Golf Week magazine reported on golfing participation numbers.

The participation study defines a golfer as a person, age 6 or older, who plays at least one round of golf on a recognized course in a given year.

The National Golf Foundation cited golf’s continuing ability to attract “new” participants. In 2010 this was a total of 3.6 million, including 1.5 million first-time beginners and 2.1 million returning former golfers. That gain, however, was negated by the loss of 4.6 million golfers who played in 2009 but not in 2010.

The number of “core” golfers (eight or more rounds annually) dropped to 14.8 million – down 3.6 percent from 15.3 million in 2009.

“Occasional” golfers suffered a similar decline: a drop of 3.7 percent to 11.3 million from 11.8 million in 2009.

The number of rounds played in 2010 was 475 million, down 2.3 percent from 486 million in the previous year. (By comparison, rounds played in 2000 and 2005 was 518 million and 500 million, respectively.)

The Wall Street Journal has reported that golf has participation issues as well. Golf’s Big Problem: No Kids Still intimidating for beginners, the game isn’t attracting young people.

What does this have to do with gun owners? Compare the numbers.

First, these studies and organizations can only track people that are willing to be trackable, meaning only golfers showing up and signing up to use registered courses. Not on how many golf clubs are sold and owned or how “pro-golf” a person says he is, rather, on actual, measurable participation. This participation can not be measured unless a person goes to a place/event where someone is bothering to keep tally. It doesn’t count if you buy every golf club and accessory in existence and then swat at balls on the driving range or your back yard every weekend. These groups and studies don’t call a person a golfer unless their golf participation can be measured.

The shooting equivalent to this is participating in sanctioned, registered or approved events, some sort of activity that a national organization can track. Note that most NSSF and NRA studies are estimates based on surveys, numbers based on unverifiable claims made by cold calling strangers on the phone, and do not measure actual participation.

Note the concept of “core” golfers, someone playing eight or more rounds annually. Again, the only way to know if any one person played a certain number of rounds is to create the means to keep tabs. This requires organized participation from both golfers and course owners/managers. And this number dropped to 14.8 million, down 3.6 percent from 15.3 million.

That’s about 15 million people signed up with a national organization and participating 8 or more times annually at a designated facility that’s bothering to keep tabs on their participation. Golf enjoys well over 300 percent more core golfers than the NRA has total members.

The shooting equivalent to a “core” golfer is a person participating in sanctioned, registered or approved events (matches, classes, etc.) often enough to hold a classification or some other equivalent. Using the golf world’s definition, only two percent of the NRA membership are “core” shooters. Even after adding in the other alphabet soup organizations (USPSA, IDPA, SASS, ATA, NSSA-NSCA, etc.) and adding in shooting class attendees (Gunsite, Thunder Ranch, Front Sight, and the plethora of small and mobile trainers) gun owners have perhaps 0.25 million “core” shooters.

If we’re generous and double this already generous overestimate, gun owners have 0.5 million “core” shooters, 30 times less than golf. The number of rounds of golf played annually is 475 million. The NRA boasts about sanctioning 0.01 million equivalent events.

These are the real reasons golf courses get built and shooting ranges do not.

Reports referenced: