The Paradox: In recent years, the golf industry has witnessed a fascinating trend: while participation in the sport has seen a marked increase, traditional television viewership, particularly of prestigious tournaments like the Masters, has experienced a noticeable decline. This article explores the multifaceted reasons behind this paradox, shedding light on shifts in viewer preferences, the impact of digital media, and the evolving landscape of golf.

Golf’s Growing Popularity: Since the COVID-19 pandemic, golf has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity. The sport, known for its outdoor nature allowing for social distancing, has attracted new enthusiasts, including a significant number from younger demographics and via virtual platforms like simulators and entertainment venues such as Topgolf. Reports from the National Golf Foundation and various golf associations in Great Britain and Ireland confirm that the number of participants is at an all-time high, surpassing pre-pandemic levels.

Decline in Traditional Viewership: Despite the increased participation, traditional broadcast viewership, such as CBS’s coverage of the Masters Tournament, has seen a decline. According to Nielsen and industry analysts, this decline could be attributed to several factors:

  1. Shift to Digital Platforms: Modern audiences, especially younger viewers, prefer consuming sports content on digital platforms. Streaming apps and social media offer more flexible viewing options, such as highlights and on-demand access, which are not captured in traditional TV ratings.
  2. Fragmentation of Viewership: The introduction of alternative golf leagues like LIV Golf has certainly fragmented viewership. With new tournaments and formats, audiences are now spread across more events and platforms, diluting the numbers for traditional broadcasts.
  3. Economic and Social Factors: The costs associated with traditional golf viewing, including cable subscriptions, and the fact that many have “cut the cord” might deter some potential viewers. Additionally, the socio-economic impact of the sport continues to evolve, with golf reaching a more diverse audience that might not traditionally tune in to regular broadcasts.

Can Overall Viewership Be Measured?: Nielsen has adapted to the changing media landscape by including streaming viewership in its ratings. Their “Total Audience Measurement” system is designed to capture a comprehensive view across live TV, DVR, on-demand, and streaming content. This data is crucial for broadcasters to understand the full scope of their audience across all platforms, but isn’t readily available to the general public.

Conclusion: The dynamics of golf’s viewership and participation are indicative of broader trends in sports consumption. As the industry continues to navigate these changes, understanding the preferences and habits of the modern viewer will be key to engaging audiences and sustaining interest in the sport. The continued effort to track and analyze viewership across all platforms will play a vital role in shaping the future of broadcasting golf and other sports.


  • National Golf Foundation
  • Nielsen Media Research
  • PGA and various golf associations reports

This overview provides a snapshot of the current trends affecting golf’s viewership and participation, based on available data and industry reports.