Last: The industry also miscalculated over the last 25 years. The baby boomers were reaching those peak years when people traditionally play a lot of golf, and everyone assumed those trends would continue. Except the value structure of these people was different from those who came before. I have new data that show a sizable minority of country club members expressing strong concerns about the financial viability of their clubs.
Clinton: Private clubs have to reshape themselves, no doubt.
Last: If you focus on the values of the fortysomethings—I call them the sandwich generation because they're not quite boomers and not quite Gen-Xers. They have a well-documented child-centricity. In the past you made a decision to join a private club. Now it's a choice between that or maybe investing in something for your child's future.
Garbedian: It comes down to the need and the want. What do you need versus what do you want? Everyone wants to play more golf, but if you're looking at $40 or $60 or $100 a round, you have to decide if you need to spend that money elsewhere. If you join a club and buy into the whole atmosphere of being part of something—the pool, tennis courts, the social events—yeah, you'd better be prepared to spend a lot of time there.
Van Sickle: It's more difficult to find time for 18 holes than it used to be. A lot of our jobs have changed, and we're on call 24/7.
Garbedian: You can't disappear anymore. With cellphones, they can always find you.
What Will Happen to Acushnet?
Van Sickle: Titleist/FootJoy, an icon in the industry, is on the market. Should we be concerned?
Stine: Titleist's being up for sale has nothing to do with the economy. That's a situation related to their holding company.
Last: Yes, Titleist's situation is a function of how the golf industry has become more tied to a fiduciary responsibility to shareholders, like every other business.