Golf's national popularity decline is affecting courses in Kern County, increased greens fees loom

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - The amount of people arguing the decline of golf's popularity is shrinking faster then the number of golf courses in the US. You just can't argue with facts.

Viewership on golf majors down 35% from just a few years ago and non-majors down 55-65%. Golf Digest magazine announced it is doing away with their magazine after over 50 years, moving to digital only. 400 thousand recreational golfers quit the sport last year, 408 golf courses closed in America last year and only 30 opened. Perhaps the worst fact of all, on Wednesday Dicks Sporting Goods laid off 500 golf employees, the sport accounts for 20% of their business.

Folks in Kern County said they noticed the decline in golf's popularity.

"With Tiger Woods declining," one man said, "less people are interested in the sport."

"I don't have time to spend half a day," said another.

"It's too hot!" a woman and her husband pleaded, "we figured it's just a Spring or Winter sport."

They're not the only ones who can see it, anyone can. Just drive down to Sycamore Canyon Golf Course in Arvin and you'll see that this weekend it closed its doors.

"I knew they were headed in that direction."

Golf Pro Jim Foss of Kern River golf course says he's seen this coming.

"Play has been on the decline for 20 years," Foss said, "play is off 13.6%, the biggest complaint I get is it takes too long to play golf."

So the popularity problem is being felt in other Kern County courses like Kern River.

"The cost of business is going up and greens fees are going down," Foss explained, "it's getting pretty tight."

Greens fees are what public courses charge for a round of golf - Kern County greens fees are cheaper on average compared to courses in the Southern California. Jim Foss says, if things don't change, more courses could go the way of Sycamore Canyon.

"The green's fees structure has to change, we have to raise them to continue what we're trying to do around here."

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