Rough times ahead for grassroots golf?

    Story highlights

    • Golf suffering a decline in popularity in its traditional heartlands of the U.S. and UK
    • 400,000 left the sport over past year in U.S., according to the NGF
    • New ideas and initiatives introduced to change its fortunes
    • "We have to evolve and continually modernize," TaylorMade CEO says

    (CNN)While the professional game of golf gears up for 2015 in rude health, at grassroots level the sport finds itself in the rough.

    With more prize money on offer for the stars than ever before -- 97 players won over $1 million on the PGA Tour last year -- and lucrative sponsorship deals, golf can rest safe in the knowledge that the future is bright for those competing at its top end.
      At the opposite end of the spectrum, however, the sport stands at a crossroads, with recent years having brought about a major slump in popularity in its traditional heartlands of the U.S. and the UK and Ireland.
        As golf continues to hemorrhage players, the steps it chooses to take next could prove crucial in turning its fortunes around.
        Some 400,000 people reportedly left the sport in the past year in the U.S., although the National Golf Foundation (NGF) states: "The numbers quoted don't reconcile with NGF data and they're not something that we reported or would report."
        NGF results do show that the sport i