Golf has an overall reach – play, watch or read about it – of approximately 108 million in the United States, which equates to one in three Americans over the age of six. In 2019, 34.2 million Americans played golf. And it’s not declining either, with 2.5 million new players last year alone. It was 1.5 million in 2011.
So what makes golf so popular? What’s the sport’s secret? As a from-the-cradle golfing nut I’d argue that it’s just blatantly obvious, but the real answer is of course a little more nuanced.
Yes, I’m including an entire section on Tiger Woods. He’s like the Michael Jordan of golf. Or is Mike the Tiger of basketball? No matter how you spin it, Tiger Woods is personally responsible for drawing millions of fans to the sport of golf.
Here’s why: he broke barriers. Just a few short decades ago, golf was known exclusively as a sport for white men. Just think about this: until 1961, PGA rules stipulated that you had to be white to be a member. Tiger Woods changed this perception when he was the first African-American to reach the pinnacle of the sport by winning the Masters tournament.
Tiger Woods inspired a generation. His tenacity, dedication to the physical side of the sport, and sheer charisma turned golf mainstream. He partnered with huge brands, like American Express, Buick, Nike, and General Mills. TV ratings shot through the roof, the country registered more players than ever, and golfers became superstars.
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The beautiful golf courses
Golf isn’t just a sport. It’s an experience. And there’s no doubt that the lush and beautiful surroundings have something to do with it. The best golf courses around the world offer stunning greens, off-course entertainment, food, and some are even fully-fledged resorts.
Many people choose golf because it offers an excellent overall package. They can enjoy the sport itself, but the setting gives the opportunity to make it so much more. Golfers will often take their families on holiday, take trips with their buddies, or take some time away with colleagues or business associates. Golf can be mixed with other leisure activities, enjoying the sun, and having a nice evening meal or drink.
A great way to experience the courses as well is to attend tournaments. There are so many tournaments like the PGA Championship where they play on some of the best golf courses in the world. Head over to WSN.com for information about the different tournaments and for updated predictions on each championship.
It’s great for building relationships
There’s a reason business executives use golf as a way to network: the sport is a fantastic opportunity to have fun, get some exercise and build relationships. Even though golf isn’t a team sport, there’s a great sense of camaraderie amongst players.
Playing golf takes a fair amount of time, we’re talking hours! There’s no such thing as a quick game of golf. Between putts and strokes, players will make conversation and get to know each other. Most will have a drink or a meal afterwards, making it a true social occasion.
It’s great for your mental health
If there is one thing 2020 has taught me, it’s that your mental health is incredibly important. And it’s something you need to work on, take care of, and actively seek to improve.
Golf is a fantastic tool to practice mindfulness, it reduces anxiety, and dampens the effects of depression. This isn’t just conjecture, either, studies have shown that golf has tangible positive effects on mental health.
- Related: How golf saved me from my demons
It’s good exercise (for all ages!)
Golf is a sport that you can start playing as a child and go well into old age. This makes it an excellent option for regular exercise. Some golf courses, for example, will have players walk around 7-10 kilometers. Sure, it’s no marathon, but it does get your blood pumping and the heart rate going.
Golf is somewhat underrated in terms of exercise. People think it’s an ‘easy’ sport, and while it’s certainly accessible, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t demanding. The swing itself gets your entire body moving.
- Related: Stay in shape with our fitness tips
Last one: It’s pandemic-proof
Or nearly, anyway. Golf courses were generally instructed to close for a couple of months following the initial lockdown in March and April, but came back with a vengeance – and then some – in the summer.
According to statistics put together by Golf Datatech, rounds played are up by over 20% compared to last year. The glorious weather we’ve enjoyed in large parts of the country plays a part, but Covid-19 is the biggest player.
People are realizing two things. First, being outdoors is incredibly important. It boosts mental health, is good for the body, and when options are limited, the golf course is ideal. Golf also allows for easy social distancing. You don’t have to be stressed about people bumping into you or getting into your personal space.
But you know what? I don’t think people will turn away from the golf course en masse once the vaccine arrives (please let that be soon!). The thing is, once you get someone playing golf, they realise just how fun the sport can be. And then you’ll struggle to get them off the golf course!