-28, 2016, with a random sample of 1,018 golfers from across the country, more than 80 percent of whom played 10 or more rounds in the past year. We wanted the opinions of avid golfers, so our respondent base is representative of the engaged golfer population (which skews older and wealthier) and not necessarily the U.S. golfer population as a whole. Nearly all respondents were 35 or older, 85% were married and 70% said their total household income in 2016 was $100,000 or more.

ABOUT THE RESPONDENTS

Handicap:

5 or less — 3.3%
6-9 — 7.3%
10-15 — 25.2%
16-20 — 26.2%
21-24 — 13%
25+ — 6.7%
Don’t have one — 18.3%

Public-course golfer, or private?

Public — 76.4%
Private — 23.6%

Compared to 2015, in 2016 you played golf…

More often — 27.5%
Same amount — 53.5%
Less often — 19%

Why are you currently playing more often than in the previous year?*

Have more time — 61.3%
Have more golf partners to play with — 34.7%
Game has improved — 25.8%
Have reduced business pressures — 24.2%
Family obligations have decreased — 23.4%
Family is more involved in golf — 12.5%
There is better value in the marketplace — 10.1%
Joined a golf league or local program — 10.9%
Playing more business golf — 8.5%
Recently bought new equipment — 7.7%

*Multiple responses were permitted

Why are you currently playing less often than in the previous year?*

Health reasons — 39.2%
Have less time — 37.4%
Family/children responsibilities — 24.6%
It’s harder to find people to play with — 16.4%
Your game has not improved or has gotten worse — 15.8%
More business pressures — 14%
Golf is too expensive — 9.4%
Courses are too crowded — 5.8%
New golfers are making golf less enjoyable — 2.9%

*Multiple responses were permitted

Compared to 2016, in 2017 you expect to play golf…

More often — 36.8%
Same amount — 59.7%
Less often — 3.4%

Would you like to play more than you currently do?

Yes — 61.9%
No — 38.1%

Would you play more golf if it took less time to play?

Yes — 27.7%
No — 72.3%

Does the idea of playing a nine-hole round appeal to you?

Yes — 40.7%
No — 59.3%

ON-COURSE CUSTOMS & HABITS

Do you always keep score?

Yes — 74.6%
No — 25.4%

Do you always warm up/practice before playing a round?

Which of these most irritates you on the course?

Slow play — 65.1%
Poor course conditions — 18.4%
Poor etiquette — 11.1%
High green fees — 5.3%

If you’re playing a casual match with friends, what’s your favorite format?

Stroke play — 49.2%
Match play (best ball) — 30.9%
Skins — 12.9%
Other — 6.2%
Match play (alternate shot) — 0.9%

What grouping do you prefer to play in?

Single — 2.8%
Twosome — 15.1%
Threesome — 7.3%
Foursome — 74.8%

Do you enjoy playing golf alone?

Yes — 27.1%
No — 72.9%

Walk or ride?

Walk — 44.3%
Ride — 55.7%

On average, how long before your tee time do you typically arrive at the course?

On average, how long after you finish a round do you typically leave the course?

Immediately — 14.1%
Within 30 minutes — 37.3%
Within an hour — 33.6%
Within 1-2 hours — 14.4%
After 2 or more hours — 0.6%

Do you typically stay to enjoy a drink or meal after playing a round?

Yes — 36%
No — 64%

Have you seriously considered quitting the game (or have done so) at some point?

Yes — 12.9%
No — 87.1%

Does it bother you if one of your playing partner’s shirttails is untucked?

Yes — 17.1%
No — 82.9%

Would you join a club that allows its members/guests to play in blue jeans?

Yes — 19.3%
No — 79.7%

Have you made a hole-in-one on a regulation course?

Yes — 35.7%
No — 64.3%

Have you witnessed a hole-in-one on a regulation course?

Yes — 50.9%
No — 49.1%

Is golf more fun to play with a cash wager on the line?

Yes — 16.4%
No — 83.6%

What is the most money you have ever lost in a golf match?

Less than $100 — 59.3%
$100-$200 — 6.3%
$201-$500 — 2.9%
$501-$1,000 — 0.9%
More than $1,000 — 0.3%
Do not bet — 30.3%

Have you thrown a club in disgust?

Have you walked off a course in the middle of a round because you were upset with how you were playing?

Yes — 9.4%
No — 90.6%

Have you walked off the course in the middle of a round because of an irritating playing partner?

Yes — 3.9%
No — 96.1%

Has the outcome of a round ruined a relationship?

Yes — 1.2%
No — 98.8%

Have you become friends with someone you were paired with during a round?

Yes — 46.4%
No — 53.6%

Have you had sex on a golf course?

Yes — 10.4%
No — 89.6%

STATE OF THE GAME

Do you think young adults are less interested in playing golf today than they were a generation ago?

Yes — 42.4%
No — 57.6%

Is golf too expensive?

Yes — 30.4%
No — 69.6%

Is golf more inclusive and welcoming than it was a generation ago?

Yes — 35.8%
No — 64.2%

Is golf more diverse than it was a generation ago?

Yes — 46.6%
No — 53.4%

Do you believe golf’s governing bodies are generally taking the game in the right direction?

Yes — 31.1%
No — 68.9%

Is it important to you that your children play golf?

Yes — 21.1%
No — 78.9%

Have you introduced someone to the game?

Yes — 9.3%
No — 40.7%

Have you ever felt guilty that golf has taken you away from time with your family?

Yes — 10.5%
No — 89.5%

Which of the following is the most effective way that the golf industry can increase the total number of rounds played?

By getting more new players to try golf — 81.9%
By encouraging existing players to play more golf — 18.1%

Of the following, which is the greatest barrier toward growing the game?

Time/life demands — 56.6%
Cost — 40.4%
Access to facilities — 3.0%

Are you interested in trying one or more golf variations like footgolf or disc golf?

Yes — 3.8%
No — 96.2%

Have you visited a Topgolf facility?

Yes — 41.6%
No — 58.4%

EQUIPMENT-BUYING HABITS

Overall, compared to 2016 you expect that your 2017 total golf-related spending for equipment and apparel will be...

More — 33.9%
About the same — 49.5%
Less — 16.6%

Which of the following is your favorite club(s) in your bag?

Do you believe golf equipment continues to become more technologically innovative every year?

Yes — 56.1%
No — 43.9%

Do you believe that buying the right equipment can help you to immediately improve your game?

Yes — 24.9%
No — 75.1%

Will you buy new equipment without first having a custom fitting?

Yes — 27.3%
No — 72.7%

Have you been professionally fit for new clubs?

Yes — 44.3%
No — 55.7%

Have you found a brand of equipment that you plan to stick with when you make your next purchase?

Yes — 25.3%
No — 74.7%

Is the brand or model of ball that you play important to you?

Yes — 38.1%
No — 62.9%

Does the equipment that Tour players use influence what you buy?

Yes — 36.7%
No — 63.3%

Does your spouse or significant other knows how much you spend on golf?

Yes — 69.6%
No — 30.4%

THE RULES

Do you regularly take a mulligan off the first tee?

Yes — 33.1%
No — 66.9%

Do you consider taking a mulligan off the first tee to be cheating?

Yes — 25.1%
No — 74.9%

On average, how many times per round do you break or bend the rules?

Would you like to see the Rules simplified?

Yes — 51.2%
No — 48.8%

PRACTICE HABITS

Have you taken a formal lesson from a trained instructor or golf professional at some point in your life?

Have you taken a formal lesson from a trained instructor or golf professional in the past year?

Yes — 24.3%
No — 75.7%

What, if anything, most prohibits you from taking formal golf lessons?

Rather spend the time just playing golf — 35.8%
Too expensive for what you will get out of them — 23.8%
Not convinced that they will help you — 19.2%
Content with how you currently play — 16.2%
Don’t have access to lessons/not sure where to get them — 4.2%
Uncomfortable with one-on-one formal instruction — 0.8%

Do you practice or hit balls at the range more often than you play a round?

Yes — 13.8%
No — 86.2%

THE PRO GAME

Do you follow PGA Tour pros on social media?

Yes — 11.7%
No — 88.3%

Have you watched less golf on TV with Tiger Woods out of commission?

Yes — 18.2%
No — 81.8%

Do you believe the PGA Tour should release information about disciplinary actions taken against players?

Yes — 32.4%
No — 67.6%

Does golf belong in the Olympics?

Yes — 51.4%
No — 48.6%

Did you watch the Olympic golf event in Rio?

Yes — 66.3%
No — 33.7%

WOULD YOU RATHER…

…make a hole-in-one or receive $1,000 in cash?

…make a hole-in-one or receive $5,000 in cash?

Hole-in-one — 34.6%
$5,000 — 65.4%

…play a highly rated course with a stranger or a ho-hum course with a friend?

Highly rated course — 25.1%
Ho-hum course — 74.9%

…be a better driver or a better putter?

Driver — 52.6%
Putter — 47.4%

…play well but not score well or play poorly but score well?

Play well — 71.3%
Score well — 28.7%

Play a round of golf with President Trump or a PGA Tour pro of your choice?

…take a golf trip to a remote location for serious golfers or to an easily accessible location with amenities beyond just golf?

Remote — 27.1%
More amenities — 72.9%

…take a golf trip to Ireland or Scotland?

Ireland — 32.9%
Scotland — 67.1%

…take one annual golf trip to an expensive bucket-list destination or multiple less-expensive golf trips?

One trip — 47.8%
Multiple trips — 52.2%

…attend?

The Masters — 61.6%
U.S. Open at Pebble Beach — 11.8%
British Open at St. Andrews — 24.6%
2020 Olympic golf event in Tokyo — 2%

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