Why golf could have fantasy sports to thank for huge rise in popularity

When you step onto a golf course, you really are forced to look like a golfer.

That might not be the most substantial reason, but over the past few years, millennials have turned away from golf in favour of other sports. And whilst it may be unfair to point out clothing as a reason for that sort of decline, the perception of the sport as something old rich people do is certainly one factor.

As a result of the lack of interest from a key demographic, golf is suffering something of a drop in popularity. Over the past few months, companies making golfing equipment have had to take a long and hard look at their strategy. Even Nike Golf have recently stopped making clubs and laid down their irons – though they’ll continue to make clothing.

But the green shoots of millennial salvation may not be too far around the corner for a sport that, ironically enough, is one of the few to feature real and varied competition at the most elite level.

This week the Ryder Cup will showcase a sport sparkling in its vibrancy when it comes to competition, with all four major championships held by different players. Factor in the Olympic gold medal and the FedEx Cup – essentially golf’s end of season playoffs – and you’ll find another two different champions. For a sport on the decline, it is arguably the healthiest it has ever been.

And that on its own is not a reason golf fans can be optimistic. Recently, the Golf Channel in the United States announced that it is seeing a 50% year on year increase in millennial viewers, and some – like this article and accompanying tweet from Daniel Roberts in Yahoo Finance – are putting some of that success down to the inexorable rise of daily fantasy sports.

It’s an interesting thought – could the daily fantasy sports sector be a key player in the growth of sports who are currently experiencing a lull?

The likes of DraftKings and FanDuel are, of course, behemoths in the US, but they are beginning to make waves on these shores, too. And if they’re offering simple, app-based ways to play fantasy golf then a sport which has so many top, young players can really change its image.

And more to the point, it’s a sport worth playing on a daily fantasy sport model: after all, when there are so many players who can win, so many variables, and so much to factor in when playing, it’s not simply a case of choosing Tiger Woods to win. And it would have been ten years ago. Indeed other sports still suffer from that – in tennis, for example, you pretty much know that one of three or four players will win.

So golf’s image is changing and fantasy sports can help change it. That, in turn, seems to be bringing viewers back to the sport’s broadcasters. But there’s just one question left: if millennials are watching golf and (for want of a better, fantasy sports-based phrase) betting on it, then who’s going to be playing it in a decade’s time?

About author

Chris McMullan
Chris McMullan 480 posts

Chris is a sports journalist and editor of Digital Sport - follow him on Twitter @CJMcMullan_

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