The number of golf rounds being played is going down across the nation, and so is the number of golfers in general. Duluth is feeling this trend, but for different reasons. An article in the New York Post from July 12 said that huge numbers of golfers that are leaving the game including an estimated 400,000 in 2013. Almost a universal trend, the decline in Duluth golf is different at each golf course.
"They're not going up," said Paul Shintz, director of golf at both Lester Park Golf Course and Enger Park Golf Course. "I would say there are less new golfers, or less people playing than there were."
Chris Klatte, the owner of Grand View Golf Links in West Duluth is seeing the same trend.
"I'm noticing a 10 to 15 percent decline in our rounds," said Klatte.
But the main culprit in Duluth, according to both Klatte and Schintz, is weather. The late springs of both 2013 and 2014 have cost them a lot of money.
It was business as usual at the links in the years before, but not being able to open up on time hurts. Especially when you lose 20 to 30 full days of service.
"You aren't going to make it up," said Schintz. "It's not like a golfer's going to come out more because he missed a month of golf to start the year."
Later starts mean fewer days of golf and less money. It also means fewer tournaments, something Klatte said is declining anyway. But it also means people may be less inclined to get a pass or membership to golf all summer.
"You can really see a link with memberships and early or late starts to the season," Klatte said. "Three years ago, when we opened up early, we sold a ton of passes."
The extended winters have hurt golf courses the last two years, but Joe O'Connor, general manager of Northland Country Club in Duluth, cites a different reason for people avoiding the game: time.
"For a lot of people the fact that it takes four hours to play 18 holes is a factor," said O'Connor. "That's what's driven a lot of people away."
And while membership isn't down at Northland, there is a struggle to get young golfers to come out and play.
"Kids today just have so many more opportunities," O'Connor said. "If they don't pick up golf early, there's a chance they won't pick it up until they're young adults."
The battle to sway young minds is one that both O'Connor and Schintz said they are currently winning, as under 18 memberships at each course are at an all-time high.
O'Connor stated that their membership base in 2014 is much younger than it was 15 years ago.
"That could very well be the key to turning it all around," said O'Connor. "Because if there are no young golfers, this decline just might continue."