The Near Future Of Mobility

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Aging in Suburbia, The Bogey



Aging in Suburbia, the book, is not about bogeys, bail outs, and backswings. But, there are lessons from the game of golf that are important for Baby Boomers whether or not they play the game.

Golfers use an expression called “reading the green” to determine which way a putt will curve on a slope. We “read the green” to suggest how generational  preferences are changing.


The Boomers moved far-afield and did not settle into their parents’ homes. The Boomers should not expect the next generation, their kids, to embrace their big suburban homes or share their same enthusiasm for drive-alone cars  

The notion that big suburban homes could be, ahum, homely, is a difficult and challenging concept for Boomers. So, in this blog we take a detour and examine a metaphor from the golf-course …….. When a Millennial thinks about the game of golf, they have issues, for example, an energy intensive use of natural resources, a time-sink for limited leisure hours, and the expense of getting on the greens.  Millennials often ponder similar issues when it comes to buying homes in the suburbs.


Boomers and older cohorts helped grow this sport and many courses were marketed with luxury real-estate development. But, for the last eight years there are more golf courses closing than opening. In 2013 157.5 courses were shuttered (many of these are ones without memberships). In addition, there is a trend to play just nine holes (hence the 157.5 course listed above) and avid golfers, aka Jack Nicklaus, have been advocates for 12-hole course that takes less time to play.

Young people are shunning the sport, according to Forbes writer Bob CookOne statistic is that 200,000 players ages 35 and younger “abandoned the game” over the past year. Millennials don’t want to spend their time organizing an outing that will require driving up- to- meet, spending half-a-day or more walking around, and sitting around the clubhouse thereafter. Boomers recognize that golf, like their older homes, requires some planning and organization. And, even the beloved golf hero of all age groups, Tiger Woods, has managed to fall off the charts.

Not helping things in this economy is the cachet that golf is for the monied-class. Certainly green-fees are expensive and even on public courses, an afternoon of golf might cost the same as two full tanks of gasoline. The Millennials are questioning whether golf is how they want to spend their precious, and limited, leisure dollar. There are many competing priorities, just like in the real-estate market.


Perhaps the greatest similarity between golf and the suburban homestead is that they are both… suburban. Golf courses recreate an oasis of greenery whether they are situated in Dubai or Myrtle Beach. That oasis is man-made, and thirsty for maintenance and water. According to a 2008 story on NPR, the average golf course uses 312,000 gallons of water per day. A desert course averages a million gallons of water daily, as much as an American family uses over four years. Many golf courses are planting less thirsty grass and using recycled water. Yet, they are emblematic of resource wasting, not unlike the suburban homes dubbed “energy hogs (see Chapter Four, Aging in Suburbia).

So, when a Millennial thinks about the game of golf, they may perceive the costs and benefits differently than a Baby Boomers. They may see the intensive use of natural resources, the draw on their limited leisure time, and the need to organize it all in advance. These are some of the same issues that Millennials ponder when it comes to buying homes in the suburbs. How much energy (i.e. gas) does it take to reach their destination, do they want to spend their precious time on house repairs, and the lawn, and how much will it all cost?

Golf is not going away….Boomers will be playing for some time to come and many will choose to retire near a golf-centered community. There will be high-tech ideas that will inspire some Millennials to rejoin the sport. And, Nicklaus’s idea for the 12 hole course make take hold. But, at the end of the day, golf may fade in sheer popularity as the Boomers get older, and tastes change. For Baby Boomers, now is an occasion to “read the greens” and consider options.

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