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Cigars and Golf, a Natural Twosome

But Does Golf Face Dismal Future?

For many, golfing is an important part of how they live their own personal cigar lifestyle.

But the game is having problems, losing 1.1 million players last year with even more serious long-term issues, according to a story published in the June 23-29 Bloomberg Businessweek.

“The game is hard, the game can take a lot of time, and it’s expensive. There is no equivalent to the bunny slope on golf.”

- McRedmond Morelli, founder of Boxgroove in Bellevue, Wash., which gives its 50,000 members access to a network of private golf clubs.

For the short term, the drag on sales over the past 15 months has created a surplus and some great deals for golf clubs, etc.

Dick’s Sporting Goods was selling some drivers, priced at $299 just 20 months earlier, for $99, Executive Officer Ed Stack said on an investor call on May 20.

On May 20, Dick’s reported it missed its golf gear sales target by about $34 million in the first quarter. The news helped send the retail chain’s stock down 18 percent, its worst one-day tumble since the company went public in 2002.

The dismal results have been widespread. Bloomberg reported that Callaway Golf, maker of the Big Bertha driver, delivered its own dim forecast in April, warning that full-year profit could come in at the low end of its previous estimate. Callaway hasn’t reported an annual profit since 2008.

“We anticipate a heavy promotional environment while the industry works through excess inventory,”

- CEO Chip Brewer told investors.

The bigger issue is the generational shift away from golfing as the game seems to be losing the social currency it once had while those still in the sport are playing fewer rounds.

Baby boomers haven’t migrated in quite the expected numbers. And the millennial generation, with heads fully buried deep inside all manner of electronic devices, seem to care less about outdoor pursuits or anything requiring any degree of concentration or physical skill.

There are fewer golfers today than in 1990 even though the U.S. population is 27 percent greater, Bloomberg said.

Answers? Besides analysis by the various golf associations – including a “Time for Nine” campaign to counter complaints that the traditional 18-hole game takes too much time - some clubs are adding attractions such as yoga and hovercraft rides.

Some solutions might be as simple as smartphone apps to reserve tee times, pay for services, and communicate with the pro shop.

Bloomberg also examines the so-called Hack Golf movement to identify the parts of golf that aren’t fun and fix them.

A standard cup is 4.25 inches in diameter, often making even short putts difficult to sink. Some courses have added wider holes to make the sport faster and easier, with a Golf.com story in April asking, “Could a 15-inch hole be the answer to golf’s growth problem?”

TaylorMade in April sponsored a 15-inch cup tournament. The brand also co-sponsors a website with the PGA, www.hackgolf.org.

Go to Bloomberg Businessweek for the entire story.


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