Explanations for Minority "Underparticipation" in Outdoor Recreation: A Look at Golf


  • Paul H. Gobster


race, ethnicity, golf, participation, urban parks, equity


For many urban park and recreation administrators, golf is symbolic of a set of outdoor activities in which there is a classic "underparticipation" among many racial and ethnic minority individuals as compared with Whites. To better understand the nature of this participation, the topic of golf was included in discussions with racial and ethnic minority focus groups ( 35 groups, 289 individuals) conducted for a major urban park planning effort. Few focus group participants had ever gone golfing, and participants or those they knew who had golfed generally had done so infrequently. A qualitative analysis identified some important themes relating to explanations for non-participation, including awareness and knowledge, marginality and opportunity, ethnicity and preference, and perceived discrimination and comfort. These findings suggest that reasons for minority participation are probably more complex and interrelated than previously thought. By recognizing the multiplicity of explanations, managers and researchers may help to bring questions about recreation participation into a more inclusive context, one that looks at factors that are directly related to race and ethnicity along with those that may be indirectly related or even unrelated. Focus group participants also suggested ways to increase participation in golf by minority individuals such as classes, information, role models, and outreach. While providing such opportunities can work toward moving those who might have a latent interest into initial participation, efforts must also be made to make current golf opportunities more accessible on a day-to-day basis in order to retain participants over the long term. These efforts relate back to reasons for non-participation, and strategies are mentioned for minimizing costs, reducing discrimination, and increasing comfort. Finally, there is the possibility suggested by the findings that many individuals may have little desire to participate in go!£ This preference might have a racial-ethnic basis or it might not, but it nonetheless begs the question of providing golfing opportunities in lieu of those that might be in greater demand. It is suggested tl1at concept of equity might be explored as a potential alternative to preference, one that might prove more practicable in helping managers achieve an optimal mix of park and recreation programs and services.





Regular Papers