It was a sunny enough Friday morning. Perfect for golf. But Jim Foss, the head professional at Kern River Golf Course, says what he's seeing is rather bleak. "They're just not playing as much golf as they used to," he said.
Foss has been at Kern River since 1970 and has seen his rounds per year go from 100,000 a year in the early '90's to what he expects this year; under 40,000. Fewer rounds of course means fewer dollars and over the last 20 years Kern County has seen Pepper Tree, Sycamore Canyon and Wasco Valley Rose Golf Course close down.
But numbers aren't just down locally. Golf as a whole has seen a drop since the absence of a winning Tiger Woods. For the first time in his professional career the 14-time major winner failed to play in a single major championship.
According to the National Golf Foundation millennials aren't picking up the game. "Golf takes time and the generation today coming up in these 20-30 year olds, I don't know if they want to devote that time," said David Bolar, head pro at Sundale Country Club. "There's other things and other priorities in their life."
Like Foss, Bolar has been around Bakersfield golf for more than three decades. "This is the first time that I've been kind of concerned about the golf industry and it kind of started at the beginning of this year," Bolar told 23ABC Friday.
A sport that relies on those with a discretionary income, its success or failure relies on a good local economy. "Especially the Bakersfield economy," Bolar said. "We are oil driven and we're definitely affected."
Pro Shop Golf on Calloway has been a Bakersfield fixture for 23 years but at the end of the month they will close their doors for good. Its owner said the decision was simply a personal one now that she's moved out of town.
But while the sport is in decline, golfers say it was around before Tiger and that it will be around after his retirement leaving pros like Foss and Bolar looking for creative ways to attract new players. "If we didn't know your last name you get $5 off your greens fees," Foss said of a "pretty good turnout" last Wednesday.
"Golf is sustained," Bolar said. "It's not like we're been bad, but 2016 has not been good."
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