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Lehigh Valley

Why is interest in golf on the decline?

Why is interest in golf on the decline?

NEW TRIPOLI, Pa. - High school senior Joe Harkal is kicking soccer ball not on a soccer field, but on a golf course.

He's playing foot-golf.

"You're trying to sink [the ball] into a larger hole, a lot larger," he explained.

The course opened last month at the Olde Homestead Golf Club, in New Tripoli.

"We are now seeing days where foot-golf rounds are exceeding golf rounds on our short course," owner Justin Smith said.

That's good news for Smith but not a hole in one for golf.

"We are losing millions of millions of golfers every year," Smith said.

It's a far cry from when Tiger Woods dominated the game and brought in record numbers of fans and players.

"It wasn't a sustainable level of interest," Smith pointed out.

Dicks Sporting Goods recently shed nearly 500 PGA Pros who helped customers buy clubs.

Corn stalks now line former fairways at the Center Valley Course, just one of at least four local courses that have closed over the past several years. Smith says a big reason is the time it takes to play.

"By the time you get here, you check in, you play for four and half hours. If you're going to hit balls or eat, and then drive time... it's a whole day," he said.

Another issue is the cost.

"Golf clubs easily cost $500 for you to play," golfer Dan Rickenbauch said.

And prime tee times at courses like Olde Homestead can cost upwards of $60, a key reason why Rickenabuch and his crew play more affordable municipal courses.

So could the future of golf include the boot along with the bogey?

"From how fun this was, I might try [golf] actually," Harkal said.

Both Allentown's and Bethlehem's municipal courses say their numbers are steady or up. They do factor in the lower prices as a key reason.

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