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Sports Industry: A Research Guide

Golf

Tom Armour wins U.S. golf title by defeating Harry Cooper. [1927] National Photo Company Collection. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

When looking at the business of many sports, there are many different indicators and many different areas to consider. For golf, there is a professional component which consists of individuals who make their living and occupy the sports pages and an amateur component which is pretty much anyone who wants to play. For the professional part of the industry, money is made through ticket sales, event attendance, sponsorship, and prize money. But money can also be made on individuals wanting to play golf though local club courses, fees, and selling equipment.

Throughout the history of the game, interest and participation has gone up and down and is often tied to popular players and economic conditions. Tiger Woods' dominance in the game brought in new fans, new participants, and heightened interest—something that became even more obvious when he wasn't playing. There are a few things of particular note:

  • Gate Revenue/Sponsorship: Sponsor money pays to put on an event as well as contributes to the overall purse. Title sponsors are the most prominent sponsors as well as those who contribute the most. Most sponsorship contracts last a few years while some have sponsored their respective tournaments for many years.
  • Television: Television is an important part of the business because it brings in big money for sport and the various tournaments. On top of televised events available on ESPN and the other large networks, the Golf Channel was launched in January of 1995 and has live events as well as instructional and other related programming.
  • Equipment Sales: The retail and online sale of golf related equipment - clubs, bags, balls etc. - generates a lot of revenue. Online sales play an increasing role in the sale of equipment. Not only did traditional retailers like Golf Shack and Ladies Pro Shop move online, but the Internet also brought specialized sites like Golfballs.com to the more general sites like PGATourSuperstore, GolfWarehouse, and Golfdiscount.com.
  • Golf Courses: Golf courses and the money associated with them also generate a large amount revenue. There are big names like Pebble Beach and Augusta National both of which draw large PGA events, but there are many more smaller courses all over the country, many of which are managed by large corporations.

Over time, interest in the sport has declined. An April 2014 survey conducted by the National Golf Foundation indicated that the interest in golf playing and watching - was on a big decline - and this was particularly true for people under the age of 35 who indicated that it took too long to play the game, it was hard to learn, and had too many rules. However, the 2018 Golf Industry Report indicated that the situation had stabilized.

Professional Golfers Association of America (PGA)

Founded in 1916, the PGA is the most well known and oldest of the Tours. The PGA Tour was formed in 1968 (then known as the Tournament Players Division until 1975) but the tour's popularity exploded in the 1950's and 1960's, and by the mid 1960's, the tour included over 40 events. Some of their signature events are the PGA Championship, The Master, The U.S. Open, The Ryder Cup, and the Open Championship.

There is also the Senior PGA Tour which is relatively new. Begun in the 1980's it has steadily increased from the original 2 events in 1980. They have the Senior Skins Game, the U.S. Seniors Open, and the PGA Seniors Championship among others. There has been a steady increase in annual attendance, average event attendance, and estimated gate revenue, though not been as fast as that of the PGA.

Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA)

The LPGA was established in 1950 and grew steadily. Originally, there were thirteen founding members, but by 2000 there were 408. The LPGA has a few signature events such as the ANA Inspiration (previously Nabisco Dinah Shore), the LPGA Championship, the U.S. Women's Open Championship, the Women's British Open Championship, and the Solheim Cup.

Books & Periodicals

These are just a few of the more business-themed resources related to golf. Note that there may also be relevant information in the General Resources section of this guide.

The following materials link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to digital content are provided when available.

Internet Resources

We have included some resources that are not business specific in an effort to provide sources that can help researchers understand the sport itself and its structure.

Articles

General Resources

Official Sites

News

Search the Library's Catalog

If you are looking to search the catalog for more general titles see the Search the Library's Catalog page. Additional works on the golf business in the Library of Congress may be identified by searching the Online Catalog under appropriate Library of Congress subject headings. Choose the topics you wish to search from the following list of subject headings to link directly to the Catalog and automatically execute a search that will allow you to browse related subject headings. Please be aware that during periods of heavy use you may encounter delays in accessing the catalog. For assistance in locating the many other subject headings which relate to golf as a business, please consult a reference librarian.