What golf’s decline signals

The National Golf Foundation is acknowledging what the Trends Research Institute has been tracking and forecasting for some time: The once-beloved pastime of spending hours on the golf course, often cracking deals with business partners or making headway with the boss for that next promotion, is on a sharp decline.

In fact, the foundation reported about 400,000 players vacated the sport last year alone. And while many golf insiders insist the sport is still popular and may even be growing a more age-diverse audience, the drop in golf-related retail is staggering. Just ask Dick’s Sporting Goods and similar outlets, who have seen double-digit losses in sales.

Playing golf can be costly. That’s a factor. Playing golf is also enormously time-consuming in our social networking world, where, according to Gerald Celente, “…millennial youth would rather play a quicker (digital) game than spend hours chasing a small ball.”

But there’s another critical factor, as well. The links always provided the sanctuary for face-to-face networking with power brokers. It was the social stage on which climbing the management ladder, adding a personal touch with the boss to get recognized, played out.

But we are in our prolonged stretch of stagnant wages and painfully slow job growth coming on the heels of years of downsizing. Middle management ranks got hit hard in that era, and those jobs didn’t come back.

We believe the forecast we made some time ago is here to stay: There are far fewer management ladders to climb. The professional work place has flattened out. Whatever job growth we’re seeing is coming from service or similar sectors where there are limited management tiers or opportunities. And where career-driven job growth is more meaningful, largely in the tech sectors, those higher-paid positions are based more on technical skills than management or leadership potential.

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