GOLF HAS BEEN TAKING some hits lately. First there was the research by the National Golf Foundation reporting that more than half of the golf facilities in the United States saw a decline in rounds played in 2003. Then, in a recent article on “the frustrated golfer,” The Wall Street Journal determined that golfers are leaving the game because it's “too difficult, too time-consuming, and too expensive.”

What's going on? Over the past several years, particularly since September 11, 2001, many resorts have seen significant decreases in corporate golf bookings, according to M.G. Orender, president of the PGA of America and founding partner of Hampton Golf Inc., which operates four golf courses along the North Florida and South Georgia coasts. “Corporations were cutting the expense out of their budgets.”

That said, it appears that “golf business is coming back,” notes Orender. “We have noticed an uptick beginning in the last quarter [of 2003].”

The PGA of America has determined that time is most often mentioned as the reason players give up golfing. “With the demands between job and family, playing 18 holes is difficult,” says Orender. In an effort to deal with that issue, as well as other problems deterring players from staying with the game, the PGA of America recently started the Play Golf America initiative, in which more than 3,400 participating golf facilities offer a variety of “grow-the-game” programs.

The good news, however, is that overall interest in the game remains high. Larry Rout, who edited The Wall Street Journal golf series, says, “It was definitely among the reports that generated the most responses.

“It confirmed our feeling,” Rout concludes, “that golf is something our readers feel passionately about, whether they play the game or not.”