Golf is stuck in the bunker

Has golf gone out of fashion, asks Alex Williams. Adidas seems to think so.

Has golf gone out of fashion? Adidas seems to think so. After a lengthy strategic review, the sportswear giant has announced plans to begin "concrete negotiations" over a sale of its golfing brands, which include Adams, Ashworth and TaylorMade. The decision suggests that the firm sees little prospect of reversing a steady decline in the golfing market, or in the game itself.

Golf's popularity peaked in 2000 in America, when Tiger Woods was at the top of his game, says Emma Thomasson on Reuters.com. Since then, the number of amateur players has dropped. Around 25 million Americans were golfers last year, compared with 30 million ten tears ago, according to The Economist. The trend is similar in other countries, including the UK, Japan and Australia.

Most major suppliers of golfing goods have suffered weak sales, including Nike and Callaway Golf. But Adidas has fared especially badly. After a string of acquisitions, its golfing revenue peaked in 2012 at €1.34bn. It has since shrunk by more than a third.

Compared to football shirts or high-street trainers, golfing gear such as putters and golf balls is expensive to produce and Adidas's golfing brands are losing around €100m a year, according to investment bank RBC. The TaylorMade business could still be worth €700m-€800m, but given the sport's waning popularity, finding a buyer willing to pay full price may not be easy.

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