Recreational Golf in the UNITED STATES

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The Masters golf tournament is a siren song to millions of recreational players, a spring wakeup call to remove the club covers and practice the preshot waggle.

It may be hard for duffers to relate to the soaring drives and pinpoint approach shots they will see on CBS and the USA Network during this year's event (today through Sunday). The drama at Georgia's Augusta National Golf Club, however, will re-fire interest in a game that is generating plenty now that Tiger Woods has grabbed the spotlight.

Woods, the defending champion, is a player whose youth, charisma, and talent have come at a time when an affluent sport is reaching out to become more affordable and accessible. People are watching to see what his impact will be on the American golf landscape.

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Will he accelerate growth in participation, which shot up in the late 1980s before leveling off at around 25 million during the '90s? Will his example lead to a greater minority presence? Will he inspire a significant influx of young players? And will the golf course building boom be influenced by demographic changes during the Tiger era? These questions, as much as Woods's 300-yard drives, hang ripe with promise over American fairways.

Golf Course Facts

* 15,703 courses, including regulation, par-3, and executive length courses.

* 850 courses under construction (at end of 1996), with 442 new courses opened in 1997.

* About a third of course construction is linked to real estate development.

* 70 percent or roughly 11,000 courses are open to the public.

The number of courses has increased 18 percent since 1986.

Rate of course construction has skyrocketed since 1986, from about 150 a year to more than 400.

States With the Most Courses

FLORIDA 1,145

CALIFORNIA 924

MICHIGAN 879

NEW YORK 834

TEXAS 827

Bulk of current course construction is taking place in these states

Golf Demographics

Today's typical golfer is male, 40 years old, with a household income of $59,970, and plays 20 rounds a year.

Women constitute 21 percent of the US golfing population or 5.2 million golfers (they are 32 percent of all beginners).

* Blacks: 3 percent

* Average age of beginner: 30

* Hispanics: 2 percent

* Fastest-growing segment: under 18

A Growing Sport

1986

19.9 million golfers.

1997

24.7 million golfers

(5.2 million are avid golfers playing 25 or more rounds a year)

The Next Generation

Profile of Average Junior Golfer

(17-and-under)

Age: 14.8

Household income: $61,700

Years played: 3.3

Gender:

22% female

78% male

Projected Annual Growth of Junior Participation

1998-2000 6.9%

2000-2005 8.0%

* The National Association of Junior Golfers has 4,000 programs under its umbrella, including about 1.5 million youngsters of the 2.7 million playing.

* In 1997 there were 195,089 high school golfers (girls and boys) in 17,000 programs.

Golf Demographics

Today's typical golfer is male, 40 years old, with a household income of $59,970, and plays 20 rounds a year.

Women constitute 21 percent of the US golfing population or 5.2 million golfers (they are 32 percent of all beginners).

* Blacks: 3 percent

* Average age of beginner: 30

* Hispanics: 2 percent

* Fastest-growing segment: under 18

A Growing Sport

1986

19.9 million golfers.

1997

24.7 million golfers

(5.2 million are avid golfers playing 25 or more rounds a year)

The Next Generation

Profile of Average Junior Golfer

(17-and-under)

Age: 14.8

Household income: $61,700

Years played: 3.3

Gender:

22% female

78% male

Projected Annual Growth of Junior Participation

1998-2000 6.9%

2000-2005 8.0%

* The National Association of Junior Golfers has 4,000 programs under its umbrella, including about 1.5 million youngsters of the 2.7 million playing.

* In 1997 there were 195,089 high school golfers (girls and boys) in 17,000 programs.

The Cost of Golf

Average cost of an 18-hole round on a weekend (including cart):

$27 Municipal course

$31 Privately-owned course

Average annual spending on equipment, merchandise, and fees (in 1994):

$183 Occasional golfer (less than 8 rounds a year)

$719 Moderate golfer (8 to 24 rounds a year)

$1,710 Avid golfer (25 or more rounds a year)

Overall spending on golf fees and equipment:

1986 $7.8 billion

1997 $15.1 billion

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