You can't deny the stats that say the number of golfers is declining. But I think you can debate whether the popularity of golf is declining. It seems almost every day another article comes out talking about how golf is dying and we need to act now. But in my opinion, we just had a small market correction. Ten years ago developers were building golf courses everywhere. None of them were interested in building local munis either. They all wanted championship level courses with high greens fees. Eventually the bubble burst and now not as many people have $100/ round to spend on these new courses.
The other thing I find interesting, all of this "the sky is falling" talk is coming from the very people who make money on golf, especially TaylorMade. TM is a big corporation looking to constantly grow their profits. But when do you get to the point where growth isn't a realistic expectation? At some point you have to view sustainment as a success. TM relies on golfers upgrading their full sets of clubs every year or so. After this market correction we've seen, that's just not going to happen on a large scale.
In my opinion, some of these large golf corporations are using an apocalyptic outlook to try to convince us (regular golfers) to help grow their business. I don't think things are as bleak as people like Barney Adams is trying to make you think. There may not be enough golfers to support billions of dollars in sales every year, but doesn't mean the sport is dying. It just means corporate execs might not be getting multi-million dollar bonuses each year.