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Golf may need to adapt to continue to thrive. (CBC )

The golf industry on P.E.I. continued to decline in May, and some are wondering if the sport itself is losing its popularity.

Non-member rounds at the province's golf courses were down 16 per cent in May over the previous year. Poor weather likely had an impact on this spring's performance, but numbers have been down in three of the last four years.

"It's very personal. Obviously it's my business and this is how I make my living," said John Anthony, the owner of Rustico Resort, a golf and tennis club.

Golf trends on P.E.I.
2013 -6.3%
2012 +3.2%
2011 -1.6%
2010 -4.5%

"Without the income, how can you expect to pay for labour and other expenses that are associated with running a golf course?"

Paul MacCormack, general manager at Fox Meadows Golf & Country Club, wonders if the problem is beyond P.E.I., and if interest in the sport itself may be declining.

"We are just seeing less participation overall," said MacCormack.

"There seems to be a lot more things for people to do in the run of a day. And golf is one of those things, also, that requires a certain amount of disposable income to pursue. So when people are trying to figure out where to put their money, anything like golf may end up on the chopping block."

MacCormack said the sport may have to adapt in order to attract new players, perhaps offering more nine-hole play, offering different kinds of packages, and figuring out new ways to attract younger players.

Tourism Department communications officer Andrew Sprague said the numbers for May are not surprising given that poor weather forced a late opening for many courses. Sprague said pre-booked rounds are up compared to last year, and while it is still early it looks like overall non-member rounds played will be about the same this year as last.