再2The decline of golf, December 20th 2014 P105 2/3 (ゴルフの凋落2/3)
In some markets outside America, golf is on the rise. In China, where Mao Zedong banned golf in 1949 and building new private courses is illegal, it is still booming. According to Dan Washburn, author of “The Forbidden Game”, plenty of courses are built under the guise of adding “green space” and “ecotourism zones”, but a recent crackdown by the central government on corruption has slowed new course development. The party is not over, says Mr Curley, the architect,“but all the lights are on and the cops are out at the curb”. Yet in most mature markets, such as Australia, Japan, England, Ireland and even Scotland, golf is struggling. In England, for instance, the number of people playing golf at least once a month has declined by more than a quarter since 2007 and golf-club membership is down. In Australia club membership has fallen by a fifth since its peak in 1998. In Japan golf participation is down more than 40% from its high in the early 1990s, although numbers have stabilised in recent years. There are some green shoots：in the Czech Republic golf is growing, as it is in Germany. But these markets are a small fraction of the size of America's. To some extent, golf's appeal has become its undoing. Its calm, meditative quality does not suit the frenetic pace of modern life. Playing 18 holes, the game's standard, takes four and a half hours or more, not counting commuting or lunch. Time-starved Americans rarely devote so many hours to anything - other than, perhaps, a transcontinental flight and sleep. Golf is a hard sport to master. In 1914 Woodrow Wilson spoke for many frustrated golfers when he described the game as “an ineffectual attempt to put an elusive ball into an obscure hole with implements ill-adapted to the purpose”. Robert O'Neill, the Navy Seal who shot Osama bin Laden, was urged by his psychologist to take up golf, but found it “more stressful than combat”. Nor can it be neglected for some time and picked up again with ease, like skiing or tennis. Its rule-book is some 200 pages long, too big to tote around in a golf bag. “Golf is my life, but I'm still learning new rules every time I play,” says Charles Grace, who works on Wall Street and has been a golfer for 13 years. And golf has been getting even harder. During the 1990s and early 2000s professional golfers were getting better and innovations in equipment enabled them to hit balls farther so developers competed against each other to build more challenging, longer courses favoured strong, male golfers and become more challenging and time-consuming for the average player. Golf's ranks were expected to swell when baby-boomers retired, but many of them have found the arduous courses too much like hard work. When a star comes along, the game can suddenly enjoy an unexpected boost. In 1913 Francis Ouimet, a former caddy, won the US Open golf at the age of 20. His photo on the front pages of newspapers raised awareness about the sport. About a decade ago the rise of a pretty female golfer, Ai Miyazato, encouraged a wave of young Japanese women to try amateur golf. But no star has been a more powerful draw to new players than Tiger Woods. When Mr Woods, arguably the best golfer of all time, started winning championships in the late 1990s, people who had previously thought of golf as playtime for rich, white men stepped onto the tee. Unfortunately, stars' wobbles can hurt the sport as much as their superb swings can help it. In 2009 the “Tiger bubble”burst when it became known that Mr Woods was behaving badly off the course. He then started to play badly on it. Professional golf is still a healthy business, but nobody has succeeded in replacing Mr Woods's broad appeal. Having Barack Obama as America's “golfer-in-chief” has not drawn new fans to the sport. This month's cover of Golf Digest features Johnny Manziel, a well-known American football player. He has little connection to the sport, but is better known in America than most professional golfers.