Course numbers have fallen, but golf and business maintain strong link.

Author:DuBay, Keith
Position:Golf Guide 2016

If you asked cartoon character Bart Simpson about the state of golf, he'd probably answer, "Meh."

Golf isn't growing. It's been stuck on about 25 million players the last few years, which is down from its high of 30 million players in 2005, according to the National Golf Foundation. There was a net loss in the number of courses in 2014 (2015 numbers are not available yet) and there has been every year stretching back to 2006. Plus, there's a debate about whether golf is rising or falling among millennials, the 18- to 34-year-olds.

Nonetheless, golf and business still enjoy their lifelong love affair. Companies flock to sponsor pro golf tournaments and pay for the ads and a chance to entertain clients at sponsored grandstands. The Golf Channel is 24/7 with coverage and analysis, and filled with advertising in this $70 billion industry.

"At its core, the game continues to lend itself to one-on-one time with clients and establishing relationships that transcend the golf course and the boardroom," USGA Executive Director Mike Davis told ColoradoBiz. "With 25 million Americans playing roughly 465 million rounds annually and participation numbers growing steadily, we think the trend to use golf as a business tool will only continue. Millennials now make up 26 percent of all golfers, and as the new generation of business leaders influences their colleagues, we believe golf will continue to be a conduit for networking, social connections and friendly competition."

Some businesspeople say it's harder to get the attention of clients when their ears and noses are stuck in cell phones or tablets. Yet golf as a business tool endures. Davis said you can do something--practice over lunch hour, hit some putts, play only nine holes--that doesn't take the time of a full 18-hole round.

"As we research solutions to pace of play challenges and encourage innovation among golf facilities, we also believe business golfers realize the value in the human connections made through a few hours of uninterrupted time playing together--without checking their cell phones. That kind of face time fosters better relationships in the workplace," Davis said.

Golf for two

Karen Newcomer is a sales executive for a Phoenix-based electrical supply company. Now...

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