Biggest barrier in golf


Jamie Kennedy from the Euro Tour asked on Twitter, interested to hear thoughts from others

What do you think is the biggest barrier in golf?

  1. Slow Play
  2. Cost of Playing
  3. Rules and Regulations
  4. Difficulty


I think difficulty and access are two of the biggest. A lot of people who didn’t grow up playing are intimidated to start because of how hard it is (and how it can really make you feel stupid, even to those who are good) and they just don’t know where to start. It can be hard a lot of places to find a course you feel comfortable on. Especially starting out when you are going to be terrible.

  1. The time investment. This is a big one and goes hand-in-hand with almost everything else. Nobody has 9-5 jobs anymore. Free time is limited. Unless you have access to a private course, you need to invest 6 hours into a round
  2. Difficulty. Unless you’re a natural athlete, it’s really hard to get decent at golf. You really have to be committed to getting better to have any improvement.
  3. Lack of short courses that don’t stink/perception that golf is always 18 holes. Golf would be more accessible to someone with a typical work schedule if you could play 6 or 3 holes at a time.
  4. Lack of decent practice facilities. Even most private clubs lack decent driving ranges. Folks in NYC have Chelsea Piers. How about $30 for 94 balls and an hour long wait? On long island it’s hard to find public grass tees, but we at least have a number of mats ranges.


Access, hands down. This goes hand in hand with pace of play. There are very few affordable, playable golf courses in the US. This problem causes backlogged tee sheets, which leads to slow play and bad conditioning. We are obsessed with status in this country and a private club membership is one of the notches in the proverbial belt of a successful American. Unfortunately, this attitude turns off those who did not grow up around the game. They are unable to find places to grow as players and learn the basic fundamentals. I live in Winter Park, FL and have seen the way a community can rally around a municipal golf course that is managed properly. Since the WP9’s renovation, several of my friends, who did not grow up around the game, are falling in love with it. They are now joining our annual golf trip this year. This is the model for American golf.


Golf lacks access in two major ways: affordable, qualified instructors and facilities.

This is an American perspective
The number of high school boys that play basketball or baseball is roughly three to four times more than golf. That percentage stays roughly the same for college athletes.

This means that three times as many people are receiving advanced training for sports other than golf. Once those males procreate, the likelihood of them passing on knowledge of a different sport is small. Thus, America continues to produce more athletes of the same sport, and a limited number of people who understand principles of golf.

The lack of facilities is also a major disadvantage. The amount of space that is required for a baseball field or basketball court is minuscule compared to a golf course, even a par 3 course. Plus, how many times has a course offered “free play”? However, you can find an open court or field and play for hours. All of this is supported by our tax dollars.


I think a lot of it depends on where you live.

For me there are 10 public courses within 20 minutes or so and 3-4 9 hole courses. So access isn’t an issue, but I can see how it could be for many.

I think costs, time and difficulty all play a big part in it. I don’t like having to wait forever between shots but love being on the course. My wife on the other hand hates when I am gone for 5 hours and she is solo with the kids while I am paying $40-$50 or more to play.
I tried to get my brother in law into playing. He is a former division 1 football player and very athletic. Looks like a baby deer trying to play golf. He got some hand-me-down clubs so saved some money there but wasn’t wanting to keep paying the money to play to struggle to hit to ball 50 yards.


Recently brought a few of my good friends into the game and noticed a few things.

First off, we all need to look at ourselves as a potential cause of barriers being put up - and I am not talking about the country club, snobby golfers. Bringing a new adult into the game feels like training a puppy at times. The trivial stuff that we all take for granted such as letting groups play through, cart etiquette, and general sense of urgency on the golf course gets overlooked completely. For me, when a newbie forgets a club on the last hole or struggles for minutes to jam their club into the bag, I start to get moving quickly and totally loose focus on enjoying my game, which likely comes off to them in some way. Am I making it less fun for my playing partner because I start moving 100 MPH or tell them to “just pick it up” when the group behind gets close?

Maybe I am unique in this or just a shit teacher, but going to a full sized, 18 hole course seems like we may be shooting ourselves in the foot when bringing new players into the game - regardless of access or not.


Interesting question. Biggest barrier I think is the way the American public views how golf should be. The view is If it’s not 18 holes, it’s not a real round. We’ve copied the Scots in terms of the # holes that need to be played, but made our courses in the “Immaculate Parkland”, “Country Club” style which is much harder/longer/more expensive than the way original links style 18 hole courses were. For some reason, the term “Championship Golf Course” gets used a lot in the states, as a way of somehow saying the course is really good because it’s long and difficult. We need to be more accepting of playing 4 or 6 holes and calling it a day. Then if you want you can ease your way into a longer course. But if you told people about your 6 hole round, it would probably not gain any respect because of the way it it viewed, which is the problem.


This. I know this was something I had to change in myself when introducing my wife to the game, both in regards to on course action and trying not to give too many swing “tips” either. Once I learned to just sit back and let her do her thing it helped both of our games.


My opinion is that the following are the biggest barriers to golf in the UK.

  1. It’s not covered in schools, due to this kids develop interest in other sports that are covered by their education. (soccer, tennis etc), putting golf down the pecking order.
  2. Cost of playing, plus equipment.


I have attempted to introduce the game to several people (adults), including my wife and an adult male friend. My son is also now just about the age that I was when I started learning the game.

My experience with all of them is that the biggest issues are difficulty, expense, and time.

YMMV based on what’s available near you, but in Phoenix there are several decent options available for beginners to learn on–both city-owned courses and privately-owned publicly accessible courses that are beginner friendly and either par 3 or short executive courses. Just off the top of my head, within a half hour of my house a beginner can play 9 holes of par 3 or executive golf at: 500 Club, Aguila 9, Palo Verde, Encanto 9, Paradise Valley, Coronado, Belair, and Mountain Shadows. Maybe others (and definitely more in other parts of the city. So access, at least here, is good.

But it’s still expensive. Even though you can play those courses pretty cheap, equipment is still stupid expensive even for low level stuff or used stuff and it’s an investment you have to make often before you really even decide if the game is something you really want to pursue. That alone can turn someone off.

Tim is an issue. Even 9 holes takes a while as a beginner. It’s the same time investment as going to a movie, but a movie is air conditioned and, if you’re at home you can check your phone while watching. Maybe I’m biased because it’s June but it’s tough to get pshyched about being outside for 2-3 hours in Arizona in the summer.

And I think the biggest is just that the game is crazy hard for a beginner. This was the biggest hurdle for my wife. She’s a perfectionist, used to being really good at things. I’m at or near scratch, but I’ve been playing since I was 7. She watches me and thinks, “Ok, I should just do that,” and then tries it and doesn’t understand why she can’t even get it airborne. But lessons are expensive (there’s that again) and time consuming (that too). Golf can be so frustrating even when you reach the competent level but when you’re a beginner, especially playing with people who aren’t, it’s massively frustrating.


All of the above, but intimidation doesn’t get enough attention. If you’ve never been golfing before, showing up to the course for the first time can be pretty scary. We seldom remember being looked at funny or being embarrassed about how people would feel seeing a new golfer with a shitty swing show up. If someone ever made a ranking of place where people are judged most, golf courses would be at or near the top of the list. Guaranteed.


I agree. The first time I ever played golf on a course, I was about to turn 15. I remember asking my dad if my clothes were okay for the course. And, even after his approval, I felt like I was going to get kicked off the course for some weird violation.

In addition to the clothing/etiquette requirements, golf, unlike other sports, is difficult to practice anonymously. If I go to my backyard and shoot basketball, no one notices me miss 10 consecutive foul shots. And, no one is waiting on my patio for me to stop shooting so they can practice their jumper. Plus, in other sports, you can specialize in something. In baseball you can be a pitcher and not hit. In basketball you can rebound and play D without having to be a scorer, etc. In golf you are responsible for every shot.


I’m pretty sure it’s all the fault of millenials. I’ve no idea why but that’s the excuse du jour so I’ll jump on that comfy bandwagon.


Intimidation plays a factor in just about any adult pastime (hunting, fishing, working out, cooking, etc.) each niche hobby has an element of fanboys that make the pursuit seemingly unapproachable. Golf does a good job addressing its shortcomings head on, which I appreciate.


That is a good point. you see people positing videos of fat people working out or someone doing a workout wrong and making fun of them
I am clueless when it comes to hunting and fishing, but my father in law is big into them. He bought me and my brother in law shotguns a couple years ago. Haven’t been hunting but have been skeet and trap shooting and feeling like I am going to do something wrong or be terrible at it made the first few times really nerve wracking.


This hits the nail on the head for me. I’ve been such a hack most of the time (and still am really) that I’ve had times where I enjoyed the game in a vacuum, but would dread aspects of it so much that I avoided playing. Hitting in front of everyone on the first tee knowing that I might duff it or shank it, getting paranoid that I’m taking too long to find my ball that is lost in the rough so I start rushing and playing even worse, the dreaded scolding from a marshall for “playing slow” when in reality I just keep losing balls. I was taught proper golf etiquette by my dad and grandpa, so the anxiety of making sure I let people play through or not taking too long has cost me probably hundreds of strokes over the years as I notice a group waiting on me struggling in a bunker or around the greens. I liked NLU’s video on that 9 hole course in Winter Park where DJ said it was “everything municipal golf should be”. Cheap, so it can provide access to newbies who don’t want to spend too much getting into it, but also the fairways being so wide so that too much time isn’t spent looking for errant shots in the rough. To me that’s such a simple solution that can help pace of play and also ease the minds of those who are about ready to give up the game because they’re sick of punching out on every second shot they hit. I wish more munis adopted this philosophy for course design to help #growthegame